Posts Tagged ‘masters degree’

IMC Reflections

December 4, 2017

I cannot believe my IMC journey at WVU has come to an end! For the past 2 ½ years, I have been working full-time while pursuing a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications.

Here are some of my tips for current or prospective students:

  1. Learn
    We all come to the program with the same goal: to learn more than we know now. This program was an investment in myself and if I️ didn’t take the time to understand, learn, and grow then I️ would be doing myself a huge disservice. Read the course material, remain active in the discussions, and be able to prove your new knowledge.
  2. Life happens.
    While graduate school happens, so does life. Things both expected and unexpected arose while I was enrolled in the program including a career change, company relocation from DC to Orlando, new puppy (that counts, right?), international travel…just to name a few. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Manage your time, plan ahead when you can, and know you may still find yourself in an airport terminal or coffee shop across the world in order to complete assignments.
  3. Rely on your new network.
    I have formed friendships and gained an invaluable network with classmates I have never met in person. In my opinion, this involvement with individuals from around the world and involved with marketing in different capacities is a top benefit of the program. Some of my most insightful lessons came from fellow students who challenged points I made, furthered my understanding, or offered new perspectives.
  4. Implement best practices.
    I’ll be the first to admit I doubted the “learn today, apply tomorrow” promise with the curriculum. As marketers, we need to play in active role in this practice. With WVU’s commitment to updating the program, you’ll find the current trends of the industry are present throughout. Whether you are part of a start-up, nonprofit, or large corporation, you will uncover tactics to utilize in your day to day efforts if you keep an open mind and concerted effort.
  5. Do it for yourself.
    Don’t enter the program for anyone other than yourself. Not for your organization, not for your parents, not to say you did. You’ll hate every step of the journey if you only have your eyes on the end. You’ll emerge a stronger, smarter marketer and you alone will steer your next direction.

Now what? There’s still a lot of work to do!

As the marketing field is ever-changing, it’s always important to stay committed to remaining a resilient marketing professional. The learning truly never comes to an end.

With the completion of IMC program, I feel confident as ever in achieving continued success in my career.

About Megan

Megan Keating is the Director of Marketing at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, an international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities worldwide. Megan oversees all aspects of attendee marketing for IAAPA signature events including IAAPA Attractions Expo which experienced 38,000 attendees in November 2017. She graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications.



Seven things I wish I had known when I started the IMC program

May 1, 2014

It’s hard to believe that I started this journey to get my Master’s Degree three and a half years ago and it’s about to end in less than two weeks! I have learned A LOT in the last 3.5 years — about marketing yes, but also about endurance, time management, writing, research, and myself. Some of these lessons I picked up early on, and others only more recently. But all of them are things I wish I had learned a bit sooner. So here it is. For all of you who are just getting started in the program (and even those of you who have been with it a little while), here are seven (because five was too few and ten was too many) things I wish I had known when I started the IMC program.

1. Time management takes on a whole new level in the IMC program. No matter how good you think you are at time management, you will find yourself hitting that submit button with only seconds to spare at least once per semester. At first I thought maybe it was just me. But then I started connecting with some of my classmates offline and found out I wasn’t alone! Even the most dedicated and disciplined of classmates has had a week or two (or 9) when they have found themselves working feverishly on Monday night only to click that upload button at 11:54 p.m. I don’t recommend doing this a lot (I personally have had way too many close calls), but cut yourself some slack if it happens every once in a while. And know that Murphy’s Law will prevail and those assignments that you think won’t be such a big deal will end up taking you twice as long to get done! So try and start early as often as you can to save yourself the stress.

Calvin and Hobbs on procrastination

We all find ourselves hitting the submit button at 11:54 at one time or another.

2. Quality sources make all the difference! As I progressed through the program I learned from each professor which trade publications and sources they favored for quality information when doing research. Some of these I subscribed to early-on and used throughout the course, others I only discovered late in the game and I wish I had thought of them sooner. So, here are a few that I recommend you sign-up for now: AdAge, AdWeek, PR Week, DM News, Pew Research, and MarketingProfs. I also highly recommend you take advantage of the online library databases for accessing journals and competitor/industry information. They’re free and they will give you information you will not find in a Google search. I’m sure there are more that classmates can recommend, but those are the gold standards that have helped me through many a discussion board post and weekly paper!

