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COM launches new scholarship for African-American students studying public relations

Ketchum and Boston University College of Communication create a scholarship for African-American students in public relations. PHOTO BY VIOLET GIDDINGS/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University’s College of Communication partnered with Ketchum, a public relations agency, to develop a scholarship program that will award one undergraduate African-American public relations student each year with financial aid and a paid summer internship with the firm.

The Kotcher-Ketchum Scholarship and Internship was announced Monday in collaboration with Ketchum and Raymond Kotcher — former Ketchum chair and current public relations professor in COM — Kotcher said. Applications will open at BU during the fall 2018 semester and a committee will select its first intern for the next summer, Kotcher said.

Kotcher said he hopes creating an influential program with the purpose of increasing diversity will encourage others to do the same.

“There are some wonderful programs out there that are doing a good deal to move the needle, but more needs to be done,” Kotcher said. “The more that we can do, the more we can build momentum, the more we can inspire others to continue to build on the good work that’s been done to date in the industry and create similar programs.”

Kotcher said the challenge of diversity in public relations is a large problem that the industry has been working to solve for some time. This scholarship, he said, will boost African-American representation in the PR industry.

“Over time, we can build the numbers in the school that will feed into the industry itself and hopefully begin to populate the school and industry with more African-Americans and more people of color,” Kotcher said. “As they see others like them in the school and in the industry, they’ll have places to go for advice, council, mentorship and guidance.”

The scholarship, funded by both Kotcher and BU, will be endowed to one student annually for the next 100 years, Kotcher said.  

COM Dean Thomas Fiedler said students need to see others who share their cultural background and heritage in order to feel welcome in a particular field.

“I’m a strong believer that having racial, ethnic and other forms of diversity makes us stronger and makes us better as an institution,” Fiedler said. “Students look ahead at the practitioner field in public relations, and I think what you too often would see is a lot of white men and women, and people who don’t look like them.”

Fiedler said the program will hopefully translate into an increasingly diversified PR industry — and Kotcher’s name, which carries significant weight in the public relations world, may attract students to apply for the scholarship.

Arunima Krishna, a public relations professor in COM, said the scholarship will help address what several scholars and practitioners have pointed out about the industry: It needs to be more diverse.

“To me scholarships like the Kotcher-Ketchum Scholarship and Internship represent hope,” Krisha said. “Hope for students for whom BU might not be a realistic goal due to a variety of reasons, particularly monetary ones, and hope for the future of our industry that it will better mirror the population of the country.”

Several students said the initiative is an important step in BU’s mission to diversify its community.

Devika Bajaj, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said as an international student, there is always opportunity for increased diversity at BU.

“It’s probably taken a while for BU to get there, I thought they would have something like that already but that’s pretty awesome,” Bajaj said. “Apart from international students, I feel like BU has a good level of diversity, but obviously there’s always room for improvement.”

Questrom School of Business senior Joe Stone said creating a safe environment for ethnic minorities should be a focus at BU.

“Diversity is a hot topic nowadays,” Stone said. “I think everyone is equally important and should be equally valued with their education and what’s given to them.”

CAS senior Kyna Xu said she thinks the scholarship program is an effective way to promote a variety of perspectives, which could strengthen BU’s public relations program.

“It’s good to see BU invest in diversity because having people from different representations could only make us better,” Xu said.

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  1. Hello Admin,

    It is very nice that your blog is providing information regarding the program. I want to aware you towards the “Colorado Council Volunteerism/Community Service Scholarship”. That is available for the Graduating high school senior’s students or continuing college students who have a minimum 2.5 cumulative grade point average on a 4.0 scale

    Application Deadline is January 29, 2018

    For more information you can go through – volunteerism community-service-scholarship/

    You can also join our Facebook page for the updates. The link

  2. Nice start, but there have been and continue to be many minority scholarships in America in public relations, journalism and advertising since the 50s and 60s and sadly, there are few who have made it into the senior executives ranks. When will we learn that scholarships will never stop the revolving door of poor retention or movement into senior executive positions until we accept there is deep prejudice and racism in the senior executive of color recruitment process at the top and the bottom. Until senior executives of color are recruited in the dozens per firm, organization or corporation in public relations and corporations, scholarships as a strategy will not move the needle. Recruitment and employment is supposed to mirror the community demographics in which an organization operates. 1 student per year is not close to mirroring the Boston community. The problem is most in crisis from the top down, not the bottom up and we know it, but many still think scholarships alone are a solution. We are wiser than that. We can do much better and we need to hold each other accountable to do so.