Graduating in May with an associate’s degree in communications and a specialty certificate in public relations, Montgomery County Community College student Teresa Harris feels confident she is fully prepared to re-enter the workplace with the knowledge and skills she will need to succeed.
“I’ve made the absolute most of my experience at the college and enjoyed all of it,” said Teresa, who is a member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. “Thanks to the curriculum, I am prepared. I’ve been given enough hands-on experience to go out and actually work.”
The curriculum for the public relations specialty certificate includes courses in journalism, marketing, graphic design and public relations. Teresa — who is the first student to complete the certificate program — feels she is now ready to handle the array of responsibilities of a public relations specialist.
“I received a well-rounded experience to be able to move in different directions, whether writing or public speaking,” she said. “I’m able to write newsletters, press releases, speak to clients or plan fundraising events. I feel very comfortable with all those kinds of things.”
Teresa says Public Relations 225 included invaluable hands-on assignments.
“We went through the whole PR process with our clients and got to see all that can happen in the process,” Teresa said, noting that she worked directly with her client to develop press releases and promotional messaging, while staying within a proposed budget.
Additionally, assistant professor Thomas Donlan made arrangements for the class to have iPads as part of the course, thus enabling them to better understand technology and to learn how to use social media effectively.
After leaving a professional marketing career and then staying at home to raise her daughter for several years, Teresa returned to school part-time. She knew a degree would improve her chances to find employment in the public relations field, but her daughter also played a role in the decision.
“She is very bright,” Teresa said, “and I thought, ‘I’ve got to go back to school so I can help her and be a role model.’ I think it’s made it a really rich experience for her, too, to see me doing my homework and me being able to help her with hers.”
Beyond her studies, Teresa wrote for the College’s communications and athletics departments. While writing for communications was a natural fit, writing about basketball games for the athletics department was a much greater challenge, revealing her willingness to put in the necessary effort to learn new things.
“I’m not a sports fan,” she said, “but I was determined to learn the basketball lingo. Among other things, I even bought a “Basketball for Dummies” book. The entire experience helped me learn to explore a world I had no previous information about.”
In addition to her course responsibilities and writing assignments, Teresa found time to volunteer on campus.
In one of her classes, a fellow student with special needs required some help taking notes. “He came to every class and did his work but just couldn’t write his own notes,” she said. “Here you had someone who really had limitations and somehow fought beyond those boundaries to do what he had to do… It turned out to be an incredible experience. I found it very inspiring.”
Equally inspiring was her volunteer work with the Theatre Production Workshop, where she helped with painting and building sets and learned firsthand about the decision-making process of pulling together a production.
Teresa’s immediate goal after graduation is to find meaningful employment in the public relations field. She hopes to work in a non-profit organization, preferably one focused on health or women’s and family issues.
“I know there aren’t a lot of resources in non-profit,” she said, “and I believe a role there will require me to do more, giving me a more well-rounded experience than I might get in a larger company.”
Eventually, Teresa plans to transfer to a four-year institution to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“I can only hope that my next college experience will be as fulfilling as it has been here,” she said.