DePaul alum Aaron Westbrook and Dr. Matt Ragas accept PRWeek Award

DePaul alum Aaron Westbrook and Dr. Matt Ragas accept PRWeek Award

Seven years ago I switched careers. Gave up the “big bucks” of corporate and agency life to join academia as instructor and professional director of the graduate PR and advertising program at DePaul University. It was the greatest career decision of my life. And I’ve always believed that–even before last night when our program was named PRWeek’s Education Program of the Year.

Congratulations to our program’s incredibly talented academic director, Matt Ragas, who has been an amazing partner during this adventure. And thanks to our dedicated faculty colleagues–Carolyn Bronstein, Kelly Chu, Dan Azzaro, Maria DeMoya, Eva Bongiovanni, Don Ingle, Jim Motzer, Jill Stewart, Sydney Dillard, Nur Uysal, Juan Mundel, Marshall Goldman, Ken Krimstein, Rajul Jain, grad assistant Oscar Carrillo and a phenomenal group of dedicated adjuncts. And a special shout out to the reasons we do what we do–our engaged students and loyal alumni.

We love winning what has been dubbed the “Oscar of PR,” but it was simply an awesome honor to be in finalist company with the quality programs at Syracuse, Baruch College/CUNY, Georgetown and Alabama. Here’s what PRWeek said about our program and the Syracuse program, which received honorable mention:

WINNER: DePaul University

DePaul has grown its program while raising the bar. The 10-year-old program is one of the largest in the U.S. Applicants to the graduate program have increased 25%, enrollment increased 23.3% last year, and students’ average entering GPA increased 7.3% over the past three years.

Focused on achieving positive career outcomes, 100% of its graduates were employed within six months of graduation for two straight years. “Its ability to get students jobs is unmatched,” noted one judge. The school’s curriculum has a real-world focus that emphasizes writing and business basics.

To stay on top of the latest practices, input from local and national PR leaders is used to shape teaching approaches. Each year, classes visit more than 100 Chicago and New York agencies and corporations, and more than 250 professionals visit classrooms. The New York Way, a weeklong immersion into agency management and execution in which 30 students spend a week in New York City networking with major agencies and professionals, remains one of the most popular offerings. Graduate assistant positions are coveted due to professional experiences and networking opportunities.

For the second year in a row, the program received more requests for interns than it could fill. And for the third straight year, DePaul PR graduate student teams won the coveted Arthur W. Page Society Case Study Competition. Graduates land at major agencies, with 5% of Edelman’s local workforce and nearly 8% at both FleishmanHillard and Ketchum being alums. “A first-rate student experience that pays off in placement,” said one judge.

HONORABLE MENTION: Syracuse University/Newhouse

The PR department is among the largest departments in the famous Newhouse School. Last year, the school graduated its first Financial and Investor Communications Emphasis students, who majored and minored in economics, business, or math. Also new is a weekend intensive social media analytics course taught by W2O vice chair and chief innovation officer Bob Pearson. On average, students intern three times and 80% are employed six months after graduation.

Check out the other winners at last night's PRWeek Awards, "the Oscars of PR."

Check out the other winners at last night’s PRWeek Awards, “the Oscars of PR.”