Loyola University Chicago

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Professor Chris Yim, Ph.D, strives to give students a hands-on experience in public relations

Professor Chris Yim, Ph.D, strives to give students a hands-on experience in public relations
Virginia Barreda, SoC web reporter
 

After working 30 years in the public relations field, Chris Yim, Ph.D is dedicated to giving her students a hands-on experience in the classroom.

Yim said she wants to expose her students to the types of challenges that may arise in real life and work situations by creating a curriculum that includes mock press releases, case studies and discussions.

Once they get out of the class, [students forget what they’ve learned],” she said. “I love the word ‘muscle memory.’ Once they have hands-on experience...and then one or two years later, are in the job market, they’ll remember what they [did in class].”

Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Yim began teaching at Loyola this semester; this is her first experience as a full-time professor. Before coming to Loyola, she was the CEO of Porter Novelli in Korea, an international public relations firm. While in the company, Yim said she didn’t have much time to teach, but once she earned her Ph.D., she made the switch to become a full-time professor.

“In Seoul, I had a couple chances to help some adjunct professors, but it was very new and very challenging, but also very dynamic,” Yim said. “I really enjoyed it.”

The classroom culture between America and South Korea is “very different,” according to Yim.

“In Asian countries...in the classroom, usually the professors teach the students in a lecture-based [approach],” she said. “After lectures, [students] ask a couple of questions, but it’s a very limited interaction.”

Yim said students in South Korea expect to devote the entire class time to lecture. If a professor were to devote half of class time to lecture and the other half on an “activity or practice,” students would often consider the teacher to be “negligent in preparation” for the class.

Things were different for Yim when she set foot onto Loyola’s campus.

“The first couple of weeks, I prepared all of the lectures,” she said. “And I felt that students started to [get] bored. American students love to discuss...and want to engage...so that was the key difference that I found.”

Yim said she was impressed by American students — particularly those at Loyola — who are not afraid to speak their mind.

“The students love to speak up...make discussion,” she said. “They love to challenge the professors and have group discussions.”

Yim earned her master’s degree in public relations from Yonsei University and her Ph.D. in communication studies from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea. She went back later to teach at both alma maters for about five years.

She wrote her dissertation on crisis communication, the specialty of defending a business when facing a public challenge that could damage its reputation.   

Yim said her family had already moved to Chicago six years prior to her arrival in the city, and she had been traveling back and forth from her home in Seoul to visit them before making the move permanent.

She said one of her greatest professional accomplishments was getting hired and having the opportunity to teach at Loyola.

“It’s not easy to get a job as an international faculty [member], especially from the Koreas,” she said.

Yim started her career in marketing as a brand manager for Burger King in Korea and then as marketer from Rich Products’ brand, before finding her interest in public relations.

“After six years, I realized that PR was a specialty unit and function of a company,” she said. “And one of the biggest merits of PR is [the idea of] expanding boundaries. Public relations [professionals] work with marketers, business executives, social media, and anything related to the public.”

Yim’s graduate-level campaign planning and practice course of eight students covers many PR campaign cases and teaches them the “key success factors” that people need in today’s global market.  

“I cover how to plan from the beginning... from the constitutional analysis, to how to position the brand and company in this market, how to make an insight, and how that can be delivered in the actionable program,” she said.

Students select a topic of interest and during the semester, create a campaign program for their topic and present it at the end of the course.  

“That’s the reason they are fully engaged in the program,” Yim said. “Because they are interested in their topics. And they are always thinking about how to apply the class lesson to their actual program. It’s a high-return on investment from the student’s perspective. By end of semester, they can have a very established portfolio.”

Maliz Mahop, a second year Master of Science: Global Strategic Communication student, said Yim has guided her through her initiative Light Up the City, an event influencing millennials to be leaders in careers, communities and campuses.

“[Yim] is walking me through what it means to have an initiative and bring awareness [to it] through a campaign,” Mahop said. “...This is super valuable. Taking the method, breaking everything down, doing case studies...those are the hands-on things that we do. We’re not just talking about theories every week. She wants us to be successful.”

Mahop, 24, said one of the most important lessons she has learned from her professor is to know your audience.

“Know the stakeholders involved in your campaign, project or initiative,” she said. “Because as a PR practitioner, you have to understand the people that you serve.”

While Mahop wants to work in television production, she said the skills Yim is has taught her are applicable in all cases.

“I plan to have my own media and communication firm, so this skill set will be valuable forever, not only in TV,” Malhop said. “If I want to [work] freelance on campaigns, I have the capability to do that because of what we’re learning.”

Next semester, Yim will also teach a course on crisis communication in the undergraduate program and a corporate communications course in the graduate program.

She plans on sharing her first-hand experience of working at Fortune 500 companies, to give students an idea of what businesses do in crisis situations.

The key lesson will be, “how [to] handle, how [to] monitor an issue before it escalates into crisis. How do you successfully go through the crisis and what might be the next step to recover from [it],” she said.