Public relations students gain experience on campus

In a departure from past programs, public relations students are providing the College of Nursing and the College of Visual Arts with their services. The relationship gives students PR experience and fulfills part of their graduation requirements.

Derina Holtzhausen, associate professor of public relations, said although experience has been an inherent part of public relations courses, students will now represent clients who devote more money and resources to PR initiatives. Holtzhausen said the collaboration was the result of cooperation from Patricia Burns, dean of the College of Nursing, and Ron Jones, dean of the College of Visual Arts.

“I think there is a difference this semester because in the past the clients did not have the resources, and although they asked to become clients, they often didn’t devote the time,” Holtzhausen said. “(This semester) the students will definitely provide a better product and gain a better quality experience because Burns and Jones have been unbelievably supportive; without them this wouldn’t be possible because if the client doesn’t cooperate then the experience is not possible.”

The partnership is part of a class. Holtzhausen, who has taught Advanced Public Relations for four years, credits Board of Trustee member Steve Burton for suggesting the students take on the colleges as clients. The program’s previous clients included the Tampa AIDS network, the USF Bookstore and the Women’s Studies Program.

The class has 35-40 students divided into seven teams to advise the College of Nursing and the College of Visual Arts, Burton said at a Board of Trustees workgroup meeting Tuesday.

To fulfill course requirements the students must perform research, design strategies and execute those strategies.

The seven account executives of the groups, Krista Jones, Dan McLeon, Shantell Noble, Paige Glover, Michelle Lagasse, Donya Smith and Angela Cibula, presented their plans for research during the meeting.

All of the teams said they would conduct surveys to gain information on the colleges’ problem areas.

Jones said her team’s goal is to increase the endowments for the College of Visual Arts by 25 percent next year.

“We will conduct interviews and surveys to gain awareness of the attitudes and opinions of the students and faculty towards the College of Visual Arts,” Jones said.

Lagasse’s team is focusing on the continuing education aspect of the College of Nursing and, in addition, her group will send out surveys to women.

“Our goal is to improve the image and awareness of the College of Nursing,” Lagasse said. “We are going to conduct qualitative and quantitative research on the households of women to find out how much they know about heart health because heart problems are the leading cause of death in women and they are (often) unaware of it.”