Capstone PR Campaign Class Enables Young Professionals to ‘Learn by Doing’

Gabriel Wahl

December 19, 2019

This fall, 16 public relations seniors in the San Diego State University School of Journalism & Media Studies JMS 585 Professional Studies in Public Relations capstone hit the ground running, launching their own public relations campaign in the School’s experiential learning PR capstone course.

From day one, Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA set the tone for the semester by establishing the “ground rules”:

  • class times are now called staff meetings
  • students are now called PR professionals, and part of a 16-member team forming an agency
  • the agency is structured with an overall campaign leader, an HR manager and section leads
  • self-reported timecards are due weekly, and shared with every team member for accountability and transparency
  • peer evaluations are submitted and reviewed twice throughout the semester

Their task? The agency worked for a client and is responsible for the research, planning, implementation and evaluation of a complete PR campaign.

The entire campaign for the PR team circled around launching the Broom Initiative on behalf of their client, the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations. The Broom Initiative is an umbrella project within the Broom Center that invests in those taking initiative in PR.

Folded into the semester campaign was the hosting of two elite professional events on the sidelines of Public Relations Society of America International Conference. The team planned events for PRSA’s Educators Academy and the Commission on Public Relations Education as key tactics in the Broom Initiative campaign. A total of PR agency 152 CEOs, vice presidents of PR, members of the PRSA College of Fellows, educators and practitioners attended these events.

Each step of the way the PR team followed the RPIE process putting their years of classroom education to action.

Collectively, the 16 professionals worked toward the same end goals as the center itself: to uphold industry standards, to push the status quo in PR practices through fresh and rejuvenating perspectives. They worked to successfully complete a PR campaign driven by theory and fueled by strategy for their client, the Broom Center.

“As lead executive for the agency, I spent most of my time managing the team looking at the overall progress of the campaign to check on each moving part,” said Paige Shewmaker. “Though I learned a tremendous amount in my college career, through this capstone course I have been able to apply the principles of public relations to real life, deepening my understanding of PR concepts and how I embody them as a professional.”

As evidenced from the Broom Initiative campaign, students gain experience in leadership, time management, deadline orientation, collaboration, event planning, research practices, digital media practices, strategic communication, applying PR theories, the ability to interact with elite-level professionals and how to take initiative.

“We reached all three of our objectives in a single week of implementation. Our first objective was to increase awareness of Dr. Broom by 10%, and we surpassed that. Our second objective was to increase awareness of the Broom Center’s resources and programs by 10%, and we exceeded that in raising awareness by 35%,” said Maria Soubbotina, research team lead. “Our final objective was to increase word-of-mouth marketing among target publics by 10%, and we surpassed that objective increasing it by 24%.”

The team credits all of their results to the experiential style of the capstone course and their coursework leading up to their final semester, preparing them to put into practice their public relations knowledge.

“These young professionals deserve an opportunity to be put to the test while the pressure is on, all the while being able to learn through trial-and-error before they head off to their first professional PR jobs,” said Sweetser.

This investment in the agency-style experiential learning model is how Sweetser’s course is creating future PR icons and building on the legacy of San Diego State University’s public relations program.

The fall 2019 Broom Center PR team from JMS 585 Professional Practices in Public Relations included Paige Shewmaker, Jordin Toney, Gabe Wahl, Olivia Grahl, Jenna Bisla, Maria Soubbotina, Lexi Cook, Michelle De La Rosa, Kaitlyn Foster, Molly Crawford, Alexa Morales, Sabrina Kim, Julia Muskevich, Rachel Melnick, Saira Araiza and Mirella Lopez. They are all graduating, and ready to be hired.


Capstone PR Campaign Class Enables Young Professionals to ‘Learn by Doing’
Capstone PR Campaign Class Enables Young Professionals to ‘Learn by Doing’

This fall, 16 public relations seniors in the San Diego State University School of Journalism & Media Studies JMS 585 Professional Studies in Public Relations capstone hit the ground running, launching their own public relations campaign in the School’s experiential learning PR capstone course.

From day one, Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA set the tone for the semester by establishing the “ground rules”:

  • class times are now called staff meetings
  • students are now called PR professionals, and part of a 16-member team forming an agency
  • the agency is structured with an overall campaign leader, an HR manager and section leads
  • self-reported timecards are due weekly, and shared with every team member for accountability and transparency
  • peer evaluations are submitted and reviewed twice throughout the semester

Their task? The agency worked for a client and is responsible for the research, planning, implementation and evaluation of a complete PR campaign.

The entire campaign for the PR team circled around launching the Broom Initiative on behalf of their client, the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations. The Broom Initiative is an umbrella project within the Broom Center that invests in those taking initiative in PR.

Folded into the semester campaign was the hosting of two elite professional events on the sidelines of Public Relations Society of America International Conference. The team planned events for PRSA’s Educators Academy and the Commission on Public Relations Education as key tactics in the Broom Initiative campaign. A total of PR agency 152 CEOs, vice presidents of PR, members of the PRSA College of Fellows, educators and practitioners attended these events.

Each step of the way the PR team followed the RPIE process putting their years of classroom education to action.

Collectively, the 16 professionals worked toward the same end goals as the center itself: to uphold industry standards, to push the status quo in PR practices through fresh and rejuvenating perspectives. They worked to successfully complete a PR campaign driven by theory and fueled by strategy for their client, the Broom Center.

“As lead executive for the agency, I spent most of my time managing the team looking at the overall progress of the campaign to check on each moving part,” said Paige Shewmaker. “Though I learned a tremendous amount in my college career, through this capstone course I have been able to apply the principles of public relations to real life, deepening my understanding of PR concepts and how I embody them as a professional.”

As evidenced from the Broom Initiative campaign, students gain experience in leadership, time management, deadline orientation, collaboration, event planning, research practices, digital media practices, strategic communication, applying PR theories, the ability to interact with elite-level professionals and how to take initiative.

“We reached all three of our objectives in a single week of implementation. Our first objective was to increase awareness of Dr. Broom by 10%, and we surpassed that. Our second objective was to increase awareness of the Broom Center’s resources and programs by 10%, and we exceeded that in raising awareness by 35%,” said Maria Soubbotina, research team lead. “Our final objective was to increase word-of-mouth marketing among target publics by 10%, and we surpassed that objective increasing it by 24%.”

The team credits all of their results to the experiential style of the capstone course and their coursework leading up to their final semester, preparing them to put into practice their public relations knowledge.

“These young professionals deserve an opportunity to be put to the test while the pressure is on, all the while being able to learn through trial-and-error before they head off to their first professional PR jobs,” said Sweetser.

This investment in the agency-style experiential learning model is how Sweetser’s course is creating future PR icons and building on the legacy of San Diego State University’s public relations program.

The fall 2019 Broom Center PR team from JMS 585 Professional Practices in Public Relations included Paige Shewmaker, Jordin Toney, Gabe Wahl, Olivia Grahl, Jenna Bisla, Maria Soubbotina, Lexi Cook, Michelle De La Rosa, Kaitlyn Foster, Molly Crawford, Alexa Morales, Sabrina Kim, Julia Muskevich, Rachel Melnick, Saira Araiza and Mirella Lopez. They are all graduating, and ready to be hired.