WVU IMC Student Profile:
Press Secretary, Office of WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
WVU IMC graduate
Q&A with IMC Graduate Shayna Varner
When were you enrolled in the WVU IMC program?
I enrolled in the WVU IMC program in January 2010 and graduated from the program in March 2013.
Why did you decide to pursue your master’s in IMC? Did you always know that you wanted a master’s degree?
A year or so before I graduated from Harding University, I realized I had earned enough credits to graduate a semester early. I sat down with my professor and mentor and we talked about my future plans following graduation – including whether or not I had considered continuing my education and earning my master’s degree. I had always considered earning a master’s degree, but I wasn’t convinced an MBA was right for me. My professor introduced me to the integrated marketing communications philosophy, and encouraged me to look into available IMC master’s programs. As a lifelong Mountaineer, I found WVU’s IMC program and quickly determined the benefits of a structured, online learning environment that gave me the opportunity to earn a degree AND get real-world, hands-on work experience in my chosen field would be the perfect fit.
Where were you working when you started the program and did that change throughout your time in the program?
When I started the IMC program, I had just joined the Community Connect Foundation as a Project Coordinator facilitating a statewide e-Government project with the West Virginia Municipal League, the West Virginia Association of Counties and high schools across the state. During my time as a student, I was extremely fortunate to have a number of opportunities to use what I had learned – from working in corporate communications at a two-hospital health system to becoming an Account Executive at West Virginia’s largest brand communications agency.
In November 2013, I joined Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office as Deputy Press Secretary and was named Press Secretary in August 2014.
What is your current position, title and what are your job responsibilities?
I serve as the Press Secretary to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Each day brings a number of new challenges and opportunities to learn and build find confidence in what I’ve learned. I work closely with our communications director and work alongside our communications team to draft and edit prepared remarks, draft and distribute announcements, develop and execute our social media strategy and develop messaging and specific strategies highlighting Gov. Tomblin’s policy initiatives.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most is the opportunity I have to learn each and every day. Each day gives me a new opportunity to learn from those around me and grow, both personally and professionally.
Do you feel that your degree helps you stand out from the crowd?
Absolutely! I had the opportunity to earn my master’s degree while working full-time and getting hands-on experience in a real-world work environment. I think that kind of experience is invaluable – especially as a young professional.
Why was it important to you that the WVU IMC program was online?
WVU’s IMC program gave me the opportunity to earn a valuable degree while working full-time and gaining real-world work experience in my chosen field without being tied to a brick-and-mortar classroom. The program also allowed me to take what I learned in a classroom setting and implement those strategies the next day in a real-world setting.
Overall, how do you feel about your time in the WVU IMC program? What was your biggest takeaway?
I’m so glad I chose to earn my master’s degree from WVU’s IMC program. The curriculum was incredibly challenging, but the program provided a great opportunity for me to learn from communications professionals from across the country who are shaping the future of our industry.