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SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts Announces New Public Relations Degree

The Meadows School of the Arts at SMU in Dallas is launching a new Bachelor of Arts degree this fall in public relations and strategic communications, part of its Division of Communication Studies.

The new degree is interdisciplinary, combining courses from the Meadows School’s divisions of advertising and journalism as well as communication studies. Members of the three divisions conducted extensive research before designing the degree program. They talked to competing university programs’ managers to discuss best practices; to top employers in the region, to find out what qualities they sought in new employees; advisory board members; and alumni.

Ben Voth, chair of the Division of Communication Studies, said, “Today’s public relations professionals must be competent in media relations, advertising, journalism, strategic planning, fostering relationships and more. Students have to be able to create and manage multi-media communication messages to support an organization’s mission, values and brand. We designed the new degree to meet these needs.”

The program offers a palette that no other university in the region offers: courses that emphasize not just theory but also public relations practice; learning outside the classroom; participation in a student-run consulting firm; debate (both competition and mentoring) opportunities; venues for up-close and hands-on participation in political arenas in Washington, D.C.; internships both locally and internationally; strong partnerships with industry professionals; and a nationally award-winning chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Coursework includes account and message management, multi-media writing, technology, media skills, audience analysis and metrics, communication law, ethics, and public relations practice, and is taught by professors from all three divisions.

New Faculty To Lead the Program

Two new faculty members with outstanding industry and academic credentials have joined the Meadows School’s Division of Communication Studies to implement and manage the new degree program: Dr. Sandra Duhé, APR, and Dr. Rita Linjuan Men.

Duhé, an associate professor who will oversee the new degree, joins SMU from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she served as head of the public relations program and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Her corporate career includes serving as a financial analyst for Conoco and as a public affairs manager for Conoco, Mobil and ExxonMobil, where she was responsible for media relations, community outreach, brand management and crisis response. Her research has been published in journals including Public Relations Review and Public Relations Journal, and she is the author of New Media and Public Relations, one of the top textbooks in the field; the second edition was published by Peter Lang earlier this year. Duhé earned a B.S. in corporate finance from Louisiana State University, an M.S. in public relations from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and both an M.S. in applied economics and a Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Assistant Professor Rita Men joins SMU from the University of Miami in Florida, where she taught for two years in the strategic communication department. Dr. Men’s research interests include public relations evaluation and measurement, relationship management, reputation management, employee engagement and social media public relations. She has worked internationally with L’Oreal and Ketchum and has provided communication research consulting for numerous multinational corporations and nonprofit organizations. She is the former co-organizer and advisory board member of the International Public Relations Research Conference. Dr. Men’s work has appeared in numerous journals including the Public Relations Review, Journal of Communication Management, International Journal of Strategic Communication, Public Relations Journal and Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing as well as various book chapters. She has received multiple top awards from the Public Relations Division of the International Communication Association and the International Public Relations Research Conference. She also is the 2010 recipient of the Ketchum Excellence in Public Relations Research Award from the Institute for Public Relations, one of the most prestigious research awards in the field of public relations. Dr. Men earned a B.A. in international communication from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, an M.A. in public relations from Hong Kong Baptist University and a Ph.D. in strategic communication from the University of Miami.

“Public relations today is based largely in research and in relationships between an organization and its stakeholders,” says Duhé.  “Two-way communication is essential. What we do as public relations professionals is cultivate, maintain and steward multiple relationships on behalf of an organization. We are positioned to be counselors to management, help in decision-making and help form policy. Crisis response certainly comes into play as well.

“The new public relations degree program gives students a broader view of the practice. They will emerge from this program prepared to be managers, equipped with not only the technical side of the practice but also with a broader management perspective.”

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