Bellisario professor appreciates 'summer internship' with immersion program

Jonathan F. McVerry
June 04, 2019

(Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles about students — in this case a faculty member — in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications completing summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State faculty member Tara Wyckoff says that an immersive program in New York City that connects educators with major marketing, advertising and public relations agencies will be an important opportunity for her.

Wyckoff, a faculty member in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, is participating in the Visiting Professor Program organized by the ANA Educational Foundation from June 3-7. The program allows educators to meet with representatives from companies like Facebook, IBM, Ogilvy and others to integrate current agency needs with classroom curriculum. Discussion topics include analytics, diversity, global communications and social media.

Wyckoff teaches 400-level undergraduate courses for the Bellisario College, including the public relations senior capstone. She also is the faculty adviser for the Ad/PR Club. During the weeklong program, she will take a deep dive into important issues with practitioners, as well as fellow professors from around the world.

Wyckoff believes the immersive experience will help her build more efficient, effective and innovative classroom instruction.

“I am often the last stop between Penn State and the real world for public relations students,” Wyckoff said. “So, it’s important for me to have great insights into the workings of a current, modern-day agency.”

Opportunities like the Visiting Professor Program give Wyckoff a chance to leave campus and learn practical lessons in other parts of the country. She also can ask the people who work in the industry every day questions, like: How are professionals solving problems? How are they evolving in an ever-changing media environment? How can professors keep up-to-date and best prepare students?

“I’ve always been impressed with the collegial nature of colleagues in the industry and other universities. Their ability to share and collaborate is great,” Wyckoff said. “This is like my very own summer internship.”

The idea of staying knowledgeable about today’s media world is nothing new for Wyckoff, who joined Penn State as an assistant teaching professor in 2010 after 15 years working for startups, nonprofits and other educational institutions.

She serves as Penn State’s faculty adviser for the National Millennial Community, a nationwide student consortium. The program is designed to assist companies in recruiting and retaining millennial employees. It tackles millennial (and now Gen Z) issues to bridge the gap between the evolving industry and new college graduates.

In addition to her work with the National Millennial Community, Wyckoff has begun organizing her own “Take Your Professor to Work” days. Last year, she reached out to former students three to five years out of school and arranged visits to shadow them and their workspace for a few days. She said anything she can learn to help her students adapt and prepare for their first jobs enhances her lesson plans and the classroom experience. She is planning to do it again this summer.

“I am particularly interested in student engagement. I am looking for anecdotes I can rely on, skills companies are expecting, and tech tools that are being leveraged,” Wyckoff said. “Practical insights from the field are especially important in public relations, because when students start their jobs, they hit the ground running.”

Last Updated June 04, 2019