3. INTEGRATE is awesome. Seriously. You should go! At least once. I almost didn’t go last year and changed my mind at the last minute and I’m so glad I did. Not only were there some great sessions, but it was the first chance I had to meet classmates and professors in person and see the WVU campus. It made me feel so much more connected to the program. I only wish I had gone sooner.

Evernote on an iPad

Evernote helps me work on school work from any place or device.

4. Empower yourself to be mobile. I think I was about 3 semesters into the program when I read a blog post by Kevin that talked about some of his favorite tools that helped him find success in the IMC program. It was the first time I had ever heard of Evernote. It has since become one of my favorite go-to programs for school, work and personal life. Using a tool like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote allows you to save your research, and even write your discussion board posts or papers in one place, but access it from any device. So whether you’re in your office at your desk, sitting on the couch at home with your iPad, or even on your phone while waiting for your kids to finish their piano lessons, you can sneak in a little work and pick right back where you left off at the next opportune moment.

5. Every professor is different. It’s true. No matter how consistent the program is (and trust me, it’s pretty darn consistent compared to others I know about), or how standardized the syllabus, each professor is going to communicate differently and grade differently. They are human, after all! Yet for some reason I’ve seen a lot of classmates get very upset by this fact. Were your undergrad professors all the same? I highly doubt it. I know mine weren’t. You will have favorites and some that kick-your-butt! And there may not be consensus on this by your classmates…so just because your friend said they loved Professor so-and-so doesn’t mean you will. All I can say is accept this fact now and it will save you a lot of disappointment and frustration down the road. For my part (and I have nothing to gain by saying this since I’m pretty much done with the program), I found all of my professors to be reasonable and fair.

6. Connect with classmates outside of Blackboard. It wasn’t until very recently that I got invited to a Facebook Group for IMC students, that was created by a classmate (and is not officially affiliated with the IMC program). This has been one of the best discoveries of the last 3 years because it has allowed me to “meet” people I’ve never had class with, ask for suggestions, tips and recommendations relating to certain classes, share ideas, commiserate about our lack of a life on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, and just in general talk…you know that thing you did in the hallways when you were in undergrad? The stories that got shared around the lunch table or in the lobby of your dorm room? That stuff is missing when you’re in an online program. But thanks to social media there are ways to connect with colleagues outside of class. Whether it’s through Facebook, LinkedIn or even email, I highly recommend you get connected to other students outside of the Blackboard classroom! In fact if you’re interested in joining the Facebook group let me know!

7. At some point you will want to quit. OK, maybe this won’t happen to everyone, but I know that a good majority of the people I’ve met through the program have contemplated it at least once before they finish. And some even do quit…for a semester or two. Whether your personal life changes, your work life gets too hectic, or you just plain need a break, at some point you may find yourself wondering – “Can I really keep doing this?” The answer is YES! Yes, you can, even if you have to take a break — don’t give up! You will be so glad when you cross that finish line.

A fresh summer start

March 4, 2014

For most people, spending their summer studying integrated marketing communications would not be their first choice – especially if this was their first experience in a graduate program.  Starting the IMC program in the summer wasn’t necessarily my first choice, but I am extremely happy that I was able to do so.  Initially I wanted to start the program in the Spring however; I was participating in a service learning trip to Ecuador and since the introductory class is only offered in Early Spring, Summer, and Early Fall I pushed IMC 610 back to summer.  Here are some of the best things about  my summer start!

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 4.17.20 PM

“Slow time” at work – At UW-Whitewater our summer months are a little bit slower, not entirely slow – but a little slower.  More people take vacation, there are less students on campus, and things are a little more flexible.  I was able to dive into grad school and get a better understanding of the time commitment of classes.  I hadn’t been in classes for three years and I had never taken an online class. Starting in the summer allowed me to gain my graduate school footing while still maintaining my employment.  That’s been the greatest part of the program overall.  I am able to work, go to school, and sneak in a few hobbies here and there because of the flexibility of the WVU online program.

Summer Capstone Class – I will take the capstone class in the summer.  I know that my situation is a little different.  With the tuition support I receive I am only able to take three classes a year instead of the five that are offered.  The way the stars have aligned means that I will also take the IMC 636 class in the summer.  I am very excited about this because I will be able to adjust my schedule accordingly and take the time I need to be able to create a great campaign.  Sometimes you have to think about the beginning and the end!

