Telling your story…shaping the narrative…managing the message. In the 21st century these terms all refer to the same thing: organizations need expertise to communicate effectively. The Division of Communication & Theatre found new ways to meet this need in Fall 2013 by restructuring the Public Relations major into Strategic Communication.
Strat Com – as it is sometimes shortened – embraces the traditions of public relations-oriented communication but also includes broader, theoretical approaches, and additional studies in areas such as advertising and organizational communication. This larger umbrella approach has been adopted at major communication programs such as the Universities of Missouri and Wisconsin.
IWU Strategic Communication majors will take more theoretical courses, such as “Symbols and Imaging” and “Persuasion” in their core requirements, while choosing a concentration in either Public Relations or Organizational Communication. They will also find a greater emphasis on communication research, with the option to complete one guided research practicum for credit sometime during their four years of study.
The PR concentration retains all of the classes from the PR major that are part of IWU’s Public Relations Student Society of America accreditation, as well as skill classes in graphics, writing and multimedia storytelling.
Dr. YoungAh Lee, assistant professor of communication, helped guide the curriculum change and said Strategic Communication adapts to the changing nature of communication today and will open more doors for students.
“Students will be more marketable for different careers in more fields…You have to be versatile. You should be able to schedule events, create news releases into social media writing, and organize fundraising events.”
The new addition to this major is Organizational Communication, guided by Dr. Greg Fiebig, professor of communication and org com specialist. This concentration includes new courses in Intercultural and Conflict Communication as well as management and leadership courses from other IWU divisions.
“All of us participate in organizations of one kind or another. We work for organizations, volunteer for organizations, and even organize to socialize,” Fiebig said.
“Students and others who understand the structure and culture of organizations and specifically organizational communication behavior are better suited to adapt and adopt to the various organizations to which they related,” he said.
Strategic Communication is the program for all students interested in PR who started at IWU in 2013-14 and it is now the largest major in the division, with close to 40 students. Fiebig and Lee see great prospects for this broader approach.
“I think students who are truly interested in influencing the world should major in communication, in general, and strategic communication, in particular,” Fiebig said.