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What Great Minds Can Do: Kristen Koehler, M.A. ’00/Ed.D. ’07
"I want to make sure that we’re preparing confident, knowledgeable practitioners who are ready to make a difference."
Kristen Koehler, Ed.D., M.A. in Public Relations Program Director
Dr. Kristen Koehler, M.A. ’00/Ed.D. ’07 never planned on becoming a university professor. After spending years working in such fields as sport public relations and higher education development, Koehler admittedly “fell into” the profession when offered a teaching position at Wagner College, where she was already employed as the College’s director of development. But as unexpected as it was, she immediately fell in love with education because it allowed her to combine her career work with her passion for helping others.
Today, Koehler continues to teach at Seton Hall University while also overseeing its graduate and undergraduate Public Relations programs. And she couldn’t be happier.
“It’s extremely rewarding,” Koehler said, who earned her own master’s and doctoral degrees from Seton Hall. “I’m fortunate in that students in this program seem to make the most of it, and that is rewarding for me. I want to see them succeed and build their networks. It’s about the job, but it’s also about growing and evolving and understanding their role in the greater good.”
The program indeed does offer a lot to the aspiring public relations practitioner. According to Koehler, the curriculum ties theory to practice so students will understand exactly what makes a good public relations campaign in addition to how they can carry one out. As a result, she said graduates leave Seton Hall capable of handling all the challenges they will find in their chosen profession.
“There’s no real prescription for public relations — a lot of it is gut instinct,” Koehler said. “So, there’s a significant level of confidence that practitioners must have. I think a lot of students are not necessarily always aware that they must trust their instincts. Part of what we do here is to help you build that confidence.”
And the program’s faculty members certainly know how to do that, considering their experience. Many of the instructors continue to work professionally in the field, which means they can enhance their lessons with insight and share advice with their classes. Koehler herself has found the work she does for her own firm, that primarily represents nonprofit organizations, has greatly informed her teaching. For one, she can talk about industry trends she notices that she might not have known of otherwise.
Students also benefit from the fact that the Public Relations program is highly dynamic. Looking ahead, Koehler plans to reintroduce a course on international public relations, which is becoming a more significant part of the industry as corporations become increasingly global. She is also excited to see how students’ master’s projects turn out now that the program’s thesis courses are taking a more practical approach, with students expected to conduct an industry-related project in Master’s Project I and write a case study based on their work in Master’s Project II. Extensive research into public relations theory is still required, but she believes the effort of completing a more hands-on project will better train students for what to expect in the real world.
“I want to make sure that we’re preparing confident, knowledgeable practitioners who are ready to make a difference,” Koehler said.
That is not the only thing Koehler wants for the program. She also hopes the curriculum will continue evolving to reflect student interests and market trends. Additionally, she wants to offer more learning opportunities like the recent lunch and learn students had with Johnson & Johnson.
Of course, Koehler would like to see students enjoy their Seton Hall experience and all it has to offer. From starting out as a student to now working as a professor, she knows what a positive environment the University provides.
“I love the community,” Koehler said. “It is indeed a special place, and I’m happy to be part of it.”
This profile was written by Sean Quinn, a Graduate Assistant for Graduate Studies within the College of Communication and the Arts and an M.A. in Public Relations student.
- Committee Member, Center for Communication, Journalism and Public Relations Rank and Tenure
- Internship Coordinator, Center for Communication, Journalism and Public Relations
- Faculty Adviser, PRSSA, Litore Agency, and Bateman Case Study Competition Team
- Coordinator, Communication Honors Alumni Mentoring Program