Don’t wait! – I didn’t want to wait.  I could have decided to push back my starting date to the fall but I thought that if I waited, I would never start.  Yes, a graduate degree is a lot of work.  Yes, your life will have to change a bit.  Delaying the start of the program is not going to change any of that.

Fresh air and warm weather – I know this sounds a little bit ironic, but it really helped.  We’ve had some pretty rough winters here in Wisconsin.  I had always heard people talk about seasonal depression and cabin fever in winter, but didn’t think too much of it until recently.  In the summer you can go out, get some exercise, and let your mind relax just a little bit easier than you can in the winter.  Because of this I was around more people to bounce ideas off of and I was traveling more, which  helped create discussion content for my classes.

I highly recommend starting classes in the summer.  As I said before, you’re always going to have a reason to wait, but it’s not going to make starting any easier.  Once you start, you’ll be happy you did.

Do You Need a Break From School?

July 22, 2013

I recently received an email from a prospective IMC student asking me whether I recommended taking classes year-round or taking a semester off. This was also a popular topic of discussion at the 2013 Integrate Conference, as every prospective or new student wants to know “how long will it really take me to get my IMC degree?” Of course there is no easy answer. How long you take to complete the program is a personal decision and what has worked for one student might not work for others.

Keep Calm It's Almost Summer Break

Sometimes taking a semester off can help you return to school with more energy and excitement.

As for me, when I first decided to enroll in the IMC program I was determined to take 1 class every semester, without a break, so I could finish up in just 2.5 years. This seemed to be very doable and the idea of finishing up as quickly as possibly appealed to me. Then I completed my first two semesters and reality set-in. Already juggling the roles of wife and mother along with a demanding marketing job, I realized that not taking a break was going to lead to burn-out very quickly. So, I took the summer semester off my first year. I struggled with the decision, knowing it would prolong my time in school. But being able to spend more time with my family for those three months, without worrying about homework assignments or discussion board posts was wonderful! I re-discovered what it was like to read a book for pleasure, and cuddle with my husband on the couch in the evenings without a laptop. Not only was it nice to have the break, but when the fall semester started that August I felt ready, even excited to begin school again.

After that first year I decided finishing the program with balance in my life was more important that finishing it as quickly as possible. So I made the decision to take off at least one semester every year and give myself, and my family, that break. Yes, this means it’s taking me 3.5 years, instead of 2.5 to finish, but as I like to say to people when they ask how long I’ve been in school “it’s a marathon, not a sprint!”

If you are a prospective IMC student, or even a current student struggling with the idea of taking a semester off, I encourage you to look at your life and ask yourself what you think you can realistically handle. Don’t compare yourself to other students, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t able to stick with your original plans. In the end, it’s about crossing that finish line; and no awards are given for being the fastest in this marathon.

The APR Process – Is it Worth It?

August 22, 2012

APR Image

That is a question I get asked all the time.  I attained my APR in April 2011 and I absolutely think it was worth it.

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential is valuable to those practitioners who earn it; to the agencies, clients and organizations they represent; and, perhaps most importantly, to the public relations profession itself.

Established in 1964, the Accreditation Program is the profession’s only national post-graduate certification program. It measures a public relations practitioner’s fundamental knowledge of communications theory and its application; establishes advanced capabilities in research, strategic planning, implementation and evaluation; and demonstrates a commitment to professional excellence and ethical conduct.

I’m not gonna lie – the process is a bit daunting.  In a nutshell, here’s how the process went for me.

  1. I APPLIED – In May 2010, I completed the APR application and sent it (along with the testing fee) to the Universal Accreditation Board.  In about two weeks, I was notified by mail that I was eligible to pursue the APR. *Please note:  I was lucky to get my employer to pay for my testing fee.  It was considered professional development.  Plus, if you pass the computer-based exam, you (or your employer) receives a rebate of some of the fee.
  2. I PREPARED– My local PRSA chapter offered study sessions to prepare for the Readiness Review and exam so I immediately signed up.  They also paired me with a local APR as a mentor through the process.  That was invaluable.
  3. READINESS REVIEW – The Readiness Review is essentially a process to find out if the APR candidate is ready to take the computer-based exam.  I presented a portfolio of my work to a panel of APR professionals and responded to their interview questions – live and in person.  I allotted one-to-two hours for the readiness review session.  The panelists scored my knowledge, skills and abilities in 16 areas and considered my readiness to proceed.  They felt I was ready…so I moved on 🙂
  4. COMPUTER-BASED EXAMINATION – It took three hours of my life.  As soon as I was done, I got my  unofficial pass/did not pass feedback, in addition to my strengths and weaknesses in tested knowledge, skills and abilities.
  5. I PASSED!  – After a year-long process, I got my official letter of notification in April 2011 and had the honor of being pinned by the CEO and Chair of the National PRSA at our monthly chapter luncheon.

