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Public Relations Society of AmericaWaikato achieves international gold standard for public relations

The University of Waikato’s Management Communication department has cemented its leading position as the only school in Australasia certified by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – a global organisation that sets the gold standard for excellence in public relations education.

Waikato is one of just 37 universities in the world – and one of only five outside the United States – to be awarded PRSA certification, the Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR), which it achieved for the first time in 2009.

The Public Relations Society of America is the world’s largest organisation for public relations professionals, with more than 22,000 members and 10,000 affiliated students.

PRSA certification is a voluntary accreditation programme that recognises the outstanding quality of Waikato Management School’s public relations programme, in terms of teaching, practical student experiences and academic research. The School’s Management Communication department goes through a re-certification review process by the PRSA Educational Affairs committee every six years.

“We’re very proud of this result.” says Professor Juliet Roper, chairperson of the Management Communication Department. “We are recognised as the only management school in the southern hemisphere to carry both PRSA certification and Triple Crown Accreditation.”

“The PRSA certification says Waikato’s Bachelor of Communication Studies degree meets international standards and our graduates are ready to take a job anywhere in the world. Indeed, many of their graduates hold high-level positions in the United Nations, UNICEF, Boston Consulting Group, and Amazon, as well as in New Zealand companies such as Air New Zealand, Vodafone, Trustpower, Porter Novelli, Pursuit PR, Tourism New Zealand, and local councils.”

The CEPR review process usually takes about a year. Former PRSA President Judy Phair and Professor Doug Swanson of California State University, visited the University for three days in May to evaluate the department and interview students, alumni, employers of interns and graduates, as well as public relations practitioners and academics.

They concluded that the Waikato public relations programme "has grown in depth, diversity and reputation since initial certification in 2009. It has a strong research-teaching balance and active engagement with the profession."

The review team quoted employers of Waikato communications graduates, praising them as “excellent…first class… high quality”. Students cited the programme’s strength in developing writing skills and praised the enthusiasm of their instructors.

Dr Margalit Toledano, senior lecturer in management communication says: “We had to meet eight quality standards, related to areas such as our teaching curriculum, the faculty, facilities, workplace-based internships, and the opportunities that students are given to interact with practising public relations professionals.”

“Our teaching is well informed by current research but also very practice oriented and students to organise campaigns and events for real clients”. Professor Roper says research-led teaching is a high priority for Waikato’s Management Communication department, which has won six of the country’s prestigious Marsden research grants. The department has built a strong international profile for its expertise in areas such as corporate social responsibility, health communication and literacy, and New Zealand’s global environmental branding.

For more information see

MCOM Professor heads Graduate School of Research

Professor Kay Weaver has taken over as the University's inaugural Dean of the Graduate School of Research. This is a significant senior management role.

Award for Research Excellence

Professor David McKie is the winner of the 2015 Waikato Management School  Dean's Award for Research Excellence. The citation refers to David's "original and innovative intellectual contributions to public relations published in leading international journals and influential books."

TEDx talk

Professor Debashish Munshi and his colleague, Professor Priya Kurian of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, presented a TEDx talk on Sustainable Citizenship' on 20 June, 2015. To watch the video of the talk, please click here

Spot the MCOMmers

A number of MCOM staff and students featured in the International Public Relations Conference in Barcelona in July this year. The high-powered MCOM contingent included Professors David McKie and Juliet Roper, Dr Margalit Toledano, and MCOM student Olivia Loeffen. See video.

Saving the planet

MCOM's Professor Debashish Munshi along with his FASS colleague Professor Priya Kurian and their collaborators from the University of California at Santa Barbara hosted an international symposium on Climate Futures: Re-imagining Climate Justice at the Rockefeller Foundation's picturesque facilities at Bellagio, Italy, in July this year. See the Climate Futures website as well as the Re-imagining Climate Justice Facebook page.

International Recognition

Professor Juliet Roper was invited to attend a high-profile international workshop on research and practice in environmental issues in Barcelona in April, 2015. The group of 16, from diverse social science related fields from 10 different countries, was hosted by RMIT Europe and led by Professor Francis Chateauraynaud, director of studies at School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS, Paris) and head of the Groupe de Sociologie Pragmatique et Réflexive. The aim of the two-day workshop was to identify synergies and ideas, explore collaborative opportunities, re-examine societal approaches to environmental issues such as climate change and the role of deliberative democracy in ensuing public debates. Ultimately, the aim is to develop collaborative research agendas and innovative approaches to cross-disciplinary research projects. 

Debashish Munshi (MCOM) and Priya Kurian of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, along with John Foran and Kum-Kum Bhavnani of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have won a prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Grant to organise an international symposium on 'Climate Futures' at Bellagio, Italy, in July 2015. Click here to see a news story in the Waikato Times

Inspirational Teachers 

MCOM has an impressive list of award-winning teachers. In 2013, John Oetzel won the Waikato Management School's Outstanding Teacher award, David McKie won the Corporate and Executive Education's Lecturer of the Year Award, and Kirstie McAllum took out the University's Early-Career Teaching Excellence Award. Among other MCOM staff who have won major University and School teaching awards in previous years include Nittaya Campbell, Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten, Debashish Munshi, Juliet Roper, and Michele Schoenberger-Orgad,

Research Accolades

MCOM was in the news in the last week of October 2012 as Shiv Ganesh won New Zealand's most prestigious research grant. Previous MCOM Marsden grant holders include Alison Henderson, Debashish Munshi, and Juliet Roper.

International Honours

MCOM took centrestage at the International Communication Association's (ICA) annual conference in Phoenix, USA, in May as Shiv Ganesh was presented with the 2012 Frederic Jablin Award for Outstanding Contribution to Organizational Communication. Within moments of this announcement at the organizational communication division's business meeting, the MCOM contingent at the conference rose up to do a spontaneous waiata for Shiv. This award is a huge honour not only for Shiv but for MCOM as a whole. This is the second time that MCOM has won this award with Ted Zorn being a previous recipient.

The Art and Science of Public Relations

Our own PR diva, Margalit Toledano, has been elected to the Public Relations Institute of NZ (PRiNZ ) College of Fellows. Margalit is an internationally-known teacher, scholar, and practitioner of public relations who combines the theory and practice of PR as very few others can do. She is one of only four educators out of a total of 104 PRiNZ Fellows since the Fellowship began in 1962. 


The department of Management Communication notched up yet another success at the recent annual conference of PRiNZ when Fleur Postill, a 2002 MCOM graduate and first recipient of the Ted Zorn Alumni Award, won the first prize in the Sustained Public Relations category. She was recognised for her work for Seek New Zealand. Fleur is currently the Director of the New Zealand Division of Haystac, an International PR consultancy.

Award winner Stephen KnightlyAnother high-profile former student, Stephen Knightly, who heads InGame and Pursuit PR in Auckland, won this year’s Ted Zorn Alumni Award. Stephen is doing pioneering work on the use of video games as a positive communication tool and has attracted significant international attention.

Continuing the rich harvest of awards in May, former student and tutor Justine Allen and her co-presenter Mark Bunting of the Bunting and Justine Show (Classic His 98.6 FM) picked up the Best Music Breakfast Show Prize at the NZ Radio Awards function. Justine’s voice as a singer and presenter is already a very familiar one for all Hamiltonians. 

Accolades in the U.S

The Handbook of Communication Ethics coverThe spotlight was on MCOM staff at the 2011 annual conference of the US-based National Communication Association in New Orleans. Shiv Ganesh won the Outstanding Article of the Year Award from the NCA's International and Intercultural Communication Division. Shiv, Ted Zorn, and Juliet Roper also won a top paper award from the Environmental Communication Division. Three scholars associated with MCOM won the Edited Book of the Year Award of the Communication Ethics Division. The award went to The Handbook of Communication Ethics, published by Routledge (New York) and edited by George Cheney of Kent State University (also an Adjunct Professor in MCOM), Steve May of the University of North Carolina (a Visitor to MCOM), and MCOM's in-house academic Debashish Munshi.

The department has a strong presence at the International Communication Association (ICA) too. Ted Zorn has been elected Chair of the ICA's Organizational Communication Division. This division has also given an outstanding service award to Shiv Ganesh for his work as the division secretary. The President of the ICA, Cynthia Stohl (University of California, Santa Barbara), too has strong links with the department to which she is a frequent visitor.

Outstanding Teacher

Michele Schoenberger-Orgad has been named the Waikato Management School's Outstanding Teacher of the year. What impressed the selection panel most was Michele's emphasis on clear learning outcomes in her teaching. Michele has been a strong advocate for aligning assessments and learning activities with outcomes and has led from the front in this regard. Michele has now been nominated for the University's teaching award.

Department co-hosts major conference

The Department of Management Communication and the Screen and Media Studies programme co-hosted the 2011 Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) conference. The theme of this international conference was "Communication on the edge: Shifting boundaries and identities". Here is a summary of the conference written by Florian Kaefer, one of our doctoral students:

How does technology change the way we communicate? Is Wikileaks a form of journalism? Does the Internet make formal organizations obsolete? Those were some of the questions discussed at the recent ANZCA conference. Communication scholars from as far as Germany, Indonesia, the US and Australia came together for what proved to be a vibrant, stimulating and truly multidisciplinary experience.

