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November 8, 2017

Communication Studies department focuses anniversary celebrations on giving back


“In our program, we highlight the fact that social responsibility underpins all public relations practice."

-- Dr. Amy Thurlow, Associate Professor, Communication Studies
MSVU-PR 40th Logo
This year, the Department of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first class of the Bachelor of Public Relations program. 

Thanks to the strong connections the University has with the professional communications community, in particular the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS), the program found its home at the Mount in the fall of 1977 from among a few university contenders. 

“It was really through the lobby and advocacy of practitioners from CPRS, educators, and the university itself that ultimately brought the [Bachelor of Public Relations] program to the Mount,” said Dr. Amy Thurlow, associate professor in Communication Studies.

Dr Amy Thurlow
When asked about the philosophy of Public Relations as taught at the Mount, Dr. Thurlow (above) explained that “In our program we highlight the fact that social responsibility underpins all public relations practice. The point in the profession is to serve the public good by enhancing communication channels.”

Students in the BPR explore various theoretical perspectives to gain confidence and understanding of public relations as a practice focused on the ethical and strategic management of relationships. The program places an emphasis on experiential learning and applying real world contexts in the classroom, also providing built-in opportunities for students and faculty to work with community groups as clients and mentors.

In 2012, the Mount was among the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to be accredited under the CPRS Pathways to the Profession™ program, an initiative celebrating excellence in public relations education.

A history of close community connection

To mark the BPR’s 40th anniversary, the Department of Communication Studies is creating a series of projects and events centered around this milestone, which Dr. Thurlow referred to as “anniversary presents”, with the focus being on giving back to the local community.

The funds for these community-focused initiatives come in part from the estate of the late Ivy and Neil Oakley. Mr. Oakley was a long-time member of CPRS, having served as the national president from 1976-1977. Mr. Oakley and Ed Murray championed the founding of the Mount’s BPR program. The Communication Studies department is grateful for the late Mr. Oakley’s contributions both to the Mount and the profession more broadly.

Said Amy, “Through our anniversary celebrations, we wanted to acknowledge that connection with the community.”

Introducing Student Digital Media Consulting 

Student Digital Media Consulting
The department of Communication Studies last month launched their first in this series of projects to give back with the creation of Student Digital Media Consulting. In the spirit of the BPR program, the aim is the connect students and faculty to the community through support of a non-profit organization. Student Digital Media Consulting (or DMC) is a student-led agency of sorts, offering free communications counsel (with a digital media focus) to clients.

And while the projects benefit not-for-profits in the community, they are also of learning benefit to students. “An additional objective of this project is to give students hands on, practical experience working on digital media planning. Students will be working on developing social media platforms and other digital media content for clients. We plan to do this  on an annual basis.”

This year, Student Digital Media Consulting will be working with Hope Blooms, an organization started by Mount alumna Jessie Jollymore (well known for its fresh herb dressings) dedicated to empowering youth in Halifax’s North End and building community through projects focused on growing herbs and vegetables and developing products for sale. Mount students in the DMC group will develop a digital media plan for Hope Blooms, focusing on the strategic use of social media to expand their communication. Throughout the year, students will also help to create, write, and implement the social media tools that Hope Blooms will use.

Professional development opportunities, Research presentations 

Also as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations, the department is planning to host several professional development sessions and research panels throughout the academic year. Michelle Crosby, an alumna of the Mount and Digital & Marketing Specialist at the Halifax Partnership, led the first session last month on how to ‘Optimize your Digital Marketing: Tips for Non-Profits’. The sessions are open to all members of the Mount community as well as public relations and communications practitioners.

Noted Dr. Thurlow, “Michelle gave practical and insightful advice on digital marketing planning, and what you need to consider.” Her session was so well received that she’ll be back at the Mount to present again in January. Two faculty research panels are in the works too. The two panels will take place in the fall and winter semesters, and will give Mount Communication faculty a chance to present their research.

Stay tuned to the Communication Studies Department’s social channels for details: