STORY BY KRISTIN DOHERTY
Starting in the fall of 2015, students will be able to major in Strategic Political Communication in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says Jennifer Glover Konfrst, assistant professor of public relations.
“The SPC major is designed to bring together two skills sets: the understanding of and passion for politics and the business of politicking,” said Konfrst, who first proposed the major last fall.
There are 128 public relations majors and 14 of them are already double majoring in either Politics or Law, Politics & Society. Adding the interdisciplinary major was a “no-brainer,” SJMC Dean Kathleen Richardson said.
Konfrst said students will gain more practical context from this major than they could as a double major.
“You can understand how Congress works and you can understand how PR works, but we can put them into context so you understand how to write a speech for a candidate, for example,” she said.
A more focused major gives students the opportunity to take on a different double major, as well.
“We’ve opened up another option for them and they can specialize in another area if they want to,” Konfrst said.
A focus on communication will also give students an understanding of the media world, which Konfrst said is essential in the political arena.
As part of the SJMC, the major focuses on communication and public relation skills.
“We think writing skills are critically important, and writing is essential when you’re communicating,” Konfrst said.
In addition to the core journalism and public relations classes, SPC majors will take classes in politics, rhetoric and business. Konfrst will also teach three new classes for the major — Strategic Political Communication, Organization of Public Affairs and a capstone class — starting in the 2016 spring semester.
The SPC major will equip students with the skills to become campaign managers, candidates, lobbyists, spokespeople or speechwriters, among other political careers. This career path certainly isn’t new for Drake students: SJMC alums work for Congressmen, politically focused media outlets, government programs, PR departments and more.
While Drake students have succeeded in political communications before, the SPC major was introduced, Richardson and Konfrst agree that offering a unique major for the industry makes Drake stand out from its competitors.
“When you look at our peer institutions and our competitors, there just isn’t (a comparable major),” Konfrst said.
“We already have a track record of attracting students that become active on campus in politics and active in the community,” Richardson said. “We have tons of internships during the Iowa Caucuses. [SPC majors] can work at the state capitol, at the governor’s office. This is just an extension and making it more intentional.”
Both Konfrst and Richardson think the unique major will attract prospective students.
“The goal was to bring in new students who may not have looked at Drake and are now considering it an option,” Konfrst said. “We hope we’re giving them a light-bulb moment, where they say, ‘This is what I want to do. I just couldn’t put a name on it before.’”
While faculty is currently focusing on prospective students, some current students have already expressed interest in the SPC major. First-year Abbi Nelson, who is majoring in Politics and Music, plans to switch her Politics major to SPC next year.
“I love that it incorporates a journalism and communication aspect to politics. I enjoy rhetoric and reporting, so I feel like this is the best of both worlds,” said Nelson, who aspires to work on a campaign as a spokesperson or speechwriter.
Current students may be able to add an SPC major or switch majors depending on their current majors, year in school and previous coursework. Students interested in pursuing a major in SPC should reach out to Konfrst to discuss the possibility.