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Ask Me Anything

Pre-submitted Attendee Questions

This AMA session took place on December 12, 2017 at 6 p.m. ET

Watch the full Ask Me Anything session

Panel Introductions

Matthew Cummings: It’s great to be here and great to meet everyone and our student panelists as well. At this time I would ask our student panelists to introduce themselves, and before they do, Emily mentioned at the beginning the faculty that teach in the IMC program are very accomplished professionals and, you know, what else is really interesting and sometimes an eye-opener for students, especially new students, is that they are learning as much from other students in the classroom as they are from their instructors and I think our three panelists tonight really are great examples of that and you’ll see that as they introduce themselves. So I would like to ask Debi to start. Debi Cruse is head writer and editor for University Relations at West Virginia University and Debi, if you could share a little bit of information about yourself.
Debi Cruse: OK Sure, I’m actually at West Virginia University Potomac State College, which is their Keyser campus, and of course that’s in West Virginia. I worked as the writer/editor and public relations and marketing specialist for 18 years in the communications department there, and I truly enjoy writing about the success of our students, our alumni, staff, and our faculty. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2015 in English from WVU, and after a year I began thinking about a master’s program, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to go into and I visited my daughter in Morgantown one weekend and we talked about it, and she had graduated from the IMC program I think maybe back in 2014 or 2010, somewhere around there. So I looked it up, and after looking at the program and seeing what all I could take and what all I could learn, I enrolled this past summer.
MC: Excellent, thank you Debi. Our second panelist this evening is David Hovis and David is Communications Manager at Team Penske Racing. David, if you could share a little bit more about yourself and what brought you to the IMC program.
David Hovis: Sure, thank you very much Matthew and thanks for everyone who joined the panel tonight. Like Matthew said, my name is David Hovis, I handle all the communications and public relations for the sports car program at Team Penske. We also compete in NASCAR, we compete in Indy Car, I’ve worked on both of those programs in the past across a number of drivers. I graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2001 with a degree in history and just somehow fell into motorsports, and I’ve been in motorsports ever since. Having a history background or degree, and not necessarily one devoted to communications or my chosen field, I always kind of second guessed myself on a number of decisions so I felt like now was the time to go back to school, use my experience to get into a master’s program to expand myself in my current field, and after some quick searching I found the highly regarded program at WVU. I just finished up my second class so I’m a pretty new student. I’ve found that it’s been exactly what I was looking for and I’m looking forward to the next year starting.
MC: Great, thank you David. Finally, Alexandria Savage-Davis, Alexandria is a reporter at CN2. Alexandria, if you could share a little bit more about yourself and what brought you to the IMC program.
Alexandria Savage-Davis: Absolutely. I’m Alexandria, nice to meet you all, kind of! I live in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I originally got into the program because I was living in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and it’s a very small town. There wasn’t much to do after living in Myrtle Beach for 12 years, so I figured what better to do than continue my education. I started in the program not realizing how much IMC actually was intertwined in the news business in terms of building a brand, marketing yourself to a specific audience, marketing your product (which is a newscast) to a specific audience, so I just kind of fell into it and the more I took classes, the more I learned, the more connections I made, the more I was able to kind of impact my following, and I was able to triple my following in one year. Well, actually, more than triple, I went from 200 followers and likes on my fan page to over 3,000 so it was really amazing to be able to see these different concepts and techniques come into play and actually improve my abilities as a reports. As I said, I’m from Chicago, I lived in Myrtle Beach, I graduated from Winthrop University which is right here in Rock Hill, South Carolina. We like to call it “Rock Thrill”. I’ve worked in news for about 3 years, I started in Myrtle Beach before moving to Parkersburg, WV and working at WTAP news for a year. I moved back to the Palmetto State because it was too cold up there in the Mountain State and now I’m here working as a newscaster and doing some producing. I get to do a lot more in the community and I love it, and I’ve almost finished with this program, God willing I’ll graduate in May, and let me know if you guys have any questions, I’m here.
Alexandria Savage-Davis: Absolutely. I’m Alexandria, nice to meet you all, kind of! I live in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I originally got into the program because I was living in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and it’s a very small town. There wasn’t much to do after living in Myrtle Beach for 12 years, so I figured what better to do than continue my education. I started in the program not realizing how much IMC actually was intertwined in the news business in terms of building a brand, marketing yourself to a specific audience, marketing your product (which is a newscast) to a specific audience, so I just kind of fell into it and the more I took classes, the more I learned, the more connections I made, the more I was able to kind of impact my following, and I was able to triple my following in one year. Well, actually, more than triple, I went from 200 followers and likes on my fan page to over 3,000 so it was really amazing to be able to see these different concepts and techniques come into play and actually improve my abilities as a reports. As I said, I’m from Chicago, I lived in Myrtle Beach, I graduated from Winthrop University which is right here in Rock Hill, South Carolina. We like to call it “Rock Thrill”. I’ve worked in news for about 3 years, I started in Myrtle Beach before moving to Parkersburg, WV and working at WTAP news for a year. I moved back to the Palmetto State because it was too cold up there in the Mountain State and now I’m here working as a newscaster and doing some producing. I get to do a lot more in the community and I love it, and I’ve almost finished with this program, God willing I’ll graduate in May, and let me know if you guys have any questions, I’m here.
MC: Excellent, thank you Alexandria and thank you all three of the panelists tonight for spending some time with us. Amber and Emily had asked for some questions, some pre-submitted questions from a number of the attendees and I want to thank you all for submitting questions. We have about 12 pre-submitted questions tonight and what I’ll do is go through and throw a question out to one of the panelists and I’ll also invite the other panelists to chime in as well if they have something to add before we move onto the next question. With that, we’ll get started.

