New Iowa State University public relations major approved for Greenlee School

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AMES, Iowa – Students seeking to enter public relations, one of the fastest-growing career fields in the country, can now earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject at the

Erin Wilgenbusch (left), public relations lecturer in the Greenlee School and PRSSA adviser, and Kim McDonough, program and internship coordinator for the Greenlee School, are excited for the opportunities the new public relations major will offer students.

Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University.

Last week the state Board of Regents approved ISU’s request for the new academic degree. Previously the Greenlee School’s bachelor’s program in Journalism and Mass Communication offered students an opportunity to enroll in a public relations emphasis area or take public relations courses. The new major is a standalone program.

“The Greenlee School has traditionally offered courses in public relations,” Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said. “With this new degree, Iowa State students receive credit and recognition for their work and can enter the industry with excellent credentials.”

"This major truly allows students to specialize in the field of public relations," Michael Bugeja, Greenlee School director, said. "It also more accurately communicates the students’ program of study, and we believe it will make students even more desirable in the job market."

The new PR major also will provide more options to ISU students who want to take public relations courses to complement their programs of study, to pursue a minor in public relations or to double major.

Bugeja called public relations a "hot" program and said it is expected to continue growing. He cited U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics that rank public relations as one of the highest paying careers in communication, with average pay about $28 per hour. The bureau reports that employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow by 23 percent by 2020, “faster than the average for all occupations,” with growth driven by the need for organizations to maintain public image in the digital age.

The new major – with PR courses, a rigorous internship program and an award-winning Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter already in place – will begin enrolling students beginning with the fall 2013 semester.

Iowa State’s PRSSA chapter earned a national Star Award in 2012 by meeting at least eight of 10 criteria for overall excellence, said Erin Wilgenbusch, public relations lecturer in the Greenlee School and the PRSSA adviser. A large and active student organization, ISU’s PRSSA chapter offers majors and non-majors an opportunity to practice public relations through various competitions and service projects. PRSSA also provides portfolio workshops, hosts speakers, teaches interview techniques and creates networking opportunities.

The Greenlee School’s Kim McDonough, who helps run its internship program, said public relations has been a popular industry area for Greenlee interns in recent years. “This summer we had interns at Kip Morrison & Associates in Los Angeles, kglobal in Washington, D.C., Post + Beam in Los Angeles, Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, ME & V in Cedar Falls and Weber Shandwick in Minneapolis, just to name a few.”

Barb Riedesel Iverson, a 1976 ISU journalism graduate and vice president at Weber Shandwick, said Greenlee is wise to offer a public relations major because the discipline is expanding rapidly.

“Now more than ever, PR is a prominent component of integrated marketing campaigns. We’re seeing PR taking market share from other marketing disciplines and, increasingly, becoming the steward of the overall communications and marketing strategy.

“It’s not hard to understand why,” Iverson added. “The rise of social media has prompted companies and organizations to focus on new ways to engage with their customers.”

The Greenlee School, one of the longest continuously accredited programs in the nation, has enjoyed two years of near record growth with more than 125 incoming majors annually in journalism and advertising. “The addition of a PR degree will increase our enrollment even more, especially since the school is known for alumni who hold top positions in the industry,” Bugeja said.

Those interested in pursuing a public relations degree can contact the Greenlee School at 515-294-4341 or visit


About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in Iowa and around the world.

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Contacts: Michael Bugeja, Director, Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, 515-294-0481, Erin Wilgenbusch, APR, Greenlee School, 515-294-0386, Kim McDonough, Greenlee School, 515-294-9957, Steve Jones, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, 515-294-0461,