Public Relations Programs Earn International Certifications
The Loyola Chicago School of Communication has earned the two Certificates in Education for Academic Programs in Public Relations (CEPR) awarded by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
The certifications include the BA Public Relations major, the BA Integrated (Ad/PR) major, and the MS in Global Strategic Communication (GSC). They place Loyola’s programs as among the best in the world.
Associate Professor David Kamerer, Program Director of the GSC program, and Associate Professor Pamela Morris, Program Director of Advertising and Public Relations, jointly spearheaded the SOC’s PRSA certification initiative with the support of Interim Dean Elizabeth Coffman. Initially the GSC program was scheduled to do a periodic program review, but the CEPR certification was chosen as a more rigorous option.
The review team for the SOC included 2012 PRSA President Gerard Corbett and Drake University PR Professor and Associate Dean Kelly Bruhn. The reviewers addressed eight dimensions of each program’s performance: curriculum, faculty, resources, students, assessment, professional affiliations, relationships within the university, and diversity and global perspectives. The review culminated in a four-day site visit, where they met with alumni, faculty, students, administrators, internship providers, employers and key external constituencies.
“Loyola’s public relations education is a well-kept secret,” said Corbett. “Its Chicago location and all that entails as a PR center of gravity is further boosted by cutting-edge research and immensely creative and diverse faculty.”
Bruhn echoed those sentiments, particularly the SOC’s proximity to such powerhouses as Weber Shandwick, Golin, Edelman and Walker Sands, and what that means for students.
“They incorporate those professionals into their classrooms and take their students onsite to these locations,” said Bruhn. “Students often do many more than the one internship required. One professional we spoke to said, ‘I no longer approach other universities with internship opportunities. I know Loyola students are hardworking, hungry and prepared to do good work from Day One. I only recruit from Loyola University.’”
A highlight of their time on both the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses was meeting with Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM. They dropped by the office of the beloved, 104-year-old chaplain of the Loyola Rambler’s men’s basketball team where she was doing what she does best – counseling students.
PRSA program reviewers 2012 PRSA President Gerard Corbett and Drake University PR Professor and Associate Dean Kelly Bruhn enjoy a visit with Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM.
“I introduced Kelly as Associate Dean at Drake University, and Sister Jean said, ‘they’ve got a great pharmacy program at Drake,’” said Kamerer. “Sister Jean answered the reviewers’ questions and asked some of her own. She said she’d ‘put in a good word for us.’ The reviewers were star struck.”
Currently only nine schools in the world have the CEPR graduate-level certification. In the United States, this includes Loyola, the University of Florida, Syracuse University, Rowan University and Ball State University. At the undergraduate level, 40 US universities have earned the CEPR certification. Loyola is the only school in Chicagoland with either distinction.
“Our curriculum was created by Professors Herb Ritchell and Patricia Kay Felkins, who made sure it aligned with best practice according to PRSA,” said Kamerer. “Since then, while we have added new courses focusing on the digital transformation, that solid core still serves our students well.” At its heart is a focus on campaign development, with required courses in writing, ethics and new media. A required internship provides exposure to professional practice.
The certification also echoes the school’s Jesuit ethos, calling us to learn widely to foster new ideas and elevate humankind worldwide. The SOC offers classroom discussions enriched by students with international backgrounds—from Japan to Bolivia to Nigeria. This rich tapestry of students enhances dialogue while highlighting the complexities of working in a diverse, global environment.
“Our pursuit of the CEPR, reflects our proactive approach, ensuring our programs not only meet current academic and professional standards, but set new benchmarks for excellence and ethics,” said Morris.
The PRSA review process included conversations with students and alumni who have gone on to excel in prominent roles within leading organizations, from Google and Apple to the Chicago Bulls and the Obama Foundation. Alumni such as Richard Parra at Google in London and Washington, D.C.-based Jenna (Gales) Jarin, who has directed marketing analytics for two major league sports teams, exemplify the real-world impact of an SOC education.
Pictured from left to right: Associate Professor David Kamerer, Program Director of the GSC program, 2012 PRSA President Gerard Corbett, Drake University PR Professor and Associate Dean Kelly Bruhn , and Associate Professor Pamela Morris, Program Director of Advertising and Public Relations.
Bruhn, in her review of the SOC, says this kind of success begins with hands-on experiences while in school. “They have an amazing student-run agency that does award-winning work for important Chicago clients, such as United Airlines,” she says. “There are so many good things to share about this program and their engaged students.
“The graduate program features incredible travel experiences, such as London and Spain, that are embedded into the program and offer connection with professionals there. Ethics are embedded throughout their entire curriculum. Classes tackle new technologies such as AI and their ethical implications.”
Erin Spanski, SOC alumna and Vice President of Strategy at Walker Sands, underscored the lasting impact of her education on her career progression. “As my career has evolved and I’ve taken on more work in strategy, [my academic exposure to] public relations, strategic communications, and storytelling continue to be an extremely important part of my work,” said Spanski.
Audra Flores, a GSC alumna and Global Creative and Transcreation Lead for Gaming at Intel, credited her comprehensive learning experience at the SOC for her professional success. She expressed a deep sense of pride in her educational journey, saying, “I can’t look back at one particular course without feeling proud that all classes during my program gave me individual knowledge that I use throughout my professional career today.”
Advertising and Public Relations faculty are currently at work implementing suggestions that arose from the certification process. Some insights, such as those on evaluation, will be implemented school-wide.
“The greatest gift from this process is the actionable feedback that we can use to improve our programs,” said Kamerer. “And yes, we love the recognition. It will certainly help us recruit the best students to our programs.”