MRU’s public relations department celebrates 50 years of success
50th Anniversary of public relations at Mount Royal
Friday, Sept. 20
It’s been 50 years since Mount Royal began educating public relations professionals to communicate, advise, build relations and think strategically to further the vision of their chosen organizations. Join your fellow graduates to reflect on the past and discuss the future of public relations.
The day will include professional development sessions, student portfolio presentations, a panel discussion, a keynote speaker, and opportunities to network.
Words by Sandra Braun, PhD, public relations associate professor and alumna of the program
In the summer of 1969, the world was abuzz with adventure and the charting of new territory as, in a feat of near impossibility, men were landing on the moon.
That fall, in the spirit of the times, Mount Royal Junior College (MRJC) administrators charted new territory in post-secondary education with the launch of the long-awaited, two-year public relations (PR) program.
September 2019 marks the program’s 50-year anniversary. To celebrate, on Sept. 20 Mount Royal will host a day’s worth of events with Innovation, Evolution and Excellence — 50 Years of Public Relations Education.
“On Sept. 20, our public relations community will celebrate the 50 years of vision, effort and accomplishments that have created our current success,” says Allison MacKenzie, associate professor and chair, Department of Public Relations. “In addition to networking with former friends and colleagues, participants will explore the future of professional PR, our graduates and the program.”
During the past 50 years, the program has grown from a two-year diploma to a four-year degree with graduates now earning a Bachelor of Communication — Public Relations (with the option to earn an added Certificate of International Relations credential). Enrolment has grown from a handful in 1969 to about 255 in 2019.
Mount Royal is one of about seven institutions in Canada with a four-year baccalaureate program in public relations, which has consistently been named one of the fastest growing majors in Canada and the U.S. for the past many decades. Forbes Magazine lists public relations as number 17 of the top 25 most promising jobs for millennials, with a prediction of 12 per cent growth by 2022.
In the 1960s, the burgeoning field of public relations was coming strongly onto the scene. The very first classes were offered in the late 1940s: first at McGill University, and then at the University of Toronto. Those, in conjunction with the establishment of the Canadian Public Relations Society in 1948, contributed heavily to the development of the field. John Balcers, the former chair of journalism at MRJC, recognized the continuing growth of the profession and encouraged the development of the new offering, which was then called the Associate Diploma of Science, Communications Media and Public Relations.
The Sept. 20 reunion will feature Balcers, who was also the first chair of the public relations program, as well as other former chairs including Janice Robertson, APR, and Elaine Dixson, APR. The keynote speaker will be the prestigious Donald K. Wright, PhD, chair of the Department of Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations, and the Harold Burson Professor of Public Relations in the College of Communication at Boston University. Named by PRWeek as one of the top PR educators in the U.S., Wright actually has Canadian roots.
“Being born and raised in B.C., my plan always was to teach in Canada. However, I was born too early to be around when journalism, and then public relations education, came to Canadian universities. Consequently, I migrated to the U.S.,” Wright says.
MRU’s PR program remains one of the most popular and in-demand programs at the institution. With only 60 seats available per year for incoming students, the program unfortunately consistently has to turn away some 150 applicants annually.
Evolving in close relationship with the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS), the program is fully accredited by the CPRS.