For many delegates, the conference provided an opportunity to experience Maori cultural traditions for the first time. Conference delegates were welcomed to the university with a whakatau, and soon found themselves actively involved in the hongi – the touching of noses and sharing of breath that is symbolic of physical and spiritual connection. Welcome speeches were followed by waiata – songs - and miniature "poi" (small hand-crafted balls on a string, symbolizing appreciation) were given to delegates in the University colours black, red, and gold, together with a small piece of paua shell. Distinguished keynote speakers, such as University of Waikato Professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Maori) Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Professor Cynthia Stohl and Professor Michael Stohl, both from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and film maker Gaylene Preston, "the story-listener of Aotearoa", shared their research and experiences. Independent film and TV producer and writer, Tainui Stephens, stressed the untapped potential of embracing Maori knowledge as a way to bring the country forward, and high-calibre panellists discussed burning issues such as the future of communication research and journalism education.

The conference closed with a poroporoaki, where both hosts and visitors expressed their gratitude for having been able to participate in such a unique and inspiring ANZCA conference. As one delegate put it, if you only meet at least one nice person, hear at least one inspiring talk and have good food along the way, you may rest assured a conference is worthwhile. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive feedback, most of us were able to tick those boxes.

A more detailed version of Florian's summary is available at the ANZCA website.

Staff News

Alison Henderson who was the chief organiser of the ANZCA conference in Hamilton is taking over as the President of ANZCA in September 2011.

Alison Henderson

Kay Weaver has been appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor (Postgraduate) of the University. Kay had earlier served as the Doctoral Convener of the Waikato Management School.

Kay weaver

Ted Zorn, Shiv Ganesh, and Juliet Roper's paper "Doubt, Delay and Discourse: Communication and Climate Change Denial" has been selected as a top 4 paper in the Environmental Communication Division of the National Communication Association's (USA) 2011 conference. They will present the paper at the NCA conference in New Orleans in November.

New faces on the MCOM corridor

Prof John OetzalThe department recently embraced its newest full-time staff member, Prof John Oetzel, with a warm whakatau -- a traditional welcoming ceremony. Prof Oetzel comes to Waikato after 12 years at the University of New Mexico, where he served as professor and former chair of the Dept of Communication & Journalism, and as a Senior Fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Center. Prof Oetzel specialises in health communication, intercultural communication, and community-based participatory research. He has won multiple research grants and published over 60 books, articles and chapters, including the Sage Handbook of Conflict Communication, for which he was co-editor.

Dr Franzisca Weder The department also recently welcomed Dr Franzisca Weder as a visiting lecturer for a year. Dr Weder comes to us from the Dept of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Klagenfurt in Klagenfurt, Austria. Franzisca has published research on issues such as health campaigns and corporate social responsibility, and has professional experience in the news media and public relations.

Ted Zorn Interview on CentralTV

View the video interview
with Ted Zorn aired on CentralTV.

Mcom gains top internation accreditation for PR programme

The world's most influential organisation of PR professionals has given its stamp of approval to the public relations programme offered at the University of Waikato Management School.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is the foremost body of PR practitioners and educators, with 22,000 members and 10,000 affiliated students. The PRSA Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) has been awarded to only 22 universities in the world.

Waikato is one of just three universities outside the United States to have won certification.

"The PRSA's endorsement puts Waikato on the global map," says Associate Professor Debashish Munshi, chair of the Department of Management Communication where the PR major is taught. "This certification says our graduates are ready to take a job anywhere in the world."

To meet the requirements of the CEPR, the department submitted a dossier of information to establish that its programme had academic credibility and adequately prepared communication practitioners for the market. Waikato Management School then hosted a three-day site visit by two PRSA reviewers who interviewed a range of staff, students, alumni, employers and internship providers, and practitioners associated with the university.

"We had to meet nine separate standards, including providing information on what we do to maintain relationships with past students and PR professionals, and how we organise internships for our current students," says Dr Margalit Toledano, who teaches PR at Waikato and is herself the first New Zealand Fellow of the PRSA.

The CEPR reviewers noted that firms offering internships to Waikato students particularly valued the fact that the PR programme sits within the Management School, so students are exposed to business concepts from day one.

