Career Highlight: DePaul Wins ‘Oscar of PR’

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.”


7 thoughts on “Career Highlight: DePaul Wins ‘Oscar of PR’

  1. As a student of DePaul’s exceptional PR program, I cannot help but reassert what the PRWeek Awards announced last night. When walking the halls of DePaul University’s communications building, it is clear that the program is special.

    Simply put, every single professor inspires passion within their students. It is this passion that had me relentlessly checking my Twitter feed last night as PRWeek released updates and it is this passion that had me jumping up and down in my apartment upon seeing the tweet announcing DePaul’s PR program as Education Program of the Year. It is also this passion that has inspired me to continually thirst for more knowledge about this field that I love so much.

    Of course, while the inspiration of passion is of utmost importance within an education program, there is one fundamental factor that must fall into place to make this inspiration even a remote possibility: the professors must care. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that DePaul professors meet this criteria with flying colors. From the program’s fearless leaders in Ron Culp and Matt Ragas to adjunct professors, I have yet to meet a DePaul professor who does not care deeply about each and every student they come across.

    Time and time again, I have experienced professors going out of their way for my peers and me, regardless of whether class is in session. From answering questions about the industry to proof reading cover letters, DePaul professors go above and beyond their scope of work time and time again. As a student, you go to class every single day with the knowledge that you matter to your professor.

    A few days ago, I was speaking with some colleagues at my job and was overwhelmed with pride when several people agreed that they have never seen a DePaul graduate come through the office who was not prepared to take on their role and excel.

    I could go on and on about my DePaul experience, but in simplest terms, I do not think I could be prouder to call myself a student of DePaul’s PR program. I will, forever and always, be a very proud Blue Demon.

    1. Thanks, Richie. This is an incredible testimonial about your experience with our program. You also confirm why the faculty does what we do–because of students like you. Our real “salary” comes from watching the success of our students and alumni. Appreciate your taking the time to share your heartfelt feelings.

  2. Just basking in the glow this morning.

    I could go on and on, but we’ve got spring quarter classes coming up! And if we want to win again next year, I’ve got a lot of work to do!

    I’ll just say that the leadership of Ron Culp and Matt Ragas is unmatched. Way to go, guys!

    And nice email, Richie. You’re the greatest!


    1. Thanks, Don. You are a huge part of what makes our program so special. We’re blessed to have a phenomenal group of academics and professionals to share their wisdom with the future leaders of our profession.

  3. Congrats Ron and Team DePaul. I see firsthand every day the output of your hard work so the only thing surprising to me is that it took PR Week judges this long to recognize it.

  4. Having worked closely with this team, I can confidently say that they are some of the best in the business. Their commitment to student success and connecting academia and industry is unmatched. What a well deserved honor, congratulations!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *