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The purpose of this study is to address a practical question and problem: what can explain the small number of underrepresented racial and ethnic practitioners in the…
The purpose of this study is to address a practical question and problem: what can explain the small number of underrepresented racial and ethnic practitioners in the public relations industry? By placing race at the center of this study via critical race theory, the authors sought to answer the previously mentioned practical question. The authors focused on the undergraduate environment as a pipeline to the profession. The goal was to determine whether issues of race in the undergraduate public relations environment played a role in students’ ability to succeed in their public relations coursework and in their ability to secure internships, network with professionals, etc.
The authors interviewed 22 practitioners with five or fewer years of industry experience. The authors used email interviews to gather data from young professionals. Although email interviews are impersonal in nature, because of a lack of the use of social cues and non-verbal communication (Hunt & McHale, 2007), email interviews are more cost-effective, expand the range of participants that one could interview, and this method allows participants to reflect longer on their answers, which could result in more detail – whereby participants might share information they would not normally share face-to-face.
The findings reveal that half of the Latina, African American and Asian American participants noted that being underrepresented was not necessarily a hindrance to their academic success; rather, being underrepresented was uncomfortable for them at times, as they believed they had to prove themselves more than whites. Additional findings reveal that in terms of developing social skills for the profession, participants did not experience negative or positive effects of race. Findings are used to gain insight into how to increase diversity in the profession and to gauge the extent to which racial identity plays a role in public relations students’ collegiate development.
This study asks racially and ethnically underrepresented applied communication students to reflect on their experiences as undergraduates as a means of refining the undergraduate educational experience to make that experience more attractive for and conducive to academic success for current and future underrepresented applied communication undergraduate students. It's a first of its kind in that regard.