Question 1: Is the program manageable if you work full time, say 40 hours a week?

DH: I would say absolutely, and I’ll preface this by saying in my job travelling most weekends with whatever race series I was working in, I work way more than 40 hours a week. I get about a day and a half off every week during the season, and it’s absolutely a program that’s manageable if you work full time. I think that’s one of the beauties of online classes is that you aren’t under any immediate time constraints to a certain degree. I’ll say that doesn’t mean that the program isn’t time consuming because it certainly is, but if you’re good at time management and you can schedule your week out properly, then there’s really no reason why you can’t find the time to do the required work. As I said, I travel most weekends, Monday is my true day off in the week and that’s the day I devote most of my time to finishing up the weekly writing assignments. Those are typically due on Mondays and it sometimes seems like it’s last minute, but that’s a day I can devote 10 hours to finishing up whatever the assignment is for that week. Again, it’s really about figuring out what’s best for your schedule, mapping our your week based on your workload and the holes you have that you can devote to your schoolwork and staying dedicated.

Question 2: What advice can you share that will help me be successful in the program?

ASD: Well, making sure you do your own research when you’re entering a new class, really utilize your resources. Each professor will suggest reading materials but it’s up to you to make sure you fully understand each concept. I don’t have a background in marketing or even business so most of the technology and terminology was foreign to me so I really had to Google everything, look up different studies, and really make sure I understood each term and each concept. Doing my own research, being my own advocate with the professors really helped me soak in the information. It required a lot of extra hours but if you reach out to the professors, they’re normally really good about getting back to you, and when they see you want to learn and you’re specific about your needs and very specific in the questions you’re asking, they’re usually very helpful and willing to go above and beyond. When I met one of my professors, Miss Bonnie, at Integrate, I apologized for all the tedious emails and she was like, “No, you were just hungry to learn!” and so it was kind of interesting putting faces to names. I don’t think professors, well I’m not going to speak for professors, but my professor Miss Bonnie did not get tired of my questions, and Professor Cummings, I’m not sure if you did, but you experienced them as well.
MC: Not at all, and that’s really what differentiates, what I would say, good students from great students is great students really approach a class wanting to learn rather than just wanting to get a grade or just get three credits or just check this box on DegreeWorks. Really it’s that hunger for learning that really sets apart great students from the good students. I appreciate you sharing that answer.

