Ask the average person to describe what someone in public relations does and you will most likely get varying accounts of everything from event planning and promotion to working with the media and wrangling celebrities.
Ask YoungAh Lee, director of the public relations graduate program at Ball State, and you will get a much more nuanced answer.
“Public relations is a science of human communication behavior. It connects people at every level.”
Lee would know. After all, she has nearly 20 years’ worth of experience in the field – from entry-level positions to co-founder to professor to director. Lee got her start and initial spark for public relations serving as a public information officer for the New Zealand Embassy in South Korea.
“I didn’t even know what PR was. The job was mainly about promoting New Zealand to the Korean people and boosting the country’s reputation in Korea. As I saw my research and hard work pay off, I found myself enjoying strategic communications. It was the spark that started my career.”
From there Lee joined one of the largest PR agencies in Korea, working for clients such as Microsoft, Häagen-Dazs, and the Korean Government.
“I felt an immense amount of satisfaction in enhancing the reputation of various organizations.”
That passion led Lee to co-found her own PR consultancy with fellow colleagues of hers and then later, to further her education in the field of PR. While earning her master’s and PhD at the University of Missouri, Lee found another passion sparking, just as it had for public relations years earlier. This time, though, it was a passion for teaching.
“I took my first step as a teacher when I was a graduate assistant and found a genuine desire to teach students about the huge impact PR has as a critical means of building relationships. I wanted to develop students as PR practitioners, and from there, I found my reason to become a teacher-scholar.”
Lee followed her combined desire to practice and teach PR to Ball State University. She was brought on in 2014, and, by 2016, took on the task of revamping the graduate program.
“We needed an improved program that progressed with the new technology of the world. The times are changing rapidly, and I believe that PR should change with it.”
As director of the graduate public relations program at Ball State, Lee utilizes all of her skills honed over her years in PR to recruit, admit, advise, and educate students in public relations. She also promotes the program on a national scale, but for someone as engrained in the world of PR, it makes sense that she takes the most pride in building relationships – although at this point in her career it is with students not clients or businesses.
“I really enjoy the personal bond I create with my students. While teaching and advising them, I get to learn more about their dreams, their personalities, their strengths. I get to see them succeed and cheer them on in their endeavors. It’s such a rewarding job.”
The Master’s Degree in Public Relations at Ball State – offered either online, on-campus, or as a blend of both – delivers all the foundational and current skills and experiences necessary to lead and excel in the many facets of public relations.