Thinking Ahead

Our Corporate Communication and Public Affairs (CCPA) faculty are a fast-moving bunch. When we’re not in the classroom, on campus, or with our students, we’re in the field doing what we teach.

We’re always thinking ahead. We focus on preparing our majors not so much for their first job, but rather for their third or fourth job. Our track record indicates our approach to preparing graduates for the leadership path to chief communication officer, executive director, vice president, senior strategist, founder and entrepreneur is working.

Underlying all we do in CCPA is a driving belief that communication must serve the greater good. Students focus their CCPA studies in organizational communication, public affairs and political communication, social innovation and nonprofit engagement, and/or public relations and strategic communication. Our graduates are leaders in business, government and civil society.

The world our graduates enter is interdisciplinary. So, then, is our teaching philosophy.

Starting with the first course in communication theory, our students learn how the intersection of political, economic and social/cultural forces affects the communication process. They examine their own points of view, seek to understand different points of view and develop a personal sense of professional responsibility. And they learn how to study – not to “rinse and repeat,” as we like to say, but to actually apply what they are learning, which requires a much higher level of understanding.

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A hallmark of SMU is excellent teaching. Thinking ahead includes CCPA’s professors – among them three Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors – providing rigorous content and challenging learning assessments to undergraduates who are still deciding if they are going to major in CCPA. We want students to think ahead, too.

Duhé enjoys preparing her students to be research-savvy managers who are well versed in business principles and readily able to tie communication strategy to business strategy.

Hands-on learning stays with students. Thinking ahead includes providing our majors with client interaction early in their CCPA studies. Students have ongoing opportunities to work with start-ups, nonprofits, major corporations and the Meadows School of the Arts.

Key to our students’ success is our advisory board of communication executives who, along with our wide network of CCPA alumni, are always thinking ahead and helping to prepare our students for what’s next. Whether in Dallas, D.C. or London, our students are making the connections and getting the experiences that will propel their careers. We appreciate the many others who help make that happen.

CCPA differs from other communication programs around the country. We focus entirely on undergraduate education and field application. We deliver content that is usually reserved for graduate study. We ensure that our majors, regardless of their career aims, are exceedingly comfortable with not only gathering and analyzing data, but also, and most importantly, applying their findings to communication strategy. And, we insist they understand whatever type of “business” they find themselves in, no matter if it’s a for-profit venture, a political campaign or a social enterprise.

As CCPA chair, I’m incredibly fortunate to work with a team of forward-thinking colleagues, highly skilled students and accomplished alumni who support and advance the work we do. Together, we’ll keep thinking ahead.

Sandra Duhé is the Chair of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, Associate Professor, and Director of Public Relations and Strategic Communication at SMU Meadows School of the Arts.