PRSA teams with QU to issue white paper revealing 'Critical Gap' in MBA curricula

From left: Matthew O'Connor and Susan McTiernan

Sept. 19, 2013 - Working in tandem with Quinnipiac and four other pilot program schools, the Public Relations Society of America has issued a white paper that details best practices in teaching strategic communications and reputation management at the MBA-level. 

The paper establishes the case for strategic communications education in MBA programs as filling a "critical gap." PRSA announced that Syracuse University, Ohio State University and the University of St. Thomas have followed Quinnipiac's lead.

"It's rewarding to expand nationally, marking a new chapter for the PRSA MBA program," said Paul Argenti, professor of management and corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and chief architect of PRSA's turnkey program. "The tremendous interest we have garnered from prestigious institutions of varying sizes across the country is a testament to the strength of the pilot. There is a significant opportunity for the next generation of business leaders to gain a working knowledge of strategic communications and inform the strategic direction of a wide range of businesses."

In June 2012, the School of Business was one of five schools selected by PRSA to participate in a pilot program aimed at enhancing the strategic communication and reputation management education provided to the nation's MBA candidates.

With the success of the pilot, Quinnipiac plans to launch the course to a larger group of students and offer the course online. 

"We found that with PRSA stepping forward, the course offered a great opportunity to expand our elective offerings," said Susan McTiernan, associate dean for graduate programs for the School of Business.

Quinnipiac initially offered the course to seven MBA students as an elective. With the success of the pilot, the university plans to launch the course to a larger group of students in 2014 and offer the course online. 

As part of its interdisciplinary approach, Quinnipiac blended MBA students with those involved in the master's program in public relations.

For Quinnipiac, the launch of the program provided a teachable moment to share definitions of corporate communications and reputation management before the launch of the course.

"We also used the time to educate students about what it was all about and to define strategic communications. It was actually surprising to learn about the misconceptions that students had about the field," McTiernan said.

All the schools selected by PRSA demonstrated a commitment to teaching the strategic value of public relations at the MBA level, and offered or had previously offered public relations classes or coursework in their MBA and/or executive MBA programs.

Under the pilot program, the School of Business integrated a new, public relations course into its MBA curriculum for the 2012-2013 academic year. PRSA developed the course in partnership with Argenti, professor of corporate communications at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.

Matthew O'Connor, dean of the School of Business, said, "Quinnipiac's participation in the PRSA pilot program was extremely valuable in driving home the importance of reputation management to the future leaders who are now our MBA students.  Working with our four partner schools for the first year of the program proved critical to better understanding best practices in delivering this course material.  We look forward to continued involvement in the project and applaud PRSA's efforts to capture the experiences of the pilot schools in the new white paper so that others can learn from them."

The School of Business also worked collaboratively with the other business schools on identifying and documenting best practices in terms of subject matter and teaching methods.

The PRSA MBA-Level strategic communications course has gained international attention, with overseas organizations inquiring about participation. 

"I'm looking forward to collaborating with an expanded group of institutions and welcoming the other participating business schools," said Daniel Diermeier, IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice in the Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. 

The course is flexible, allowing each business school's MBA program to offer the course in full semester, mini-semester or seminar formats. An experienced team of educators and professionals developed course content and syllabi that provides a valuable learning experience for business students and is easy to implement by the educational institution.

"Organizational leaders view corporate communications as a vital part of their business strategy, and it is appropriately necessary for reputation management to be included within MBA teachings," said Joe Cohen, APR, chair-elect of PRSA, and senior vice president at MWW. "The continued growth and momentum behind this effort speaks to the demand among hiring managers for MBAs with grounding in communications strategy, the rising demand among students for reputation management coursework, and the realization among educators for the need to fill this critical gap in MBA curricula."