The government shutdown has prevented students from applying for loans, research grants and passports. But in Gregg Feistman’s Public Relations Management and Problems class, the shutdown hasn’t prevented discussion.
“We look at the rhetoric, the leadership qualities and who might be vying for a leadership position,” Feistman said. “We determine the arguments on various sides of the issue in terms of persuasion. It’s all built around the idea of advocacy, which is what our department is built around.”
In his 12th year as a professor at Temple, Feistman teaches the capstone course as an “issues management” exercise for PR students.
“My class is not about how to write a press release,” Feistman said. “Students act in teams as a virtual PR agency, and they have to put together a strategic PR plan for a real client. They consider how to react to the issues that organizations face.”
Matthew Barnabei, a senior public relations major, worked with his group to represent PECO before the government shutdown dominated class discussion.
“We consider all parties involved such as the GOP, the left, the Tea Party, the president, Americans in general, Boehner, et cetera,” Barnabei said. “The general consensus is that the GOP seems to be acting in a childish manner and refusing to handle things reasonably with everyone’s interests in mind. We often point out how Congress still gets paid and that the 27th Amendment makes it illegal for them to not receive pay during shutdowns. If there is one thing our class is absolutely certain of, it is that none of us want to be president.”
By weaving topics in the public discourse throughout the class content, Feistman creates an aura of contemporary learning.
“I use the media and the newspaper as a teaching tool,” Feistman said. “I’ll literally open up the paper that day and say, ‘Oh, here is an interesting issue to bring up in class.’ So we aren’t just talking about the shutdown. We have also discussed the Barilla Pasta chairman’s anti-gay stance in his advertising.”
Darwin Paz, senior strategic communications major, said he enjoys dissecting what he considers to be a universally controversial issue.
“Since the shutdown began, we have not stopped talking about it,” Paz said. “We discuss the various ways it has affected different audiences and how the media angles transfigure as the political implications of the shutdown continue to change.”
Paz said Feistman’s deviation from the syllabus has long-term benefits for comprehension of the class material.
“I have had his classes in the past and he has always incorporated current events with the class material,” Paz added. “It’s very helpful in putting things into a real world perspective.”
As the Sequence Head for Public Relations at Temple, Feistman schedules classes, finds and coaches adjunct professors, maintains an up-to-date curriculum and handles student petitions. Feistman also serves as the faculty adviser to Temple’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, as well as the student-run firm PRowl Public Relations.
“My role is to counsel the leadership on issues they may bring up,” Feistman said. “I love seeing the professional development of the students. It’s also an opportunity for them and me to get to know each other outside of the classroom where they’re doing real stuff. And you don’t have to be a strategic communication major to join either organization.”
Outside of academia, Feistman works for the motorsports photo service LAT Photographic and writes political thriller novels such as “War Merchants.”
“I’ve always been a writer,” Feistman said. “I was a freelance journalist and, a long time ago, a New York-produced playwright. My second novel is currently under consideration with a New York agent. It will feature the same main characters, but will examine an issue dealing with the Catholic Church.”
Despite shaping his class around the shutdown, Feistman said he has yet to be inspired to write a novel about it.
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.