In government, there is a saying that “personnel is policy,” meaning that the specific people selected to fill key bureaucratic roles matter just as much — if not more so — than the policies they are supposed to implement. A similar general principle applies to degree-granting institutions. While the stated missions of college and university programs are important, whether they actually materialize for students will ultimately depend on the quality of their faculty.
As you consider enrolling in an advanced program such as the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations (SPR) at the George Washington University (GW), it’s important to know more about the faculty members you will be working with. Faculty quality is even more important in a graduate program than an undergraduate one, since research and other in-depth, faculty-coordinated initiatives such as capstone projects are pillars of degrees like the SPR master’s.
In this post, we will look at some of the notable achievements of the GW faculty and what to expect when collaborating with these distinguished industry professionals as part of the SPR program.
The GW faculty at a glance: achievements, recognition and research interests
The professors in the GW Graduate School of Political Management, which houses the SPR program, come from diverse professional backgrounds. Many GW faculty members have been individually recognized for their significant contributions to the study and practice of PR. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Lawrence J. Parnell
The program director of the SPR, Professor Parnell teaches Foundations of PR Strategies and Tactics in addition to capstone courses. A member of the Arthur W. Page Society — an elite organization for senior-level PR professionals who must be nominated by existing members — he is also active in both the Public Relations Society of America and the National Investor Relations Institute. PR Week designated him PR Professional of the Year in 2003.
Professor Parnell emphasizes the applied nature of the SPR program, through which students bring their own research interests to the table and explore them in capstone projects. An added benefit of the capstone structure is the opportunity for students to build relationships with potential employers while demonstrating mastery of concepts related to crisis communications, budgeting and media relations. Professor Parnell has also highlighted the distinctive benefits of the online nature of the GW SPR program, which he says requires an average of 15 hours of work per week that can be spread out over any time of the day or night.
Dr. Janis Teruggi Page
Dr. Page is a prolific author with more than 50 papers, articles and book chapters to her name. She is the co-author, along with Professor Parnell, of the textbook “Introduction to Strategic Public Relations: Digital, Global, and Socially Responsible Communication,” which was released in January 2018.
In addition to her membership in the Public Relations Society of America, Dr. Page is a member of the International Communication Association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and the National Communication Association.
Forrest W. Anderson
Professor Anderson began teaching the required Research Methods for PR and Public Affairs Managers course to SPR students in 2011. Prior to his time at GW, he worked at PR firms including Burson-Marsteller and Golin representing major clients including Michelin North America, IBM and Walt Disney Imagineering. He is a founding member of the Institute for Public Relations’ Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation.
His approach to teaching leverages this deep industry experience along with the expertise he developed while earning a Master of Business Administration. Professor Anderson teaches PR from both a theoretical and stakeholder-oriented perspective, with a close examination of how multiple departments within an organization work together on PR initiatives.
Professor Vahouny teaches the Fundamentals of Business and Finance for Public Relations Professionals course. She owns and operates her own PR firm, Karen Vahouny Consulting, which serves a wide variety of clients in every sector, from government to multinational business. She also founded Qorvis Communications, a PR agency that was recognized by PR Week and eventually became part of MSLGROUP after years of rapid growth.
Currently, she is the chair of the National Endowment for Financial Education. Previously she served on the executive boards of the Washington chapter of the National Investor Relations Institute and the International Association of Business Communicators.
Professor Griffin-Woodall teaches Introduction to Marketing Communications. She has been involved with GW since 2009, when she was drawn to the program by its flexible online format that allowed her to teach even while she was in New York. She focuses on topics such as how PR and marketing intersect.
“I think it’s important for anyone who’s entering PR, or anyone who is furthering their profession in PR, to understand that this is not a spin master role,” Professor Griffin-Woodall explained in her bio. “It never has been, and especially with today’s consumers and society, it’s definitely not. With the rise of fake news and the fact that news can travel very quickly, transparency is important. So, when you enter this profession, you have to be prepared to be able to see the story, build the story and protect the brand.”
Why earn your SPR degree from GW?
Faculty quality is just one reason to consider GW for your strategic public relations master’s. GW is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a top school for veterans. Moreover, its online format means you can learn on your own terms, at a time and location of your choosing. SPR graduates are prepared to pursue many career opportunities in the public and private sectors, thanks in part to the program’s extensive alumni network and its connections throughout the nation’s capital.
To learn more, visit the main program page, where you can answer a few questions to receive a copy of the program brochure with additional information.
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