Does being the next Olivia Pope, a White House communications director, sound fun? Or how about Public Relations Specialist Samantha Jones? At the University of Mississippi, the Meek School of Journalism and New Media has produced notable alumni and continues to inspire students to dream big.
In 2009, the university’s journalism department became the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The school offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, a Master of Arts, and a Bachelor of Science in integrated marketing communications, also known as IMC.
IMC was created in 2011, allowing students to learn about integration of communication tools, such as marketing, advertising, direct marketing, public relations, sales promotions, etc. The major also includes a minor in business administration in which students are able to study business management and learn the essentials of marketing inside a business.
The IMC program is offered at the university’s Oxford, Tupelo and Southaven campuses.
“What made me choose IMC was the diverse possibilities it offered for jobs,” said Caroline Waller, an IMC major. “I always knew I wanted to do something with communications, marketing or journalism. I liked that IMC provided a background for all of those, and I could decide and narrow it down later.”
Waller, now a junior at the University of Mississippi, has enjoyed her three years of learning at the Meek school.
“Every aspect of this program is so interesting, and I don’t think students can go wrong with any of the paths,” said Waller. “I am a fairly indecisive person, so I have really enjoyed the opportunities that IMC has given me to explore the different aspects of the program.”
Waller is not the only student who has enjoyed studying under the IMC program. Senior Sydney Patterson said she has never been happier choosing the IMC degree.
“I love everything the IMC program has to offer, allowing students to be whatever they want to be,” said Patterson. “I have learned all the different platforms in which to target certain demographics effectively. I have learned to perform an in-depth analysis of a client and create a strategic campaign based on research.
“I have been certified in Google AdWords, taken a class on the Adobe program, learned how to write an effective news release, etc. The point is this major covers every aspect of marketing across different platforms.”
Along with many courses offered, the IMC program gives students the choice to further their knowledge by adding a specialization to their majors.
“The different specializations within the major make it unique,” said Patterson. “Our professors are passionate about the profession, and that is something that sets the program apart from some of the other majors on campus.”
The specialization options for students are magazine publishing and management, media sales and management, public relations, and sports communication and promotion.
Patterson decided to specialize in media sales her junior year because she wanted to go into sales after she graduated.
“Media sales is mainly focused on the idea that, in order to reach your audience, you need to know who your audience is,” said Patterson. “The idea of this specialization is to help students become more aware of how to target people as if they were working for an agency.
“It is big on research, covering platforms from radio, television, newspapers, magazines, digital, mobile apps, etc. It is all about how to sell their media product and what is the most effective way to do so on the right platforms.”
Patterson graduates this May and accepted a job as a digital marketing consultant with RevLocal in Atlanta, Georgia. She said she cannot wait to take the knowledge and skills she learned from her professors into the workforce.
The public relations, PR specialization is something of interest to Waller after hearing about her friend’s experience.
“My friend did the public relations specialization and loved it,” said Waller. “She said one of the classes involves an internship, and I like that it offers outside experience.”
While Waller has not decided whether she wants to specialize in something, she said she would be most interested in PR after taking a class on it.
“My favorite class so far has been Journalism 391, professor (Robin) Street’s introductory public relations class,” said Waller. “It has been so interesting for me because it really helped me solidify public relations as something I want to pursue.”
Waller is set to take the next upper-level public relations class, Journalism 492, where students learn about public relations case studies.
“Professor Street has impacted me because of her love for PR,” said Waller. “I cannot wait to take another one of her classes this fall.”
The past three years have let Waller find her passion while experiencing some of her favorite classes inside the IMC program. Now with only one year left to go, Waller has never been happier changing her major to IMC freshman year.
“I would recommend this program to anyone,” said Waller. “I have learned lots of valuable skills for my future in the workforce along with life lessons. My biggest takeaway from the time I’ve had in this program is learning the value of hard work.”
Waller will graduate from the University of Mississippi in May 2019 and wants to pursue a career back home in Tennessee.
“Since I am from Nashville, my ultimate goal would be to use my PR skills and become a publicist in the country music industry,” said Waller. “I think that would be an overall amazing experience.”
Waller and Patterson are a few students who have chosen to undertake a degree in integrated marketing communications.
In the beginning, The IMC program had a total of 51 undergraduates enrolled in the Fall of 2011. Over the last couple of years, the enrollment increased exponentially, with 964 undergraduates in the Fall of 2016.
Students who want to continue their studies in IMC after graduation have the opportunity to earn a Master of Arts degree in Journalism with an emphasis in integrated marketing communications at the Meek School. Students can earn the master’s degree at the Oxford, Tupelo, and Southaven campus locations.
Second-year graduate student Joseph Fondren continued his education at the university after earning his bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing communications.
“Unlike the undergraduate program, where there is more creating of ideas,” said Fondren. “The graduate program is a lot more academic and book readings. I have learned a lot about the brain, how and why people respond to ads, and where to place those ads.”
Due to high interest and popularity, The Meek School will be launching an online integrated marketing communications graduate degree this fall.
The 36-hour course credit enables students to complete the IMC graduate degree in two years during the fall, spring and summer. Those who work full-time jobs and cannot make the move to Oxford have the choice to take the same courses as those who are attending the program in person.
Those interested in earning a Master of Arts degree in Journalism with an emphasis in integrated marketing communications are encouraged to check out the online program.