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An Inspiring Story of Dedication to Academic Excellence — Kristen’s IMC Journey


Meet Kristen Cosner. Kristen is a proud 2018 alumna of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) online graduate program, finishing the program in less than two years.

After earning her master’s degree in IMC, Kristen was hired as a Communications Coordinator in the Office of Marketing and Public Relations at Glenville State College. Read Kristen’s unique story of survival and determination. She’s certainly an inspiration to graduate students everywhere.

What encouraged you to begin the Integrated Marketing Communications online graduate program?

Coming out of my undergraduate studies with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing and digital media, but I did not have a clear direction. The IMC program provided the  perfect mixture of courses in public relations, marketing, graphic design, and more  that appealed to the career path that I hoped to pursue.

What was your greatest hurdle to overcome?

My graduate experience began quite differently than most. I started my first course in the IMC program from a hospital bed at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Just five months prior, I had been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the digestive tract.  I will never forget my primary care doctor telling my parents, “she’s not going to make it.” My illness came on very severe and progressed rapidly, leaving me in critical condition and ultimately resulting in life-saving surgery.

This surgery was only a couple of days after beginning my first course in the IMC program. I remember reading chapters and working through assignments only a few minutes at a time in between visits from nurses, doctors, and surgery consults. During the rest of my time in the program, I underwent three additional major surgeries, and many more hospital stays. It was truly a balancing act, but my courses provided me with an escape from the challenging times I was facing.

Kristen Story

When things started to become difficult, what helped you push through?

I will not lie: Writing papers from hospital beds, brainstorming assignments from the back of an ambulance, and working ahead in my classes around surgeries was challenging. That said, I feel as if the tribulations that I faced motivated me, even more, to keep going. I focused on how it would feel to finally walk across the stage and receive my degree. I envisioned the relief, excitement, and opportunity that would come with finally having that degree and the wealth of information that I would carry on into my career.

Family and friends encouraged me to take time off of the program to recover, but  this was a goal that I refused to give up on. I was adamant about focusing on allowing my experience to help me grow rather than using it as an excuse. When you push beyond what seems impossible, you find an inner strength that is incomparable. My life did not follow the path that I had envisioned, but I always held on to the hope that it would all work out in the end, and it did.

What is the best lesson you learned from the program?

Choosing just one is hard. The IMC program provided me with a wealth of information that has translated to my professional career. One of the most impactful lessons that I took from the program, though, was time management. As an online program, there is considerable flexibility in your schedule, but  it is vital to utilize self-discipline and time management skills to get the absolute most out of the content and your experience.

What words of encouragement would you give someone considering the program?

Go into the program with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. The IMC program has such a diverse variety of courses that each help to broaden your knowledge and  professors that bring invaluable expertise from working in the field. I highly recommend taking a course or two that is outside of what you may initially be interested in. It was the courses that I was most unfamiliar with that l took the most from.

What tips do you have for juggling school, work, and life?

One of my favorite quotes to live by is, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” There are going to be moments throughout your time in the program when balancing your courses, work, and life becomes overwhelming. These moments are discouraging, but do not let them steer you off your path.  Prioritize your time and keep the end goal in mind. Keeping a short-term and long-term to-do list helped tremendously in keeping me on track in the program.

How has the IMC program impacted your career?

The IMC program challenged me to think creatively and strategically. It built on the knowledge that I already had and introduced new, abstract ways of approaching topics in marketing and communications. Most importantly,  the IMC program helped give me the direction that I was seeking, leading me to a career that I love.

Join the IMC community!

Here at West Virginia University, we understand that the marketing communications industry is changing at a fast rate. We are dedicated to preparing people who are passionate about marketing communications to thrive in this competitive field by offering a graduate program in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC is a fast-paced master’s program, and full-time students can graduate in 16-18 months). If you’re interested in establishing yourself as a thought leader in the field of marketing, we encourage you to  request more information or to  start your application today.