The process was exhausting, but I learned a lot about myself both professionally and personally.  Professionally, I was able to use the body of knowledge and preparation resources to fill gaps in my PR knowledge, skills and abilities, specifically in areas where my experience was limited.  I was also armed with a strategic process on how to practice PR that would be ethical, credible and able to be measured.  I have found that to be very important, especially when having to explain WHY we make the decisions we do in the communications field.

Personally, after going through the APR process, I realized I could actually handle pursuing my IMC degree. I know it seems backwards. “You already have your APR and now you want a master’s degree?”  Well, yeah. I do.  I see the value in having both.  Outside of the PR industry, the APR isn’t very well-known, but I can tell you that what I learned in the process made me a better practitioner.  Even if the outside world doesn’t see the value yet – I do, and I don’t mind being an ambassador to help spread the word.  At the same time, I know the reality is that having a master’s degree opens career doors wide open that were just cracked with my bachelor’s degree.

So here I am continuing the journey.  Have you thought about pursuing the APR?


WVU IMC Open House in D.C. on April 19

April 3, 2012

Dear Washington, D.C.-Metro Area Communications Professionals:

I’d like to extend this personal invitation for you to take a couple of hours after work to come learn about an online master’s degree program that will make you better at your job.

How do I know? The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program at West Virginia University has made me better at mine. I’m a communications specialist at the Home Builders Institute in the Golden Triangle and a WVU IMC student who will graduate in August.

Come have a drink and some appetizers with me and other current WVU IMC students and graduates from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in the Portrait Gallery Room at Johnny’s Half Shell restaurant, one block from Union Station in the District.

We’ll share how you can handle the D.C. commute, work full-time and pursue your graduate education on your terms. You’ll also have the chance to meet WVU IMC faculty–leading IMC professionals from across the U.S.–and the entire WVU IMC administrative team.

Please take a minute and let me and the WVU IMC team know your coming with an RSVP at

Again, here are the details:

Who: WVU IMC Program

What: Washington, D.C. Open House

When: 6-8 p.m., Thursday, April 19th

Where: Johnny’s Half Shell restaurant, Portrait Gallery Room, 400 North Capitol Street, N.W., at the corner of North Capitol Street and Louisiana Avenue and one block from Union Station on the Red Line. Johnny’s offers complimentary parking.

I look forward to seeing you there!



Laura Phillips Garner
WVU IMC Class of 2012

Where Have I Been?

November 30, 2011

Hello? Is this thing on?

It has been a while and I don’t have much to say except “Donate Blood!,” but I figured I should crawl out from under the rock that is IMC636 to say hello and see what’s happening in the outside world. Yes indeed, I have made it to the Campaigns class and suddenly find myself past the midterm, with four more weeks and the biggest final of my life staring down at me. I remembered that my predecessor on the IMC blog, Stacy Wise, posted around the same point in her Campaigns experience (after a similarly long absence), so I decided to re-read her post and see how her experience compared.

Turns out that we both got so excited by the prospect of not having to turn in weekly assignments that we both decided to kick back during Week 1, feeling completely assured that we’d just get caught right up in the weeks to come. It also turns out that she warned us, as in all future IMC636 students, not to do this, but clearly I had forgotten her advice in the months from April to October. So, even though you will probably forget my words too, let me go ahead and say it: Don’t Skip Week One! Bad, bad, bad. Unless you enjoy the prospect of not sleeping during weeks 2, 3, and 4.

The lure of procrastination

Like Stacy, though, I do have to say that the class so far is as enjoyable as it is challenging and a fitting close to the IMC program. It really does tie all of your work from earlier classes together and I’ve been surprised at how many times I have referred back to my papers, notes, and research from the past two years.