Question 3: Are you going through the program in two years, or are you planning to extend your time? Would you have done the schedule any differently?

DC: That’s a good question, and actually I just started the program this past summer so I’m still in the program and I have a daughter who completed the program in two years while also raising two young boys and starting a job just prior to graduating from the program. In order to help answer this question, I asked her about that as well and she was saying that with just a bachelor’s degree and no prior experience, that it was hard to get a job in the marketing field and when she enrolled in the IMC program, it offered credibility and experience that led her to getting her first professional marketing job. Since then it has helped her grow in her career and she has a full understanding of integrated marketing as a whole and how the pieces of that integrated marketing puzzle all fit together. Also, by the time I complete my classes in the spring, I’ll still have six more to go, which includes the capstone. So yes I did place myself on the two year plan, and if everything goes smoothly, I’ll graduate in the fall of 2019. I think the one thing I wouldn’t do that I did this past year is I wouldn’t do a class in the summer if I already had plans. Because by the time I had enrolled in the class, I already had three short vacations planned, and each one of them fell within the time period of the class. The class does take a lot of research and does take a lot of work, but you learn so much and it’s all enjoyable, but that’s basically the only thing I would have done differently is not to have planned a vacation during my class time.
MC: Good advice Debi, thank you. Anyone else want to share anything before I move onto the next question?
DH: I would say that I would recommend trying to get the program done in two years just because of the routine that you find yourself getting into as far as going back to your time management and the way the classes build on themselves starting with IMC 610 and moving forward. Extending it or taking time off, for me, would not be beneficial because I feel like would lose some of the stuff I had been learning and I like the compounding process of the program.
ASD: I would recommend going at your own pace. I, for one, have a very sporadic work schedule. I’ll work 40 hours one work, 60 the next, it really depends. For me, doubling up didn’t happen until this past semester and that was something I was really afraid of because all of this IMC business was new to me so each course required so much research for me. I’d say know yourself and know how comfortable you are with the courses you’re going to be taking before you make the decision to double up in order to get the program done quicker or to take a semester off, you really have to know what’s going on in your life and make that decision based off of that, because each class is going to require some extra work, it’s not something you can just sit down and do four hours a week. It definitely takes time, at least for me it did. I would just make sure, because these grades don’t go away, make sure you’re comfortable as you’re taking the courses and know yourself before you make the decision of doubling up because it’s definitely quite a different course load when you double up, it’s a lot more work.

Question 4: What’s the best way to start off on the right foot?

ASD:I would say don’t get behind, get ahead on your work when you can, read the professor’s notes. There’s a course updates section and, by golly, that is one of the most helpful sections on Blackboard that I’ve seen. I’ll work on something, and I’ve totally scrapped my papers multiple times after reading those course updates and restarted. Making sure you have the time to do that because if I sat down the night of the assignment and tried to get it in, I would not have the grades I have now. I would say get ahead, read the notes, do your own research as I’ve emphasized many a times, read all of the directions, because you may think you understand a concept but then after doing your own research and reading the text, there may be an example of what something should look like, and after reading certain notes you may have thought it was something else, so make sure you read all of the directions and look at all of the diagrams, and keep in touch with your professors.
MC: Thank you. David, Debi, anything to add here?
DC: The only thing I would add to that is time management. And that is so important with this program.
MC: Yeah that’s good advice. Self-motivation and time management really is what it’s all about. Nobody’s going to be saying, “Hey, remember that assignment, you got to do that tonight!” So that is certainly a key.

Question 5: What are the support systems that are available for students (Is there a good support system for students)?

