As I began my search for a graduate program in early 2012, I was looking for something that would complement my undergraduate degree of advertising communications and marketing. I also was keen on finding a program that would have lessons that I could utilize in my current position and in the future.
In an email sent to me by the WVU IMC Team in July 2012, they promoted the program perfectly:
“The successes of our students and graduates are proof that the “learn-it-today, apply-it-tomorrow” focus of the IMC program works. Students are able to take the knowledge they gain from their courses and immediately apply it to their professional careers.” – WVU IMC Team (July 2012)
Their ‘learn it today / use it tomorrow’ theme is not just marketing spin; it is something I found true course after course. One day I would be reading about SEO and audience insight and the next day I’m in a meeting with the web and digital teams discussing this topic. Now two years after completing my MS degree, I continue to wish that I could go back and participate in the program again and again.
Beyond the immediate use of knowledge, there were two other factors I considered –
1) Would a fully online degree have as much clout in a future employer’s eyes as if I had gotten a degree on a campus?
2) Did the flexibility and focus of the program outweigh the loss of the “traditional” structure and face-to-face interactions with peers and instructors?
Back in 2012, fully online programs were not as well-known or as predominate as they are now. Only a few ‘brick & mortar’ universities had started to dabble in providing programs to students who would never step foot on campus. So at the time it was extremely important to me, and comforting to know, that the recognition and respect that West Virginia University held would overcome any doubts someone might have about the validity of the program/degree.
When people ask me about doing an online program, I explain that they are not for everyone. Those who need to show up at a building for three hours on Tuesday and Thursdays, those who need a face-to-face lecture, or those who thrive at in-person interactions may not find a fully online degree as fulfilling. For myself, I enjoyed and excelled at managing my schedule and workload (after the initial back-to-school adjustment of course). I also found that the quality of professors and even classmates was exceptional. Because of the lack of a physical classroom, my professors and classmates could be from anywhere. I had one classmate who worked on branding at Microsoft; another who literally spent half of a course in Asia for work; people from the east coast to the west coast. I had professors who spent their days as executives at ad agencies having worked on campaigns for Ford and Buick. The kind of experiences and knowledge we brought to the courses was something I don’t know a “traditional” degree could provide and that is what us marketers call a key differentiator.
So to those that have begun their IMC journey with WVU, I wish you good luck! Savor it! And for those pondering whether this is the program for you, I will say that yes, it will be work, sometimes a lot of work, but in my experience the lessons, discussions, and readings that this program provides will not only expand your knowledge of marketing, but elevate your status and relevance as a true marketer.
Let’s go Mountaineers!