Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My PR Students Don't Waste First Two Years of College

I was a little conflicted, and a little upset.

I read this morning's USA Today article about a report that claims students gain very little from their first two years of college. The same article made the rounds of Chronicle of Higher Education and other trade and mainstream media.

Of course, criticism of higher education is not new, and in many ways it's appropriate given the importance of a college education in today's market and the fact that many colleges are funded at least in part by taxpayers. Indeed, the report's results showing a lack of rigor, both in terms of student attitudes and from some professors more interested in research than teaching, is consistent with an observed problem on some campuses.

But the danger is that people will generalize too much from this report. I know that here at Grand Valley State University, the message is loud, clear and frequent that teaching is paramount. That "rigor" word comes up often in meetings with faculty colleagues and deans.

I also know from my own experience that while some students may not apply themselves in their first two years on campus, many are beyond precocious in taking every opportunity to learn and grow.

Witness an event I attended last Friday night. It was an awards/kick-off banquet for GrandPR, the student-run PR firm associated with the GVSU Chapter of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America. Let me emphasize, this was an event planned and executed entirely by students. This was all extracurricular and voluntary. This was evidence of their passion for their profession on a Friday night when many students might have been looking for more social activities. I was only invited as their advisor.

But I was glad I went. In fact, I have not often been more proud in my 10 years of teaching full time. They gave awards to individuals and teams of students for their public relations work with clients in the community--restaurants, a housing complex, a chamber of commerce, and more. They did research, media relations, web work, social media, events--again, all of this was outside of class requirements.

 Student Stephanie Rice speaks
at the GVSU PRSSA GrandPR event.
As for not making gains in their first two years of college, consider this passage from the group's president, Stephanie Rice, that night:

"I first joined PRSSA 4 years ago as a little Freshman, new to GVSU. Charlotte Sasinowski was the President then and during my sophomore year. Doug Clements was the Treasurer. I still remember the first day I heard about GrandPR… at a PRSSA meeting. Charlotte and Doug stood at the front of Kirkhof 2266, and Doug said: “If you are interested in working for GrandPR, stay after the meeting.” Now, at that time, I had NO clue what GrandPR even meant. But of course, I stayed anyways. Fast forward a bit and I was sitting in a GrandPR team meeting as an Account Associate on Leah’s team. This was the first night I met Stacey Nardozzi – yes – Stacey was a Freshman Account Associate. Our client was Lakeview Financial, and we had to write a news release and create direct mail pieces. And I heard Leah talk about client meetings and collecting payment. (It was pretty legit ;) To be completely honest, I can’t say I contributed anything meaningful to that account. But I was a darn good sponge. Fast forward to last year and Sarah Myles is chosen as the new GrandPR Firm Director. The same night I am elected President of PRSSA. Leading up to that night, the two of us talked forever about what we wanted to do if we got these positions. Well, you are all here and  you are all a part of them. So how are we doing?"
I know what I think. They're doing very well. It's a very different story than what you might get if you believed studies reported on in USA Today are reflective of all young people.

1 comment:

AMA said...

Stephanie Rice is my Idol!!!