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Integrated Marketing Communications program announces new Areas of Emphasis

West Virginia University’s online M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications is now offering seven new Areas of Emphasis (AOE) that allow students to tailor their coursework to their career goals and interests.

Developed in response to both industry and student demand, the new areas include Creative Strategy, Data Marketing Communications, Digital and Social Media, Healthcare, Higher Education, Public Relations Leadership and Management.

In addition to the AOEs, each area was also approved as a graduate certificate program, allowing non-students an opportunity for continuing education. Certificate candidates must have a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is not required. They take five required courses including the four IMC electives within the AOE of their choosing.

WVU’s IMC program, housed in the Reed College of Media, was the first online IMC master’s degree in the country.

“We’re proud to be at the forefront of marketing communications,” said Chad Mezera, assistant dean of online programs for the College of Media. “We’re continuously looking for ways to improve the curriculum to make sure students have the knowledge and skills to adapt with the industry, which is always changing. The certificates allow our alumni and others an opportunity to stay relevant as well.”

One of the ways Mezera stays on top of industry trends is by hiring and working with instructors who are industry leaders. The practitioner-faculty model is unique to WVU’s program and provides invaluable insight, both in the classroom and for the administration.

As an example, the faculty lead for the Creative Strategy AEO is Nathan Pieratt, an award-winning designer and creative director with over 15 years of experience developing creative strategy for Fortune 500 brands.

“AOE’s give us an opportunity to help students focus on a passion or talent they want to nurture,” said Pieratt. “A graduate that can come out of a program knowing they are very good at a key aspect of the IMC mix is going to be a valuable asset. With the creative strategy AOE, we prepare students to think creatively, to value innovation and to push their strategy into engaging, creative spaces for the right reasons.”

Another differentiator for WVU’s IMC program is the flexibility. With more than 30 different elective courses to choose from, a student can really customize their educational experience. Mezera began to notice trends in elective course enrollment and realized that some electives naturally clustered together. Students are required to complete three electives to earn their IMC degree. Now they can take one additional elective and meet the requirements for an Area of Emphasis, giving them the official designation on their college transcripts.

“We want students to pursue areas they’re passionate about, but we also want an IMC degree to advance their careers,” Mezera said. “It’s ideal when those two things go hand-in-hand, and that’s what I hope the Areas of Emphasis will achieve.”

The proposed Areas of Emphasis were approved by WVU Graduate Council at the end of 2018. Both incoming and current students can declare an Area of Emphasis for the fall 2019 term. The certificates were approved this month and will be available for enrollment soon. Interested applicants can contact Emily Hayes at