DH: Well, it goes back to what you just mentioned, self-motivation, self-responsibility, there are a lot of support systems and resources but the student has to want to use them and has to initiate the communication either with your professor, with your advisor, I’ve even had a phone conversation with the online librarian on how to access some of the research articles and journals that I’ve been struggling to try to find. Also, the student-led section of the discussion board, which you’ll see once you get into the program, it’s an underutilized area for me as it relates to both the classes I’ve been a part of. I think it’s an area where I want to get my classes in the future to utilize more. One of the biggest adjustments for me coming from a traditional classroom setting many years ago to online was the classroom interaction, being able to feed off what’s going on with the students that are around you. I think the discussion board area that’s dedicated just for the students to talk about the class is a great resource for whenever you get stuck on a topic or an assignment, and it’s a great place to also network while you’re going through the course. I think it’s an underutilized portion and one I want to see grow in the future.
MC: Thank you. Alexandria? Debi? Anything to add here? Alright, hearing none. I will also add, and you see them there, Rick is the technology specialist for the program and he’s always available and willing to help students through any issues that they may be having with the learning management system. WVU also has IT services which can certainly help even with personal computer issues. And Amber Novotny is the online student success advisor, so she will schedule advising appointments with each student and really help you plan your way through the program. It’s very beneficial that we have these dedicated resources for our online students, so you’ll certainly have great interaction with your instructors, with your fellow students, and also with the program administrative team to help you along the way.

Question 6: What have you enjoyed most about your program experience so far?

DC: Well, because technological advancements change so quickly and affect everything around us, I believe that even after 18 years of being in this business, I still have a lot to learn. I would have to say that learning about changing technologies and how it affects social media, the digital age, marketing campaigns have really kept me interested in the IMC program. I think what I’ve enjoyed most about the whole experience is probably one of the most demanding things, and that’s the classes themselves. They are intense and they do demand a lot of your time, but the rewards and benefits of what you learn is so beneficial. You learn from your research, your instructors, and from your other classmates. That’s always great. I like gaining the experience that the other classmates bring to the classes, learning about the marketing strategies and tactics that are covered in the program. It’s given me a deeper understanding of each one and how they fit together as a whole for integrated marketing campaigns. I would have to say that all combined is probably what I’ve enjoyed most.
DH: Like I said, everything I’m learning, as far as concepts, everything is very new to me. Even though I probably knew more than I realize based on the field I’ve chosen to be in. But it’s amazing how quickly you can learn – I never thought I’d be able to pick up on some of this stuff in an 8-week course, the way the readings are laid out, the way the assignments flow, it’s really an enjoyable process.
ASD: I totally agree with David. I’ve learned a lot. I really had no idea what IMC was, too much, before entering the program. I went through a lot of the IMC students and broadcast journalism students who have shared a lot of the classes, so I’ve heard some of the concepts and I was very interested in the marketing aspect of media. But actually getting into the IMC program – I have learned a lot and it’s very helpful in my career.

Question 7: Are the instructors readily available outside of the traditional 9-5 work day?

DH: The instructors are always responsive and available, but you have to remember they’re also very busy, too. They may not be available immediately, I’ve had to schedule calls with some of my professors with Amber. So again it kind of goes back to time management. It’s not really feasible to expect them to answer a call if you have an emergency, so don’t allow yourself to work up to the last minute and realize you need the instructor for something when proper time management would’ve helped you in that situation. Work ahead to minimize all the 911’s, but yes they’re all very responsive by email. If you feel like you need to speak with one of them, send them a quick email, try to schedule a call, and they usually are available, not immediately, but fairly quickly. I’ve had no issues trying to get anything answered from either Amber or one of my instructors.
DC: I just want to add that the instructors I have had so far have really been great. I know several months ago when the hurricane hit Florida, the instructor emailed and said if anyone needed any time and we had a couple students from Florida, and he left a note that if they needed more time for the assignments, they had it no problem. And they do, they give great feedback on your assignments.
ASD: I can attest to that. Here in South Carolina, I remember our Wi-Fi was out and the electricity was going in and out during the hurricanes. I emailed my professor panicked, “Listen, my assignment is going to get done tonight. And it was a couple days early. And he said, “that’s the last thing you should be worrying about. Your safety is my concern.” And he sent an email out to the entire class saying, “we’ll be on standby, so check in with us.” And I thought it was so thoughtful he wanted us to check in with him despite the fact that we had assignments. Everything was fine, and it all worked out, I just thought that was amazing.

