Meet Professor Chen, our New COMS Professor!

Tell us about your academic background and how you became interested in public relations and communication.

I went to undergraduate at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China where I was majored in English Language and Literature and minored in Business Administration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I found myself interested in both the creative side and the analytical side in what I studied and wanted to explore both aspects in my career. Public relations caught my attention, because it merits both the left and the right brains. I then went on and explored more about this field from elective courses back in college and the multiple roles I undertook working in media and communications in China.

These experiences inspired me to study more about public relations in the United States. I got my master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a concentration in public relations from the University of Georgia. After graduation, I worked in marketing analysis and communications at Fiserv in Atlanta. In my graduate studies and professional experience I was exposed to both the art and science of public relations. Public relations is a management function and really is social science at its core, and I wanted to explore more about the scientific nature of this field. That’s why I decided to go back to the academy to get a doctoral degree. During my doctoral studies at the University of Miami, I conducted a number of research projects and taught several public relations courses. What intrigues me being a researcher and educator of public relations is the applicability of theory and scientific research findings to the profession, and the beauty of combining the art and the science in my research and teaching.

Professor Chen

What do you enjoy about teaching and working with students?

For me, teaching is an enriching experience for both the students and the teacher. I really enjoy seeing the different perspectives students bring to my classroom and the great ideas sparkled during discussions. I enjoy seeing them not only learning from me and the textbooks, but also from their peers. It’s great to see them grow, learn to adapt and respect various views and to optimize the strengths of different individuals on a team, and come up with well-informed strategies and tactics in their projects and presentations. It’s truly rewarding to see my students walking out of the classroom feeling more confident and prepared for their career. At the same time, I also learn so much from them—they never fail to impress me with their energy, creativity, innovative ideas, and diverse perspectives.

What can students expect from your classes?

I’ll be teaching two courses this fall—Public Relations Principles and Practices and a special topics class on Social Media Strategies for Public Relations. Public Relations Principles and Practices is developed to introduce students to the field and provides the foundation for hands-on practices. Students will study the concepts and issues of the profession, as well as principles and theories guiding the practice. They will also be able to explore the different career opportunities through discussions, a series of activities and projects, and interactions with guest speakers. Social Media Strategies for Public Relations focuses on the impact of social media on public relations strategies from a managerial perspective. Students will be able to discuss the psychological and behavioral questions related to social media practices in today’s society, and hone their hands-on skills through case analyses and campaign planning.

Tell us about your new special topics class, Social Media Strategies for Public Relations.

Social media have brought great opportunities for the public relations profession, but they can also be double-edged swords. This course will discuss “how to do it right” through a series of practices. In this course, students will not only learn about the how’s from the practical knowledge of social listening, monitoring, and content strategies, but will also learn about the why’s through discussions of the social science and underneath psychological driving force for online behaviors. Students will enhance their social media and analytical skills to build their own personal brands and create campaigns for organizations, which can be included in their portfolio and of immediate use for job searching. The social media landscape is ever-changing, but this course’ focus on strategic and managerial implications can help them see the big picture and succeed in the long run.

Since you are new to San Francisco, what are you looking forward to doing in your new city?

I’m very excited about my life in San Francisco! The first time I visited San Francisco was during a backpack solo trip along the west coast five years ago and I immediately fell in love with the city. In my new city, I look forward to connecting with local non-profits and getting involved with the causes that I’m interested in. I also plan to connect with entrepreneurs and public relations professionals here. Of course, I’ve got to check out the great nature and cultural activities here! There are always things going on in this vibrant city and I’m ready to explore.

What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy walking around the city, jogging in the nature, or just sitting on the grass and reading a book on a nice Sunday afternoon. I’m sure there are lots of great scenes for me to explore in the Bay Area. I also like traveling to different places and chatting with people I meet on the way—one of the most fascinating things of traveling is getting to know people from different places and listening to their stories.


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