Story by Larissa Wurm
Photo by Jeremy Leong
Patrick Merle, currently an assistant professor at Florida State University, kicked off the series with a lecture titled, “Notes From the Field: The Secret Life of a Passport” in Sussman Theater, where he discussed his global public relations experience and encouraged students to think more visually and focus on people.
“Images travel efficiently across languages and cultures,” Merle said.
During Merle’s career, he covered 9/11, the London subway attacks and the Olympics in Athens as an international reporter. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in history (in France and Ireland, respectively) before getting his Ph.D. in mass communications at Texas Tech University.
The lecture series was developed after professors looked at the current public relations program and curriculum.
“We reviewed the curriculum in 2012,” said Kelly Bruhn, an assistant professor in public relations. “We had just started the new PR curriculum, and we knew we needed to increase student awareness in a few areas: technology and innovation, globalism and multicultural and diversity issues.”
Assistant Professor in public relations David Remund said the process included comparing Drake’s PR curriculum to other programs in the nation and having senior professionals review courses and assignments.
“We can only accomplish so much in the traditional classroom,” Remund said in an email. “As far as globalism, we know that not every student can afford the time or money necessary to study abroad. We had the idea to bring a visiting scholar to campus, from overseas.”
“An important part of the visit is sharing that global perspective with the broader campus and the Des Moines community,” Remund said. “Hence, the lunch of the distinguished lecture series.”
In looking for speakers for the lecture, Bruhn said they were looking for someone who could give more insight on the three categories mentioned but also illustrate the “value and flexibility” in a public relations degree.
Bruhn said (the faculty) wanted to invite guests to spend time with students and also give students multiple opportunities to meet with the speakers.
Merle will be visiting campus for a week. He has spent his time visiting with student organizations, classes, both in the school of journalism and the college of business and directing class discussions and providing input and advice on projects students are working on.
“He knows and understand how to help college students truly understand PR practice, and from both U.S. and international perspectives,” Remund said. “He was uniquely qualified to be our first visiting scholar and we are so grateful he was willing and able to accept our invitiation.”
“Dr. Merle is a great scholar and we are really lucky to have him on campus,” Bruhn said.
“Dr. Merle has an impressive and diverse professional background, in journalism as well as public relations. So, he’s not only worked on both sides of the media, he has done so on several continents,” Remund said. “He is helping students expand their thinking beyond the traditional American norms. He’s also got a great sense of humor, so he’s spreading good cheer as well.”
“I’m really pleased with the attendance from not just students but professionals as well,” Bruhn said. “I think they were impressed with his presentation.”