Question 8: What do you wish you would have known about time management prior to beginning the program?

DC:That is a really good question. My first class, I struggled a little bit with the time management, because I did not realize the extent of time it was going to take. But once you get used to the assignments being due every Monday, the discussion due every Wednesday, and the responses due every Friday, that becomes a great schedule. Following that schedule does definitely help because you know without a doubt, the deadline is not going to change, it’s due then. And you plan your time around it. So, although it took me the first class to really get it down, and I won’t say that I have it down completely, but I’m doing much better at it.
DH: Know going in that it is very time consuming. Prepare yourself, and I think it’s written out in the student manual that it could take less or more than this, but 10-15 a week, per course. As long as you come in with the mindset that it’s going to be work, it’s almost like a part time job. It’s laid out like Debi just explained, I think you’ll find you can move at a good pace and not have to work up until the last minute.
ASD: You guys can do this. Anybody can do this, as long as you stay focused and on top of your assignments, and keep doing your own research and communicating. If you don’t understand something, don’t just think if I skip this week, and get an okay grade on this one, I’ll be able to pick it up next week. If you don’t understand, tell your professor, ask your classmates, I’ve reached out to some classmates on Facebook. We’ve had these discussions before submitting assignments. It definitely helps to communicate and make sure you really understand an assignment. Don’t get left behind. Give yourself time to not understand something. If you know you have an assignment coming up, I would probably get it done the day before and go back and look at it with fresh eyes the next day. Re-read the directions. Because I’ve written a paper before and I’ve gone back the next day, and realized I missed something. Don’t try to rush yourself, give yourself time.

Question 9: What is your favorite part of the program?

ASD: INTEGRATE West Virginia. I’m not a West Virginia native, I’ve lived in the mountain state for a year, but a week in Huntington changed my perspective of the state for sure, and about the university and the program. I got to meet my instructors, and all of a sudden things seemed less foreign and scary. While sometimes, when you’re working on an assignment and questioning yourself, I was able to speak with experts in the industry, talk with my professors, and really understand that if I wanted to leave journalism, and start a career in IMC or marketing, I would be able to do that – I feel like every other job interacts with the IMC program somehow, in the age we’re living in. It kind of reaffirmed, you can do something with this. You do understand what IMC is. You can do something with your master’s degree if you want to stop reporting today. I understood how it worked in terms of news and how it helped me build my brand and my station’s brand. Knowing that I understood it enough based on speaking to my professors and listening to the speakers at INTEGRATE, that I could start a whole new career if I wanted to, that was kind of eye opening for me. I really enjoyed learning about virtual reality and augmented reality, and those kind of up and coming technologies.
MC: Thank you Alexandria, it really is a great conference and actually this year is coming back to campus at WVU August 1st through the 4th and if you go to the website there are a lot of great activities built into this year’s Integrate, some new things as well for those of you that have attended in the past.

Question 10: What surprised you the most about the program workload?

DC: I would have to say the amount of research involved in the discussion or homework assignments were a bit of a surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing research. You learn so much. You just have to be prepared, manage your time, and be prepared for that. For me, the research became kind of a game. I started wondering: What am I going to learn this week? What can I learn next week? And this also stems to the classmates and the research they did for their assignments, as well.
ASD: There are certain classes, I would say, that have a heavier workload. I always read my syllabus the first day to kind of see what’s coming. I guarantee you, I’ve looked at a couple and my heart’s dropped. How am I going to do this? How am I going to understand those concepts? As long as you do those readings, you’ll make it. But my goodness, some of the classes are definitely more strenuous.
DH: I would agree with what Alexandria said. Again, I’ve only just finished my second class. And although the course load can seem a little daunting when you read the syllabus and see what’s required of you, the coolest thing I’ve found in both of my classes, is that I can apply any marketing strategy from anything that is a passion of mine, whether it’s I love to run, I love other sports. I’ve been able to pull something from that either as an example for the discussion board or one of the writing assignments. While the syllabus may be a little bit intimidating, just know there is always a way – you may not want to do that and focus on something else you’re not super familiar with to help yourself grow, but I always found that I was able to go back to something I’m passionate about and maybe even lean more towards the field I hope to get into when I graduate from the master’s program to make it a little easier and more seamless.
MC: Thank you David. You know, one thing I often tell students in the intro course is obviously to look at the entire course and all that’s required so that you can start to look at the assignments and how they fit into the context of the content we’ll be covering and also of the final project. But, in doing so, don’t become overwhelmed. The courses are week to week so you’re going to do a discussion, you’re going to do an assignment every single week. While it’s good to look at the entire course and the workload as a whole so that you gain that context, everything moves on a week to week basis and all of those deadlines are the same. That would be some of the advice that I would share.

