As a teacher and mentor to tomorrow’s public relations professionals, Bortree said it’s her duty to prepare students to communicate and act with integrity and to approach issues ethically. In an environment of disinformation, she said it’s essential that her students think critically about the communication they create and disseminate.
“I find that students have a strong sense of purpose and want to contribute to society, and when encouraged, see the connection between their own personal decision-making and the impact their work will have on society,” Bortree said. “I encourage students to explore their values through personal reflection and then explore how those values would influence their work style and their communications decisions.”
Bortree also excels at creating an effective learning environment for online learners. She finds that those students require flexibility, empowerment and connection and she’s focused on improving learning for Penn State World Campus students.
Because so many of her students are veterans, busy parents or employed, she’s always looking for ways to engage students with useful content. To achieve that, her course material is presented in several formats including video, audio and written material that can be studied in chunks as time allows. In one ethics course, she’s rolled out an online debate that let’s students engage with her and their peers.
Bortree finds that communication with students outside the classroom leads to better learning inside the classroom. She’s a mentor to her students and engages them through individual meetings — sometimes online — to review their portfolios, discuss career options and review internship and career opportunities.
In her public relations campaign course, she tasks students to work with community partners and develop their own campaigns.
“This engagement with teammates, the community partners, and me outside the classroom models their future career work and helps them develop work-related behaviors that will benefit them as they transition into the profession,” Bortree said.
Additionally, Bortree chairs the Ethics Committee for the Commission on Public Relations Education. There, she leads a national group that identifies and recommends best practices for teaching public relations ethics. Recently, the committee led a team of faculty and professionals to draft guidelines for the required course in public relations ethics.