If you’re a current IMC student, be sure to leave a comment about how your current classes are going or your own thoughts/questions about the campaigns class. Happy Holidays to you all, by the way, because I’m pretty sure you won’t be hearing from me again until December 27 🙂

How science, a bathroom stall and brown shoes led me to the IMC program

August 23, 2011

Hello to all the IMC students and those searching for a master’s program. My name is Amy Clausen and I’m going to be sharing my experiences with you over the next few months. I thought I would start with a bit of background and what led me to the IMC program.

hazmatI graduated with a B.S. degree in molecular biology back in 1993. I remember how excited I was to get my first job in a lab, only to realize that it was a whole lot of repetitive tasks such as hours upon hours of being donned in a getup that was just shy of a hazmat suit while I sat in a sterile room pouring cell culture media. Half a year later and a couple of crazy co-workers, I found myself in another lab doing endless pipetting day after day. I was only a year into my career and wanted to find a new one (sidenote: I have tremendous appreciation for those who can do research all day as its a critical part of our advancement in medicine and science – its just not me).

The bathroom scene:

In the public bathroom at the lab I was working at, I was talking to another one of my co-workers about how bored I was of the job. I thought all the stalls were empty but the was mortified when I heard a flush. I glanced over to notice a pair of brown shoes. I quickly washed my hands and headed out for some more mindless pipetting. Later that afternoon as I was sitting at my cubicle entering the data into an excel spreadsheet, I happened to notice those same brown shoes walking by. I looked up to realize that those brown shoes were attached to the feet of my current boss (sigh). Yep, we made eye contact and we both knew that the conversation was heard. But instead of making my life miserable, she did me the greatest favor of all time.

Making the move to marketing:

My current boss in the lab happened to be friends with the marketing director at the biotech company I was working for. The marketing director was looking for an assistant and how lucky for me, my boss figured I was perfect for the job, knowing that I was bored to death of being in the lab. And that’s how it all began. Ever since making the move into marketing back in 1995, I had been self-educating and reading just about every book I could relating to marketing. I was fortunate to work my way up and transfer to another biotech company that I am currently working for now. It was the best move I could have ever made and have loved being able to use my science degree in a non-lab position.

So why the IMC program or better yet, why the IMC program after being on the job for 16 years?

Several reasons:

  1. Focused and relevant program.
    The days of spray and pray marketing are over (you know – spray your message to the masses and pray that it sticks to someone). When I started in marketing in 1995, the internet was just starting to make its debut. To be accurate, it was called the world wide web and all our marketing materials specifically said “visit us on the world wide web at”. Can you imagine? When’s the last time you called it the world wide web (or included the www for that matter) or had to tell people what that meant? Mass advertising was the common approach. That’s all changed now. With the rise of social media channels, interactivity online, smartphones, tablets/ereaders etc., consumers control what they want to read, when they want to read it and how they want to access it. It’s no longer the marketers decision as to what to put out there and how (unless you of course want to be ignored). I wanted a program that would emphasize the newest platforms/approaches/channels/tactics etc. You can’t get a better program than the courses offered in the IMC at WVU that gives you 13 solid classes covering every topic from PR to consumer promotions to cause marketing to creative strategy to emerging media to marketing research to web analytics to mobile marketing and on and on and on. I didn’t want an MBA that focused all on business and gave me 4 high-level overview classes of marketing. If you’re up against the MBA in the next marketing interview, who do you think will be more competitive considering the marketing environment today?
  2. Flexibility.
    I am a full-time working mom of 3 kids. My job requires me to travel at times with client visits and conferences. The last thing I wanted was to be tied to a classroom. The IMC program allows me to sit on the sidelines of the soccer field while I watch out of one eye and type my posts on my iphone at the same time. Sure, it means I multi-task, but that’s a whole lot better than missing the games because I am sitting in a classroom. I’ve completed posts on an airplane and sitting aside the Mediteranean Sea in Israel for business. It goes where you go and you do it on your own time (which sometimes means at 1 am – but I choose when it works for me, not the other way around).
  3. Diversity and credibility. 
    I would be as bold to say you won’t find a program with as diverse a student base covering all corners of the country, all levels of the workforce with an incredible cross-section of backgrounds. The professors aren’t by-the-book kinds that are only in the classroom every day. They are out there in the thick of it with you. They have an enormous amount of experience of things that work and don’t work. The program is also attached to a physical brick and mortar school that is accredited. That was important to me in a time where online and virtual places are popping up all over. I didn’t want to find out that my degree was purchased from some guy in a garage somewhere.

So that’s the story that led me here today. What were some of the reasons that brought you to the IMC program? Or if you are still looking for a masters program,  what is it that you are looking for?