Question 11: What has this program taught you about IMC?

ASD: This program has taught me everything about IMC that I know. I knew barely anything. I am a reporter through and through. Journalism is what I know. Social media, I knew a little bit, but I didn’t understand what kinds of things I could be doing, with the knowledge that the program’s given me. I joined the program because at some point I want to start a non-profit, but I want to use my brand as a reporter/anchor to do so. The program has taught me to learn who I’m currently reaching, how to target them, how to create more interaction on my social media pages and why that is beneficial. It’s also taught me how to utilize my time to reach a specific audience by hand crafting my message and that’s been very helpful. I’ve been able to communicate some of those ideas to our station’s parent company, as well. So that has been nice because I’ve had them do more things on the website and they’re doing different things on social media. I’ve become more of an asset to my company so it’s been nice that I’ve been able to help.
DH: Absolutely, the last class that I took was Brand Equity Management. Just speaking specifically about that class, in that class you’ll do something called a brand audit and that’s something that I’m taking to Team Penske to utilize not only the Penske brand but also the brand of each one of our drivers. It’s almost kind of a reset, it’s an audit, to make sure we’re positioning ourselves and our drivers the right way according to what their passions are and what the points of differences and points of parody are. But that’s just one thing – not to get to much into the details – that I’ve really enjoyed.
DC: I would also like to comment. Things you learn about Audience Insight and targeting different types of audiences is valuable. It’s very helpful when you do have to target different types of audiences, and gaining information through surveys, different types of surveys, whether online or in person surveys has also been helpful. A lot of what I’ve already learned in the program, even though I’ve only finished three classes, I’ve also been able to use a lot of this information in my job, as well.
MC: Excellent, thank you Debi. All three of the panelists mentioned that almost immediate impact on their current work, and I often tell students in the intro course to put their pursuit of an IMC program – so often, students think they have to wait until they actually earn the degree – to put the pursuit of a master’s program on your resume from day one. That can really be a differentiator. Also share what you’re learning with your boss and with your co-workers. It’s amazing how many students have benefitted professionally right out of the first course from doing just that.

Question 12: In what ways has this degree helped you in your career?

DH: Like I said, I’m only two classes in, nine more to go, but it’s definitely given me more confidence in the marketing communications field, right now in motor sports, but hopefully it’s going to open more doors for me in the future. Like I said, I don’t have a background in marketing communications. So, this has shown me that some of the time I’m on track with some of the decisions and some of the programs we do but sometimes we should have gone a different direction. It’s the confidence for me, to suggest things to my boss and to suggest things for NASCAR, INDY car, whatever period we’re racing in. That confidence really helps you grow as a public relations professional, whatever you decide to do.

ASD: I work for a news station that is owned by a telecommunications company. So I am able to now speak up in meetings, like David mentioned he’s able to talk to his boss with more confidence. I’m able to present ideas to my boss and she’ll invite me into meetings for our website, about different concepts. We’re starting a new show, and I’ve suggested things that she likes and now we’ve started streaming our entire show online and on social media. There are new things they’re willing to try. I’m able to sit in on the conversation, whereas my position is a reporter, and it’s not in the job description, I assure you. I just kind of have been able to transition into more of a marketing role as well, and I have a lot more access to understanding my company and having more say.