Archive for February, 2016

Why Grad School is Like Learning How to Drive a Stick Shift

February 29, 2016


I have always loved cars, which is really convenient given my line of work! When I was 15, I could not wait to learn how to drive a stick shift on my own. See, my mom had hurt her wrist and I was already helping shift gears with my left hand.

I am not sure how much courage my Dad had to muster up, but off we went to the parking lot of the community college. I will never forget how he made me turn everything off; no a/c, no radio and we had to have the windows down. You have to listen and feel the car in order to know how to shift. But Dad!!!!!!! No radio?!?!?

We started out slow, learning how to start in first gear, knowing when you needed gas. I did that over and over again and from there we moved onto knowing when you needed to shift, not because of what the RPM’s said but because of the sounds the engine was making. Finally, there was a little hill where I had to keep the car from stalling without the brakes or the gas, just using the clutch.

A week later we did it again, but in a different car. See how the clutch is slightly different and how it sounds different when it’s time to shift?

I know, I know there are probably a lot of ‘car people’ out there saying “you’ll burn out the clutch or the RPMs are the only thing that matter and the future is all about paddle shifters.”

So how does this relate to grad school?

Each class and professor are similar to driving a stick shift and learning a new clutch. You are not sure what their expectations are and you have to feel your way through. One professor may want you to comment throughout the week and another might be okay if you finish them all at once. Do not get flustered.

Knowing which classes require more work and being ready to commit to that amount of work is similar to being on the hill and knowing you are going to stall. Everyone talks about the amount of work you have to put into PR but they also talk about how much you get out of it.

Listening to the car is similar to listing to your classmates. Do not do your discussion board posts in a vacuum; read what others have written and leverage that in your comments.

You never forget how to drive a stick shift. If you have to take a semester off, you might need a minute to get comfortable in your seat, but you will pick back up where you left off.

Finally, there is nothing like pulling away from a light and leaving that other car in your dust. That’s exactly what you are doing to your competition by being enrolled in the IMC program.

Here’s my post grad school stick shift dream, what’s yours?

2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The 650-hp, 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is one of the most capable vehicles on the market, capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in only 2.95 seconds, achieving 1.2 g in cornering acceleration, and braking from 60-0 mph in just 99.6 feet.

2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible

The 650-hp, 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is one of the most capable vehicles on the market, capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in only 2.95 seconds, achieving 1.2 g in cornering acceleration, and braking from 60-0 mph in just 99.6 feet.

Images courtesy of General Motors

One Word Sums It Up!

February 29, 2016


I’m currently enrolled in IMC637, Internal Communications. This is a class I highly recommend because it pertains to so many things we all deal with every day, not just at work, but with all of our relationships. This week is our final discussion question which asked us to choose a key factor or concept that we found from the class that intrigued us. We were also asked to explain how we would use it in either our personal or professional lives. While the thoughts below are just my opinion, I think the idea is something that every public relations person should always keep in the forefront of their minds when dealing with clients, customers or employees.

As for this week’s discussion topic, there are so many things that have peaked my interest. The one thing that absolutely intrigues me, however, are the organizations that feel making and keeping employees happy is the key to success. As we have discussed throughout class, good customer service comes from the interactions between the customer and employees.

We have discussed several things that are necessary to create good customer service, but I found an article, that for me, sums it up entirely. “There is no shortage of advice, opinion, theory and technology around the practice of customer service. Some of it good, much of it not. But none of it — none of it — will result in a truly exceptional customer service environment if it isn’t built around one simple word: Empathy” (Hess, 2012).

th[9]Empathy is two-fold. It’s not just about the employees having empathy for the customers, but also the company having empathy for its employees. “In the workplace, empathy can show a deep respect for co-workers and show that you care, as opposed to just going by rules and regulations. An empathic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale and loyalty. Empathy is a powerful tool in the leadership belt of a well-liked and respected executive” (Pressley, 2012).

This doesn’t mean that leaders should be push-overs. What it means is that an effective work environment begins with leaders that “like people, enjoy working with and helping others [and] value people as individuals” (Pressley, 2012). This management style produces a better work atmosphere as well as allowing the leadership to deal easier with difficult internal situations when they arise.

Even though we haven’t specifically discussed empathy, I believe we have been discussing it throughout the class. In order to be an effective manager, in order to create a strong crisis management plan, in order to communicate effectively with customers, empathy must be a part of the thought process that goes into all of those interactions.

Regarding how I plan to use this in my personal and professional life, I would like to think that when I’m dealing with anyone, including family, friends, colleagues or customers, I would keep this thought in mind before reacting. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our frustrations over having to deal with difficult people we forget that they may going through a rough time. They may have a legitimate reason for their concerns and while we aren’t necessarily the cause of their issue, we may be the first person in their line of sight.

