Meet the Program Director: Public Relations and Advertising


Prof. Matt Ragas

"I am passionate about the public relations, advertising and corporate communication fields. We are a profession that puts a high priority on strong critical thinking and problem solving skills, socially responsible decision making, strong writing and presentation skills, the ability to work effectively in teams and an understanding of how to create value for the business or client and its stakeholders. My teaching approach works from this framework."

On the MA in Public Relations and Advertising Program
Our Public Relations and Advertising (PRAD) program offers students the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to help them break into the public relations and advertising profession or advance within the field. Our PRAD MA program alums are working throughout Chicago and beyond in agencies, corporations and nonprofits in positions that range from account executives and specialists, to copywriters and art directors. It has been great watching how our alums help provide opportunities for our current students and the positive feedback we receive from recruiters and hiring managers.

On the Type of Student PRAD Seeks
The students that excel in the PRAD program are highly motivated professionals who are looking to advance within the public relations and advertising profession or to get their foot in the door and land their first communication job. This diversity is a strength of our program as many perspectives are brought to the table. We are building a reputation in Chicago and beyond with recruiters that PRAD MA students and alums are hard working team players with great industry fundamentals and a desire to raise the performance and value of public relations and advertising as a field.

Why our Program is a Unique Place to Study Public Relations and Advertising
We offer a program and curriculum that has a great pulse on the public relations and advertising field and where our field is headed. Our Chicago location, an epicenter of the PR and advertising agency world and a top city for corporate and nonprofit headquarters, is hard to beat and our instructors have great professional networks that they incorporate into their teaching and classes. We are dedicated to student success. PRWeek, the top trade publication in our field, named our program one of the top five programs in the country. In recent years, our college has hosted or co-hosted prestigious gatherings like the Edelman Academic Summit and meetings of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and the Council of PR Firms.

Our program excels in providing our students with practical application of public relations and advertising theories, concepts and research. Students often work with renowned clients on team-based and individual assignments and projects. We care about producing high quality writing, understanding how to use research to generate insights and improve performance, honing presentation skills and becoming all-around more effective communicators. We do a very good job of taking advantage of our Chicago location to bring in a great mix of guest speakers from industry. There’s not many places in the country where PR legend Al Golin will visit with students or Fred Cook, the CEO of GOLIN, and Chris Graves, the CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations, will guest lecture and then stick around to meet with students one-on-one.

Our faculty is doing amazing work, whether that is authoring award-winning scholarship and presenting research at premier academic and professional conferences, participating in prestigious fellowship programs or serving in leadership positions in some of the top associations and organizations in our field. We have a faculty that is dedicated to student success. I have advised multiple former students on award-winning Arthur W. Page Society case study competition entries. Professor Raul Jain advised a former student who won the prestigious Ketchum Excellence in Public Relations Research award and fellowship. Instructor Jim Motzer advised two former students who were selected for LAGRANT Foundation scholarships. The list goes on.

What Drew Professor Ragas to the Discipline?
I always thought I might be a university professor one day, although I also had an entrepreneurial itch from a young age. I started my professional career working for and with start-up companies in the wild “dot com” days of the late nineties. My dad is a retired university professor; my mom was a special education teacher; and my grandmother was an elementary school teacher. I guess you can say that teaching is the family business. Through writing a book and getting invited to do guest speaking and workshops, I realized how much I enjoyed teaching and helping others learn, so I went back to school to do my PhD. Being a university professor is a great fit for me. We’re basically entrepreneurs with a support system.

Why Do You Teach at DePaul?
When I was coming out of my PhD program, I knew I really wanted to be based in an actual city rather than a college town. For me, it’s about being connected to the field and the profession. I like serving as a bridge between the academic and professional worlds. DePaul is great because we have a very entrepreneurial college that encourages and supports excellence in teaching, research and contributing to the broader academic and professional communities. I get to work with great colleagues and students that want to be the best they can be. That’s hard to beat.

I have two primary lines of research: I study mass media processes and effects in corporate and political settings (e.g., business news, corporate media relations, political public relations), and I research the effectiveness and performance of corporate communication and investor relations. This latter area has led me to focus some of my teaching and research on improving the business acumen and financial literacy of communication students and professionals. I am the co-author with Professor Ron Culp of Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators: Creating Shared Value for the Organization and its Stakeholders. We have discussions with current and former PRAD students and Chicago area communication professionals to thank for inspiring this book.

What Makes Chicago a Special City to You?
I think Chicago is the best big city in the country. If you run out of new things to do here, you’re not trying hard enough! I enjoy traveling and exploring new places, but I always come back to how much I enjoy living and working in Chicago. If I have to choose just three favorite things about Chicago, I’d have to say the neighborhoods, the people and the food. Every year I teach a Discover Chicago course (“Chicago Business & Society”) to DePaul freshmen and we spend a week (Immersion Week) exploring the neighborhoods, the people and the institutions that make up Chicago. I’m exhausted after this week out in the field, but I always come away charged up for the academic year and having learned many new things about this world-class city.