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Kati Burns


IMC 636 Capstone Project

Completion Date – Fall 2016

Client – Judson College (

Residence – Auburn, Alabama

Previous Degrees – I received my undergraduate degree, a bachelor of arts in English and Journalism, from Judson College in 2006.

Misc. Facts – I began my career working for small community newspapers in Alabama. Writing had always been my passion, so the journalism field seemed like a natural fit for me in undergrad. Attending a small liberal arts college, I found opportunities to hone my writing abilities and build my portfolio that I might not have discovered in a larger university setting. However, it did not take me long as a full-time reporter to realize that the news industry was not the best fit for me. So began my journey for the next 10-plus years into higher education communications, marketing, web and social media management, and internal communications at a manufacturing company. In 2014, I realized I had the time and the financial means to return to school and, thus, began searching for the perfect program – one that combined all of the aspects of the communications field that I had touched upon for the last 10 years.

I accidentally stumbled across West Virginia University’s master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications, and the experience has been life changing – and career changing – to say the least! My overall goal with my master’s degree was to one-day return to work in higher education communications. In September 2016, my goal became a reality – much sooner than expected. I accepted a position with Auburn University’s Risk Management & Safety Department as their first ever Communications and Marketing person. There is no doubt in my mind that the IMC program gave me the confidence in my abilities, the knowledge-base and the tenacity I needed to land my dream role! I would not, however, recommend moving to a new city, starting a new job AND beginning the capstone all in the same month like I did!

Capstone Experience – I had a love/hate relationship with my capstone experience! I was lucky enough to have attended the Integrate Conference during the summer of 2016. There, I encountered several alumni of the IMC program who all warned me to get a head start on my upcoming capstone by working on creating my agency. The agency name, logo, mission, etc. materials are the first items due the first week of the capstone. I spent the entire summer working on these materials, anticipating that this would put me a step ahead once the capstone began. Boy, I could not have been more wrong as I read over the syllabus that first day and felt a mounting sense of dread, anxiety and fear. Honestly, I lived with these feelings for MOST of the nine weeks of the capstone! I was a straight A student, but I actually feared I would not have time to complete this work load – I just knew I would not graduate! The greatest advice my professor – Professor David Marold – gave during the capstone was “do not procrastinate.” This is the best advice I can give to upcoming seniors – do not procrastinate with this project; it WILL overwhelm you. Even working each day, every day, I still felt like I was struggling toward the finish line. But, I made it… I persevered. The greatest feeling of accomplishment I have ever felt was standing in front of that printer the day I went to pick up my final capstone, holding my work in my hands. My work – my blood, sweat and tears. For my client, I chose my alma mater Judson College, the only all women’s college in the state of Alabama. Though I was already passionate about higher education, I was also passionate about Judson College and the benefits – veritably unknown to the rest of the world – of an all-women’s college education. This message was the foundation of my capstone – revealing how an all-women’s college education contributes to the empowerment of women. Through research, I had determined that now was the right time for this strategy, as advertising in the media was showing signs of being much more positive and accepting toward messages that empower women.

I fell in love with my research and my message. Having been a student at Judson College, I already had background information and solid sources needed for my primary research. If there is one piece of advice I can give to you about your future client, it is this: choose an industry and a client that you are already passionate about. The experience will be that much more rewarding.
There were many things about my campaign that I loved, but probably the most rewarding for me was the creation of my agency. Of everything I did, I believe this part of the capstone is so clearly ME – my heart and my soul. This process opened my mind to things I had never even considered – like possibly founding my own agency one day and being my own boss!
A solid capstone experience would not be possible without a great capstone instructor, and for that, I have to thank Professor Marold who pushed me and challenged me in ways no professor had done thus far. Despite the stress of this project, there was so much I learned that is already helping me in my day-to-day job responsibilities. From forming my own agency and conducting client interviews, to figuring out how to host a focus group, and learning the process of designing and printing a major document, this experience has set the foundation for my success in my field.

Executive Summary


IMC Plan Highlights