The following questions are a good example of what we should keep in mind when we are providing customer service, creating crisis management plans or dealing with internal communication:

  • “How does the person I’m trying to help feel?
  • How would I feel if I were that person?
  • No matter the request or the “rules,” is there something I can/should do to help?
  • What would I expect to be done for me if the roles were reversed?
  • In the end, what would make this customer satisfied or (better yet) happy, and is there any reason I can’t do it or find someone who can?” (Hess, 2012).

These can have an impact on the outcome of any situation, whether I’m management, an employee or a customer.




IMC & Higher Education-Do They Mix?

February 23, 2016


Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 9.43.21 PM

How can the WVU IMC program benefit those who work in higher education?

Throughout my time in the IMC program, many people have asked me why I chose the program and how it relates to working in higher education. By asking this questions, most of these people were trying to ask whether or not the degree had value in the job market and if I could apply my knowledge in my chosen career path.

Well, I can attest that the IMC degree is highly valued and in need in the higher education field! I currently work for a small, undergraduate college in Virginia as an Admissions Counselor, but my IMC education has benefited me in my role in so many ways. The IMC program contains so many different forms of communication that play vital roles in any kind of business. I love higher education and marketing! Being able to combine my passions throughout some of my IMC classes has made the program a standout in my eyes.

Higher education institutions need people to manage social media accounts and campaigns, create press releases, analyze website and social media data, create appealing advertisements, and much more in the marketing communications field. That’s where the IMC degree comes in! I see the IMC program producing students who are described as a “Jack of all Trades”.

Throughout my time in the IMC program, I have been able to take away something from each class that can be used in a college administration profession. Some key takeaways I have found through the program include:

  • Being able to create marketing plans for your institution in your courses (One of my favorite things about the program!)
  • Learning how social media impacts college students and incoming students
  • How to effectively and efficiently present a pitch for new marketing or business plans
  • How to communicate within an organization and with external partners
  • Discover new tools that you can use in your strategies
  • Conduct research for your institution in regards to marketing and advertising
  • And learning alongside other higher education marketers

If you’re working in higher education marketing or interested in any field that requires  marketing communication, the WVU IMC program may be the program for you!

It is never too late…

February 16, 2016


Greetings fellow IMCers, my name is Whitney. I work at General Motors in their social Center of Expertise (think governing body) as well as managing the US social care team. Here is a look at our social media command center:

GM Social Media Command_center_Feb_2016_2


2-7-2016 Buick Superbowl Command Center photo_3

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with great brands such as P&G, 3M, T-Mobile, Children’s Place, Budweiser and Ford.

I live in ‘Pure Michigan.’ I’m married to an engineer and car lover and we have 4-year-old twins.



There is no denying how much work you must put into grad school. As I near the finish line with Capstone starting in March, I thought I would share my top five tips:

  1. Plan Ahead, Don’t Wait. If it is due on Monday, plan to finish it on Sunday. If it is due on Wednesday, finish it on Tuesday. There are so many things that come up including work, family, even the opportunity to go to a concert. If you aren’t ahead, you are behind. Why Buy: there were nights where I just fell asleep from exhaustion. I’ve traveled to China, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, India and Dubai during this program; you can do it.


  1. Ask Questions. Whether it is an assignment, an interesting article or a fellow student’s career, ask the professors and your fellow students’ questions. Why Buy: there were two assignments in this program where I was docked points for information that was actually contained in my papers. Once I asked, the teachers reviewed and revised my grades. Everyone is human.


  1. Own your schedule. Know what classes you want to take and when they are offered. Understand when the Capstone is offered and how that impacts your schedule. Research professors. Have the section number and a back-up ready when it is time to register. Log-on as soon as the schedule is open regardless of what time zone you are in. Why Buy: I enrolled for one semester while sitting at an outdoor restaurant in Singapore. I am graduating exactly two years after I started.


  1. Don’t expect As, Earn them. Grad school is hard work and should be a competitive environment. Why Buy: in most companies, they have their own rating system for performance reviews.


  1. Talk about the WVU IMC program. From your colleagues, friends and family, talk about what you are learning. You never know where the conversation will take you. Why Buy: having pride in the program helps balance the times when you would rather have been doing anything but homework.


Whether you are at the beginning of your IMC journey or the end, what tips would you share?

A Stamp of Excellence

February 10, 2016


Recently, each student in the IMC program received an email requesting that we nominate a faculty member for the Alexia Vanides IMC Teaching Award.

Ok, no big deal. A simple superlative to recognize a deserving faculty member. With a little research, an email to last year’s recipient and after watching a video from Chad Mezera explaining the meaning behind the award, I learned that this award is far beyond a simple superlative for an IMC faculty member. In fact, it means so much more to the program than I originally credited.

Alexia Vanides, whom the award is named after, was an instructor of the IMC program that was really a shining example of providing her students with an exceptional course experience. Along with being an instructor in the program, Vanides managed the marketing communications for Fortune 500 companies, such as Hughes and Varian Associates and also ran her own marketing consultancy for 20 years. She taught IMC 616: Direct Marketing and IMC 626: B to B Direct Marketing.

