Completing and passing capstone is a major requirement for the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication (SJGC) students to graduate. Without even noticing, students prepare for capstone during their entire college career until their graduating semester to present their professional portfolio to a panel of professionals.
Since freshman year, I have been kicking and screaming about the guidelines for public relations students and the capstone presentation. As I am writing this article and my capstone presentation is a week away, I am still questioning the validity and clarity of the public relations capstone.
Is capstone in favor of public relations students?
“I don’t think the capstone is in our favor. The guidelines given to us neglect our primary focus on public relations. I feel like there should be more distinguishable guidelines. Although they are similar, the journalism track and public relations are separate entities,” said Skhai Bennett, a public relations student.
Current public relations students have struggled to find guidelines that guide us properly to prepare for capstone—emailing faculty members to understand better what we should be presenting. All while following the journalism rubric as it is the closest one that we can base our portfolio. Although, there have been rumors that the guidelines have been changed for public relations students to focus on projects we work on, no document can prove that it is true.
“When I entered my capstone presentation, the first thing I noticed was that there were no public relations professionals in my panel,” Chamarya Roberts, a SJGC graduate, said. “The only real difference between the capstone presentations was that I had to have at least one press release. But I believe that the public relations program in general is outdated. Unlike the journalism program, which has the radio station, newswriting, and the many things that you can do in broadcast–the only thing I had for public relations was PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). Within the program, there were no real opportunities for public relations students to dive into specifics which shows when it comes to our capstone.”
Policies for capstone are set by faculty under the guidance of administration. But according to the SJGC website, the majority of the faculty have a professional background in journalism. The faculty cannot be blamed for making policies and guidelines that are unintentionally in favor of journalism students as that is what they are experts in, and the basis of public relations and journalism are similar. But when students branch off in their respective fields, that should be reflected in both the program and capstone requirements.
Jeffrey Wilkinson, an SJGC professor, joined the faculty in 2019, and was assigned to capstone last year. Wilkinson was allowed to revise the wording to make the guidelines clearer.
“My opinion is that PR faculty and students should decide what should be required of PR majors in capstone,” Wilkinson said. “They [the Dean or capstone director] can create a committee of PR faculty and students and charge them to make whatever changes are needed.”