They also commented on the Management Communication Students' Association (MCSA), the first of its kind in New Zealand, which they noted was well-grounded in relation to PR practice and practitioners. The MCSA is affiliated with PRINZ, the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand, and offers students mentoring and networking opportunities.

Dr Munshi says PRSA certification shows Waikato stands head and shoulders above the rest. "No other institution in the southern hemisphere has PRSA certification," he says. "It's an international guarantee for prospective students of the quality and practice-relevance they'll find at Waikato Management School."

2009 Ted Zorn Alumni Award

One of the department's foremost annual event, the Ted Zorn Alumni Award was held on Wednesday 6 of May at the Academy of Performing Arts. The Ted Zorn Award, given by Professor Ted Zorn, is presented to Waikato management communication graduates who are excelling in their field and who have a strong focus on ethical practice.

The event was, once more, a great success with guests from within and outside the university taking part in the event actively by delivering inspiring speeches from various points of views (Management School's Dean Frank Scrimgeour, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Doug Sutton, Director of Communications Lisa Finucane, Graeme Purches, & MP Jacinda Arden)

During the night, several outstanding Management Communication students were rewarded with certificates of achievement for their hard work and excellent grades in MCOM courses. Congratulations to all ours students for their great work.

Graham Bethune At the end of the night the Ted Zorn Alumni Award for management comunication was awarded to Graham Bethune, Communications and Marketing Manager for the National Screening Unit at the Ministry of Health. Graham is a Waikato masters graduate with a long and successful track record in communication.

Graham was Waikato University's Director of PR and Marketing for five years before going to Auckland City Council in 2002. There he led the team that managed communications for projects such as the $191 million Auckland International Airport share sale, the development of the Britomart Transport Centre and the $83 million sale of the council's pensioner housing portfolio.

Graham's current work is probably most recognised for the high profile campaigns for the breast and cervical screening programmes, with the strong focus on reaching Maori and Pacific women. "Good communication can make a real difference," says Graham. "I know I'm doing my job well when I receive an email from a medical centre saying 'we've just had a van load of women come in for their smear tests, just like the TV ads'."

Debashish Munshi, Jacinda Ardern, Graham Bethune, Juliet Roper Debashish Munshi, Jacinda Ardern, Graham Bethune, Juliet Roper

He says university prepared him well for what he's doing now, though he didn't see it at the time. "I actually did my masters thesis on government advertising campaigns, and look where I've ended up. I'd love to be able to say it was all part of a well thought-out plan."

He says when you're at university you wonder what all the point of the theory and research is, but once out in the workplace the reasons become clear. "And I'm fortunate that the Ministry recognises the importance of investing in good communications and that what we produce is underpinned by good research."

Professional Advisory Board

The Department of Management Communication now has a Professional Advisory Board. The aim of the board is to generate fresh ideas for curriculum design and open up opportunities for students and graduates to gain meaningful work experience.

The board, which includes senior communication professionals from a range of private and public-sector organisations as well as department staff, is working on creating an effective interface between the department and the industry.

Current board Members:

Executive Director of PRiNZ (currently Paul Dryden), Philip Burton (Hamilton City Council), Annah Stretton/Tony Hope (Stretton Group), Graeme Purches (Trust Power), Karen Bennett (Environment Waikato), Bruce Fraser (Environment BOP), Carl Billington (Tertiary Education Commission), Chongmin Luke Li (Stafford Engineering), Stephen Knightly (Pursuit PR), Graham Bethune (Ministry of Health), Moira Neho (Former President of the Waikato Students Union).

MCOM Public Relations Campaign competition

2008 saw another extremely successful MCOM Public Relations Campaign competition under the teaching and direction of Margalit Toledano!

Margalit talks to the audience In this event, students of Management Communication work together as a PR agency within the Public Relations Campaigns paper MCOM 333-08B.

The winning team (Transcend) included: Rahima Al Hooti, Rachel Magill, Michelle Milne, Ruschk Snell and Maria Stockman. Transcend's campaign focused on the issue of ANGER and suggested a project to empower youth to control their anger and express it via non-violent channels. Their slogan was - Walk Away! and they had six to-do tips message to help youth control anger.

Whai Marama are the team winners Congratulations to the winners and to the other three teams who on Thursday evening (16 October) presented different and interesting campaigns to help Whai Marama Youth Connex achieve its goal of "supporting young people to create opportunities that will open doors to their future". Whai Marama provide youth mental health and social services in the Waikato.