“I took both of her classes and became infused with the effectiveness of direct response as an essential component in the IMC tool box. That’s what great professors do, isn’t it?” said Maureen Ryan, a 2010 IMC Graduate.

In January 2011, Prof. Vanides passed away leaving a legacy of excellence in education. The IMC program remembers the exceptional work of Vanides by polling students each year to select a professor to win this award.

I had the opportunity to reach out to Mike Kohler, IMC instructor for IMC 633 and IMC 637, who was the 2015 recipient of the Alexia Vanides IMC Teaching Award.


Here’s what Prof. Kohler had to say:

What was your reaction when you were selected for the Alexia Vanides IMC Teaching Award?

When I was notified that I was a nominee, of course the thought crossed my mind that I’d better be prepared for actually being honored. But, as I’ve now discovered, prepping yourself mentally doesn’t really cut it. When I heard my name announced, I was stunned. I guess it told me that you can prepare words and thoughts, but you can’t really prepare emotions. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

What does winning this award mean to you as an instructor?

Earning the Alexia Vanides Award validated that I was correct to follow my passion and to always have teaching as part of my life. In both my corporate career and in business ownership, I’ve always had adjunct teaching as a piece of my life puzzle. I guess this award means I won’t let go of it. Ultimately, I’ll have to make sure the retirement home has strong Wi-Fi!

What is your teaching philosophy and how do you approach your IMC courses?

I’ve had my teaching philosophy documented for a long time. “Through my teaching, students will have fun and learn a lot … and I will have fun and learn a lot.” This program is a perfect match for me.

Who or what has inspired you to be an instructor in the IMC Program?

Chad Mezera inspired me to join the program and deliver my best work. Does that count as sucking up? Well, anyway, what struck me about my first association with Chad was the businesslike manner in which he runs this program. As a lifelong practitioner, not an academic, I was impressed by Chad’s seriousness about the business model of the program, including the #1 priority – deliver quality instruction to high-caliber students.

What elements do you feel make an exceptional IMC instructor?

What makes an exceptional IMC instructor is genuine engagement with students who are bringing diverse perspectives from all walks of life. I admire our admissions standards in this program because we’re blessed with students ranging from big corporations to small town nonprofits. That gives IMC instructors the opportunity to act as symphony conductors in facilitating group interactions.

What advice has had the biggest impact on your success?

I learned something the first time I stepped into a classroom full of college seniors and grads years ago. At that time, I thought my business reputation in the community was worth something. Wrong! The body language alone told me “We are tuition payers … give us something we can use.” So I’d say that a big impact for me has been to recognize that we can learn, sharpen, and grow right along with the students. Every class I teach arms me with tools and knowledge that carry forward to other students.


So I encourage all of my fellow IMC classmates to take five minutes out of your busy day to nominate the instructor who has had the greatest impact on your time in the program!

It’s a one question nomination and available online at:

As you can see from Prof. Kohler’s comments above, it means a great deal to the deserving faculty member recipient… and your IMC program!


You Can Do It!

February 2, 2016


Recently I’ve been talking a lot with my niece who is starting back to school after having to take a break due to health issues. She had to drop out in her first semester of college because she was falling behind and wasn’t able to physically attend class for a while. Today is the first day of her semester and she’s already worried that she won’t be able to keep up, that maybe she will get sick again and, just maybe, she isn’t in the right field for her.

She’s neither alone or the first person to have ever been in this situation. Many of us have had to make similar decisions. Do we stay in school and tough it out, do we withdrawal before we lose our money and end up with a semester GPA that we may not recover from? These are difficult questions to answer and sometimes the decisions we make aren’t always the right ones.

When I was in undergrad I had to have emergency surgery. I was in my junior year and didn’t want to withdrawal from classes, but my recovery took longer than expected and even though I tried, I ended up with a low GPA that took me a while to recover from. I kept moving forward. I even ended up having to withdrawal from classes due to a move for my husband’s job. After taking a semester off and changing my major, I finally graduated after 7 years of school (4 part-time while I was working and 3 being a full-time student).

We are in the third week of a new semester and there are a couple of my classmates who have indicated that they’ve had to take some time off for one reason or another. They are back in the program now and looking forward to the challenges to come.

So, what’s my point? It’s that life happens, things get in the way and we have to make decisions that may make us put our goals on hold. If you’ve been in a master’s program that doesn’t seem like a great fit and are looking at the IMC program; take a chance, I don’t think you’ll regret it!

If you have to take a break remember you can always come back. You can pick up where you left off and you can achieve the goal you set for yourself. Your timeline may change but the end result will be the same. That’s one of the great things about the IMC program! If life happens and you need to take a break, you can step in out of the program based on your needs, not a school schedule that you have adhere to in order to graduate.

Remember…you CAN do it. As I told my niece this morning, the most important thing to remember is to take can’t out of your vocabulary. You CAN do anything you set your mind to.


you can do it