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Real World Career Preparation

A Guide to Creating a University Student-Run Communications Agency

Douglas J. Swanson

University student-run communications agencies allow students to work with real clients and get real world experience before they graduate from college and enter the workforce. Student-run agencies are increasing in popularity, but building a successful agency is challenging.

With more than ten years of experience supervising a student-run agency, Swanson examines the three critical roles a student agency must fulfill in order to be successful. First, the agency must be an exceptional environment for learning. Second, it must be a successful business—without satisfied clients, the agency will not survive. Third, it must be a supportive partner in both on- and off-campus communities.

As the first book to address student-run agencies, Real World Career Preparation offers extensive ‘how to’ guidance, and is supported by 22 Agency Spotlight best practice examples from student-run agencies across the U.S. The book ends with a comprehensive directory of 158 university student-run agencies in operation all over the world.

Real World Career Preparation is essential reading for any faculty member or administrator who is involved with an agency, or who plans to launch one in the future. This book is also valuable for college students working in an agency who seek ‘the big picture’ view of how their work for clients has long-lasting impact on the campus and the community.

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Chapter 8. The Student-Run Agency and Accreditation


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Accreditation assures that curriculum and instruction are professionally relevant. It assures that the concept and skill-based learning gained by graduates during their higher education experience matches up with the promises made by the college or university. In the United States, institutional accreditation assures that students may participate in federal grant and loan programs. Institutional accreditation allows a college or university to be perceived as credible and relevant, and to be separated from less reputable entities that take student money and then quickly disappear.

Professional accreditation occurs at the program level. It allows a specific academic program to demonstrate academic excellence and professional relevancy. This chapter will discuss two forms of professional accreditation that relate to the university student-run communications agency. First, it presents an overview of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) accrediting standards and process. Then, the chapter does the same for Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) – the Public Relations Society of America-supported program to verify excellence in public relations education. The chapter presents ideas about how the structure and outcome goals of the student-run agency can support the host program’s pursuit of professional accreditation. ← 113 | 114 →

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