Before arriving in Syracuse to pursue a master of laws degree, Carla Villarreal Lopez L’17 was already an experienced human rights lawyer. In her native Peru she served as a commissioner at the Ombudsman’s Office, as well as a professor…
PAN Portal Program Prepares Newhouse PR Students to Be ‘Job Ready Day One’
The Newhouse School’s public relations department will host the PAN Portal ePortfolio Review Day on campus on Tuesday, March 21. Professionals from marketing and PR agency PAN Communications will critique and advise undergraduate and graduate students on their capstone ePortfolios, known as the PAN Portal.
The PAN Portal is a new ePortfolio program, required in the capstone classes for both the undergraduate and residential master’s programs. It’s named in honor of alumnus Phil Nardone ’82, founder of PAN Communications. The company celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2015 with the acquisition of Vantage PR and a 25 percent increase in revenue, marking the most profitable year in its history.
Nardone, a graduate of the public relations program and member of the Newhouse Advisory Board, has remained connected with the school, sharing his secrets of success with students as an adjunct professor and, since last spring, through PAN Portal.
The professional development project brings employees from PAN Communications—many of whom are also Newhouse alumni—to campus at least twice a year to review and provide feedback on portfolios developed by PR students.
“Our motto in the department is that our graduates should be job ready on day one,” says Rochelle Ford, PR chair. Students exhibit this job readiness by building portfolios (online as ePortfolios) that showcase their work and demonstrate their skills to potential employers.
“What we hope is that the portfolio demonstrates that students are competent in all the skills the industry says they should have,” says Ford.
During portfolio review days, PAN professionals meet one-on-one with students and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their portfolios from an employer’s point of view. The students then have several weeks to revise their portfolios before submitting them for a final grade at the end of the semester.
PAN professionals also provide the department with an overall evaluation of the student cohort—how many students demonstrate excellence in the field, how many are average and how many need work in specific areas. “It’s a real temperature check for the faculty, to see if we’re doing what we say we’re doing,” says Ford, adding that the project helps inform assessment. (Ford is a Provost’s Faculty Fellow, focusing on Syracuse University’s current Middle States Commission on Higher Education reaccreditation process.) Faculty may choose to revise curriculum based on feedback from PAN.
The PAN Portal project was piloted during the spring 2016 semester with half of the PR master’s class. In fall 2016, PR undergraduates and public diplomacy master’s students were also included. Ford says the students have found the program beneficial. “With both faculty and professionals looking at their portfolios, students get differing perspectives, which really helps them.” Ford says the program also provides students with potential internship and job opportunities with PAN.
This semester, first-year students are also looped into the program through class visits from PAN staff, who will discuss the importance of the portfolio. Students in the introductory course will also be given a portfolio assignment. “This helps us see where they started—and, by their senior year, we should see a dramatic improvement,” says Ford. “If not, it will tell us we need to make adjustments.”
Last year, Nardone was recognized by PR News as PR Trainer/Educator of the Year for his work with the Newhouse School. PAN Portal represents Nardone’s commitment to Newhouse, and the school does not incur any of the costs associated with the program, including PAN employees’ time or travel expenses.