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WVU IMC launches healthcare communications cohort

The WVU Reed College of Media has always been a leader in online education. Since developing the nation’s first online Integrated Marketing Communications master’s degree program in 2003, the College has continued to adapt and create new programs that prepare students for an ever-changing industry. The latest innovation – niche-specific IMC cohorts.

These special cohorts bring together students from a particular industry who progress through the IMC master’s degree program together. The Defense Information School (DINFOS) cohort started in fall 2021, Healthcare Communications begins in spring 2022 and Higher Education Marketing begins in fall 2022.

Kristi Onkka at Integrate WV

Kristi Hansen Onkka is a healthcare marketing executive who teaches in the healthcare communications cohort. She helped develop and teaches a course on AR/VR in healthcare.

“We have a waiting list of DINFOS students – it’s been incredibly successful,” said Chad Mezera, assistant dean of online programs. “When we saw how these students are able to network and bond because of their similar interests and career goals, we wanted to provide that opportunity in other specialties.”

Students in the DINFOS cohort take courses taught by military communication leaders and this model will carry through in the Healthcare and Higher Education cohorts. Healthcare marketing executive Kristi Hansen Onkka helped develop and teaches the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in IMC course, which will be one of four healthcare-specific courses required in the cohort. Onkka has more than 20 years of experience using technology, media and engagement to advance patient care, and this experience drives course content and discussion.

“I love working in healthcare because it’s a way to use my tech knowledge and communications skills for the betterment of patient care. It’s so rewarding to be able to share my work experiences with students who feel this passion, too. This new healthcare cohort groups these students together, which will undoubtedly enhance their learning and enrich our discussions.” Kristi Hansen Onkka

Students will take 11 courses over 18 months that will provide a well-rounded IMC education with specific courses related to healthcare, including courses that explore the legal and ethical issues in healthcare communications, the role of communications content in the healthcare industry, cause marketing campaign strategies, website and social media marketing for the healthcare industry and emerging technologies in healthcare.

While the healthcare communications cohort is new for spring 2022, the similarly named specialization was launched in 2017 along with six others: Creative Strategy, Data Marketing Communications, Digital and Social Media, Higher Education Marketing, Management and Public Relations Leadership. These are areas with projected job growth and industry demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health communications field is expected to grow by about 13 percent by 2024, slightly faster than average.

“Our top priority is to provide quality education that positions our graduates for meaningful and lucrative employment,” Mezera said. “We do our research, and we have an extensive network of alumni and instructors who advise us on where the industry is heading – and there is demand for healthcare communications professionals.”

The deadline to apply for the IMC healthcare cohort is December 15. For more information, visit