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Third time's a charm

Natalie Kraft found her dream program – the new online IMC bachelor’s degree – after exploring two other majors.

Natalie Kraft

In December, Natalie Kraft expects to become the first graduate of West Virginia University’s new fully online bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications, and the student from New Hartford, New York, is confident in her career choice.

Kraft came to WVU in 2017, as a freshman majoring in occupational therapy. She was in that program for nearly two years before changing gears and switching her major to design studies.

“I just knew in my heart that occupational therapy wasn’t for me, after completing shadowing hours and seeing what it would really be like,” Kraft said. “I realized how much creativity had always been a part of my life since I was a little girl, and how much I loved and missed the opportunity to be creative.”

At this point, Kraft was weighing potential careers in interior design, marketing and advertising – options that would satisfy that creative itch. Through the design studies program, she was exposed to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop graphics software and became increasingly interested in the idea of one day becoming a creative director. Following her junior year in the design studies program, she spent the summer interning with Bethany O’Neil Interior Design in Naples, Florida, where she created client presentations, overhauled the fabric storage system and photographed and documented inventory. Yet again, real-world experience changed the course of her education.

“I got to experience the life of an interior designer and decided marketing or advertising would be more for me, so I started doing my research. I was looking through the WVU catalog and saw that the IMC major combines marketing, advertising and public relations. It was perfect,” Kraft said.

The IMC bachelor’s degree program, which was launched in fall 2020, is a shared major between the Reed College of Media, home of the renowned IMC master’s degree program, and Chambers College of Business and Economics. Students take courses in media, public relations and advertising through the College of Media and marketing and business through the Chambers College.

“One of my favorite courses was Advertising 403 with Dr. Sammy Lee,” Kraft explained. “We spent the semester creating a full campaign for the Amazon ECHO, and it was really nice to see what goes into a real marketing and advertising campaign.”

The dual-college IMC program also allows students to take advantage of resources offered by both colleges. Kraft’s advisor, Aaron Hawley in the College of Media, has helped her schedule courses to ensure she finishes her degree as quickly as possible. Ryan Noon in the Center for Career Development at the Chambers College helped Kraft land a remote internship with the Parks Foundation of Highland Park near Chicago. In this role, she has been developing graphics and marketing to raise awareness and fundraise for programs that help community members participate in summer camps and other activities. This time, the internship experience solidified her ultimate education and career choice.

“This summer, I've created a lot of graphics and infographics, and I’ve come up with a lot of creative ideas and had a lot of creative control,” she said.  “I’ve just really loved it. I knew I was interested in marketing and advertising, but I didn't really know what my niche was yet in that in that field. This internship has really helped me find that and find what I want to do.”

In addition to finding her calling, Kraft has embraced the flexibility of the fully online program, which allows her to complete schoolwork around internship obligations from any location, and she has been able to easily reach faculty via Zoom whenever she’s struggling.

“All of my professors have been really helpful and take the extra time to meet with me, and I’ve been able to really balance my time and have the flexibility I need,” Kraft added. “But mostly, I love that I’m not just learning marketing or just talking about advertising – I’m getting the whole scope of the field.”

To learn more about WVU’s online IMC bachelor’s degree program, visit https://mediacollege.wvu.edu/bs-imc.