How to Succeed: Advice for Incoming CCPA Students

As the school year comes around, we have compiled advice for incoming CCPA students. For the best advice, we interviewed CCPA professors to see what makes a successful CCPA student.

Within CCPA there are two tracks, The Public Relations and Strategic Communication track and the Public Affairs track. While both tracks require different pre-requisite courses, they both require CCPA 2327, Communication Theory.

Professor Owen Lynch teaches this course and gave us some good insights on the course, how students can best excel in Communication Theory, and how students can excel in the CCPA major in general.

Professor Lynch

On the subject of the Communication Theory course, Professor Lynch said that it is important for students to come in and understand the breadth of the communications discipline and all of the traditions that come into it. In the course, there is a lot of material covering a lot of ground. It is key to come in and think about how all of these concepts come together and how they are applied to real-world situations.

Below are some other tips that Professor Lynch had for his class:

  • Come ready to be prepared
    • Download the decks before you come to class
    • Read the textbook beforehand
      • Helps gain knowledge before it
    • Building upon what you have read
    • Go back and review before the next class
    • Trying to build a building, have to build a foundation and then the next step and next step
    • Two important questions to ask
      • How does this concept or applied theory apply to my life? What real life examples can I associate this with?
      • Professor should integrate their own real-world examples and students should pay attention to this contextualization
    • Have found over the years that how well students do in comm theory is a good predictor to how students will do in the major
      • This is why it is an entry course
    • Make sure you prepare yourself for what is to come
      • Be asked to synthesize and regurgitate the material often
    • Pay attention to the questions asked in class

On the subject of excelling in CCPA, Professor Lynch said that you should be open to all tracks, talk to the teachers about your interests. More importantly, don’t just think about what career will come from this class, but think about the entire entrée, what are you really interested in? People who you work for want you to think critically, be a good writer and really try to focus on developing those skills now. He also said to take advantage of the internship program especially in the Dallas area because of the prestige of SMU and how well communication majors at SMU are seen locally. Also, try to network with professors and utilize your personal network of who you meet while at SMU. Professors are always evaluating you because they might have opportunities for the best students.

Professor Commerato Lance

We also talked with Professor Kim Commerato Lance, who teaches CCPA 1301, A Survey of Corporate Communication & Public Affairs, a new course that guides students through the major programs of study offered via the CCPA department, while engaging them in person and the career-discovery process. In this course, students will ask and answer questions such as: Which CCPA track is right for me and why? What are my long and short-term goals within CCP and beyond? As a student and a young professional, how will I make a difference? How will I carry the torch of ethics into my work?

Professor Commerato Lance also gave some advice for 1st year CCPA students and how they can excel in the major. She said that you must become a curious learner. The CCPA major offers a great opportunity to be challenged both personally and academically. Form relationships with your faculty and your peers, don’t be afraid to ask questions, constantly hone your writing skills, and always ask yourself: AM I delivering my best work? Am I adding value to the classroom? Am I growing, and am I enjoying my chosen program of study?

Professor Coats

We also talked with Professor Chris Coats, who teaches CCPA 2308, Introduction to Newswriting in Public Relations, and CCPA 4338, Creative Production for Communicators.

For her advice, Professor Coats said that you should know that your professor is part of your support team. They want you to achieve success and to grow just as much as you do. It is key to invest in your education by participating in class and getting to know your classmates and your professors. Many of these relationships end up expanding beyond the classroom and graduation offering lasting friendships and strong network connections for mutual support! Also, Professor Coats knows that many former students ended up forming companies together after graduation. Professor Coats keeps in touch regularly with former students from years past and current. Pony Up for life!

A Quick Checklist

Following is a checklist we have created for new CCPA majors!:

  • Subscribe to the CCPA Blog
    • This blog shares posts about upcoming events, open classes, PRSSA events, and students’ advice. If something is going on in CCPA, you will be in the know by reading these posts.
  • Attend PRSSA new member interest meeting
    • PRSSA, Public Relations Student Society of America, is a national organization with a local chapter at SMU. SMU PRSSA welcomes you with open arms and provides you with guidance on growing your network and professional skills.
  • Make a LinkedIn Profile
    • This may seem odd for a new student checklist. You just got into the major, what do you even put on LinkedIn? However, you will have to create a LinkedIn account for multiple classes throughout your time in CCPA. This assignment is easier when you already have your profile up and running. Keep your profile updated throughout your time at SMU. List any organizations you are a part of (like PRSSA), as well as internships or jobs you have.
  • Meet your professors
    • You will meet professors when you attend their class. It is important to meet them outside the classroom. They have wisdom that you should listen to as soon as possible. Most of their offices are in Umphrey Lee, so pop your head in their office sometime and get to know them!
  • Introduce yourself to Mrs. Hewitt
    • She is the CCPA administrator and will work her magic and help you create a logical class schedule.
  • Check your inbox for an email from your Meadows advisor
    • You will have a major advisor AND a Meadows advisor. Your major advisor will help you with planning your major classes. Your Meadows advisor will make sure your schedule includes your general education classes and SMU requirements.
  • Last but not least on the new student checklist… Make friends!
    • You will have a lot of the same people in your classes for the rest of your time at SMU, so introduce yourself and start networking.

Alex Brody