Skip to main content

Students Prove Work and Play Can Mix

For most people, a trip to an amusement park is an annual summer tradition. For Dan Dipiazzo , a College of Media Data Marketing Communications (DMC) graduate student, it’s just a day on the job.

Dan Dipiazzo

“It’s hard to imagine a business more fun than theme parks, so I’m very lucky to work in this industry,” said Dipiazzo. “It’s really rewarding to know that the day someone spends with us will probably be one of the most memorable days of their life.”

As the vice president of marketing for SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Aquatica, Dipiazzo is responsible for all marketing and sales functions for the flagship theme park. In the highly competitive and amusement park-saturated Orlando market, Dipiazzo is responsible for determining ways to set SeaWorld apart. With a main goal of driving attendance to the parks, he oversees advertising, public relations, digital marketing, direct marketing and promotions.

“There are really no two days alike in this job. While sometimes that can be difficult, it’s also what makes it fun and exciting. The most gratifying part of my career is helping to launch new business opportunities,” said Dipiazzo, who was part of the communications team that unveiled and helped launch the new Discovery Cove theme park.

Dipiazzo has been working in the theme park industry for nearly 20 years – first, as a public relations consultant at Anhauser-Busch’s theme park division, then as a marketing vice president for Busch Gardens and Water Country USA. Previously, he was the senior vice president and partner in the consumer practice at FleishmanHillard. Dipiazzo began his career as a reporter and then editor at a daily newspaper in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Even with his career already established, Dipiazzo yearned to expand his professional knowledge, which led him to enroll in the College’s online DMC program.

“The media and consumer landscape is constantly changing, and it requires a marketer to stay plugged in and always able to come up with new solutions,” said Dipiazzo. “That's actually one of the reasons I was most interested in pursuing the Data Marketing Communications degree—because it's critical to understand data and unlock the power it can provide marketing communications professionals.”

Dipiazzo recently completed the Brand Data Collection and Visualization course—something he does on a daily basis as part of his career. He came into the course believing he was already pretty well-versed on the topic. “I have actually learned so many things I didn’t know that I can put into practice right now,” he said.

Other DMC courses include audience segmentation, message customizations, social media optimization, and campaign metrics and assessment. 

Balancing work, school and life can be a challenge, but for Dipiazzo, prioritizing is key. He credits the WVU DMC program with keeping him engaged and motivated by providing practical knowledge he can immediately put to use in his career.  

“The DMC master’s program isn’t just theoretical; this is the real world of marketing communications today,” said Dipiazzo. “And, we don’t have to wait until our degrees are completed to start reaping the benefits.  

The Data Marketing Communications graduate program is the first master’s degree in the country that specifically focuses on how to use data to drive and shape marketing communications. DMC students complete the program in a cohort, beginning their first semester with an introductory course and taking courses in sequence that build to the creation of a comprehensive marketing communications campaign for a real-world client of their choice.  

Journalism grad Joel Norman gives the play-by-play.

Joel Norman

In 2006, Joel Norman discovered his childhood hero when he went to a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game to see rookie Sidney Crosby play. Just over a decade later, the College of Media Journalism senior found himself in the Penguins locker room as a radio intern, capturing post-game sound bites from Crosby, by now the undisputed star of the Penguins’ franchise.

During the past school year, Norman spent his weekends as communications intern for the Pittsburgh Penguins Radio Network. For a life-long hockey fan like Norman, working for the Penguins was a dream come true. 

“I was thrilled about this opportunity because I’ve always wanted to be a play-by-play sports broadcaster,” said Norman. “I grew up listening to Mike Lange and Phil Bourque call Penguins games on the radio and couldn’t wait to help out the broadcasts in any way possible.”

I’ve been a sports fan my entire life...I realized over time that this could be a career path for me. JOEL NORMAN (BSJ, 2018)

While he wasn’t in a position to call the play-by-play as an intern, Norman played a vital role in helping produce the pre-game and post-game radio shows. His responsibilities included setting up equipment for the shows, running social media accounts, writing scripts and capturing press conference audio clips from coaches and players to run on the air.

“I’ve been a sports fan my entire life, and I think I’ve always wanted to do some type of sports journalism,” explained Norman. “I watched a lot of games with my dad as a kid, and I realized over time that this could be a career path for me.” 

Norman chose WVU because of its strong journalism program and extracurricular opportunities that would enhance his resume.

While at WVU, Norman was a sports reporter and baseball producer for U92, the campus radio station, a beat writer covering sports for the Daily Athenaeum, and he covered sports for “WVU News,” the College’s TV newscast. He also worked with Eric Minor, the director of careers and opportunities, to secure internships with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a professional soccer team, and the Butler BlueSox collegiate summer baseball team, in addition to the Penguins.

“From the first time I met Joel, it was clear that he was more than just a sports fan,” Minor said. “He is absolutely serious about the role storytellers and communicators play in connecting fans with a sporting experience and puts his full effort into bringing the game to the fans.” 

Norman says the College of Media helped him turn his passion for sports into a career path.

“Through my coursework and by working at U92 and the DA, I felt that I was able to get ample opportunities to develop and shape my reporting, producing and on-air voice,” explained Norman. “Because of these opportunities that WVU gave me, I was able to get an on-air job immediately after graduation. I am beyond grateful for those who helped me along the way.” 

As for his dream of becoming a full-time sports broadcaster, Norman is well on his way. After graduating in May, he moved to Wenatchee, Washington, to start his first job as a radio play-by-play broadcaster and director of communications for the Wenatchee Applesox Baseball Club. 

“If I had to sum Joel up in a single word, it would be ‘respect.’ He was respectful in his one-on-one interactions with his classmates and professors, and he was always respectful of his audiences,” Minor said. “Baseball fans in Washington state are lucky to have him.”