Gordon Chesterman with winning teamThe other campaigns (ImPRess, InPiRe & Zenith) suggested a lobbying effort to reduce the exposure of Waikato students to alcohol and drug advertisements in Nexus, (as it appears that Nexus contains double the amount of alcohol related ads compare to other universities' students magazines), an anti-tagging campaign which included a legal graffiti art event, and a project to improve the evaluation system of Whai Marama by introducing incentives to respondent.


InsPiRe Zenith ImPRess
InsPiRe Zenith ImPRess

Graeme PurchesPresident of PRiNZ (Public Relations institute of New Zealand) Graeme Purches (picture below) gave a short speech and acknowledged that the "Waikato Management School is recognised by the industry as the best educational programme in public relations in New Zealand". 

Toia Chase-Diprose, Youth counsellor for Whai Marama said that the organisation has been inspired by students ideas and would eventually use some of it.

MCOM thanked the Whai Marama staff and the manager Tracey Tuhi who helped the students in their research, MPs who attended the event - Sue Moroney, and David Bennett, Deputy VC Dough Sutton, Director of Communication of Waikato Uni Lisa Finucane, and the judges, Gordon Chesterman, Hamilton City Counsillor, Karen Bennett, Environment Waikato Communication Manager, Professor Kay Weaver, Management Communication Dept, and Michele Kelly, Regional Coordinator of SADD, Students Against Driving Drunk. Many thanks to Jean Beaton, and Myles McInnes whose support for the event over the years is highly appreciated. Thanks also to Sophie Rabe, a student who helped organise the event and Andie Newton, the paper tutor who supervised students presentations and served as a great MC for the exciting event. Above all, a very special thanks to you, Margalit, for all the creative energy you put into this programme to make it successful for both the sponsor and the students.

International and National Awards received in 2009

Julia Wilson and Levarna Wolland

MCOM students Julia Wilson and Levarna Wolland Introduce the top students awards

Sun Hwang 

MCOM student and opera singer Sun Hwang at the Ted Zorn award

David McKie and Nittya Campbell

David McKie and Nittya Campbell with their teaching awards

Congratulations also to Dr Alison Henderson for receiving the school's award for emerging scholar.

International and National Awards received in Previous years

The high calibre of MCOM staff has been recognised in 2007 with a string of international and national awards, and election to prestigious positions of service and leadership.

Ted Zorn won the inaugural Frederic M. Jablin Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Organizational Communication Division of the International Communication Association (ICA) in 2007. A paper he co-authored with Angela Stewart titled, "Responding to Negatively Emotive E-mails within Organizations: Communicative Strategies and Their Origins," was also chosen as a Top Four Paper of the Human Communication & Technology Division of the National Communication Association's (USA) annual conference in 2007.

Professor Zorn was also a member of the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission's Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) Business and Economics Panel in 2007. More recently, he has been chosen to be a part of the elite Marsden panel of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Juliet Roper and Adjunct Professor George Cheney (along with Steve May of the University of North Carolina, USA) received the Edited Book of the Year Award from the National Communication Association (USA) for their book, May, S., Cheney, G., & Roper, J. (Eds.) (2007). Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Arguments. Oxford University Press.

Professor Roper was also elected to the Board of the ICA, representing the Oceania and Africa regions, 2007-2010.

David McKie and Debashish Munshi received the PRIDE Award for the Best Book of the Year awarded by the National Communication Association's (NCA) Public Relations Division for McKie, D., & Munshi, D. (2007). Reconfiguring Public Relations: Ecology, Equity, and Enterprise. London: Routledge.

Professor McKie was also invited and funded to present to the prestigious Beijing Forum in November, 2007. He was also one of five top international public relations scholars to be invited and funded to present to the Global Public Relations Forum in Korea in 2007.

Margalit Toledano was inducted into the College of Fellow of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA); this is the highest honour of the organisation. She is a member of the Educators Academy of PRSA.

Shiv Ganesh has served as the chair for the Awards Nomination Committee for the Organization Communication Division of the National Communication Association (USA), 2006-2008.

Teaching & Staff Excellence Awards

Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten was described by one of her students as "a teacher who goes out of her way to help students" and by another as "easy going, fun and jovial" with "a knack of making students comfortable in the lectures and out of class". In addition to receiving excellent feedback in her course evaluations she is also highly valued by colleagues and is a mentor in the University wide mentoring programme which supports and helps develop new teachers. She is an advocate of critical action learning and is constantly striving to improve the quality and effectiveness of her teaching. Cheryl was awarded the university's over-arching Medal for Staff Excellence for 2006.

MCOM also rejoiced at the news of Shiv Ganesh's success in winning the 2007 WMS Outstanding Teaching Award (jointly with Mark Harcourt of SHRM).

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