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20 Years of IMC at WVU

Two decades and hundreds of lives transformed by a master's degree program leading the way in online education and setting the bar for student, faculty and alumni support

Written by Erica Lindsay (BSJ, 2004; BFA 2008), WVU Reed College of Media Director of Marketing and Communications

Some may not view a two-year online master’s degree as particularly life-changing, but in the 20 years of West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program, stories of transformation abound.

When the IMC program launched in 2003, Bill Nevin already had 20 years’ experience as a news broadcaster. It was a demanding job that required working evenings, weekends and holidays, and with two young children in the house, he was ready for a change. In 2001, he started a new role as assistant director for WVU News and Information Services. When he learned that WVU was launching the nation’s first fully online master’s degree in IMC, he was interested.

“I had been working in public relations for a couple of years, but I really didn’t know a whole lot about some of the other aspects of marketing and communications,” Nevin said. “I felt like – wow, here’s my opportunity to get up to speed on some of these other topics to make myself a little bit more valuable as I try to advance in my career.”

IMC Group Photo from 2006

Bill Nevin (far right) was among the first cohort of WVU IMC students and attended one of the first alumni weekends in 2006. He has been an instructor for the introductory class since. Read more about Instructor Nevin.

Nevin enrolled in WVU’s very first IMC cohort and thus returned to a schedule that demanded weekend work. Nevin recalls waking up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to spend five or six hours on schoolwork, and then sometimes finishing up projects after the kids had gone to bed in the evenings. But that was the beauty of this innovative educational program – no synchronized classes, so working professionals with families and other responsibilities could complete coursework when it fit into their unique schedules. Additionally, you can double up on classes in a semester to finish more quickly or spread them out, as Nevin did, to balance work and family.  

The year before Nevin was set to graduate, the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism (as it was called at the time) hired a new IMC marketing director – Chad Mezera.  

Mezera earned his bachelor’s degree in advertising from WVU in 2000 and was recruited by Kurt Schimmel, then director of graduate studies, to enroll in the school’s journalism master’s degree program, which had just launched a track in IMC with some of WVU’s very first online courses. 

As a teaching assistant in his second year of graduate school, Mezera helped work out some of the kinks of the IMC class he had taken the previous year. He rebuilt and helped run courses under Professor Archie Sader, who followed Schimmel as director of the program. After earning his MSJ in 2002, Mezera moved to Washington, D.C., for work, but was asked to teach an IMC course in 2004. In 2005, he returned to Morgantown and began what would turn out to be a long career leading the WVU IMC program.  

“I had some big ideas about how to scale the program that required more than just focusing on growing enrollment,” Mezera said. “We had to create the kind of higher education environment that students wanted, but that didn’t exist elsewhere – courses that could be constantly updated as the industry evolved, small class sizes and high academic rigor. The best way to achieve that was through hiring recognized leaders in the field to both help develop courses and then teach them.”

Group photo of instructors
Today, there are more than 70 instructors in the Marketing Communications master's degree programs. They are industry leaders from across the country and many are alumni of the program. Photo by Alex Wilson.

When Nevin graduated in 2006, Mezera had already grown enrollment from 57 to 175 admitted students in just two years, and the team was looking to hire more practitioner faculty. Nevin had the perfect combination of work experience and education and was hired to teach the introductory IMC course.

“When I started the IMC program, I was several years removed from my undergraduate schooling and was taking online courses for the first time, so as an instructor, I knew what these students were going through,” Nevin said. “We have a ton of great instructors with diverse backgrounds – some really big names in the industry and others with PhDs – and many are IMC grads. There’s a real advantage to being an instructor who’s been through the program.”

Within a year of earning his IMC degree, Nevin had become a program instructor and started a new job leading communications for the WVU Foundation, and now, more than 15 years later, he can’t imagine doing anything else.

“Earning your master’s degree shows that you have the fortitude and drive to accomplish something big, because I’m not going to mince words here – it’s challenging, especially when you’re working fulltime and have a family,” Nevin said. “I think if it hadn’t been for my IMC degree and teaching in the program, I probably wouldn’t have advanced as far as I have at this point in my career.”

In 2007, when Nevin was just beginning his IMC teaching career, Courtney Hughes, a Beckley, West Virginia, native, was graduating from WVU with her bachelor’s degree in journalism and entering a tough job market amidst a period of economic recession in the United States. She spent the next several years working freelance writing, editing and broadcasting jobs and DJing her own radio show, which aired Saturdays on KVSP in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

After five years of working in the broadcast media industry, Hughes landed a job as an internal communications advisor with Dell Technologies in Dallas, Texas, and decided the time was ripe for honing her marketing communications skills.

“I was lucky to be surrounded by women who were strong leaders and mentors, and they all had at least one thing in common – they each had a master’s degree,” Hughes said. “It was always a north star for me. I didn’t go into it with the idea of getting a promotion right away, but it was something I knew I would need.”

Courtney Hughes at Dell Courtney Hughes (M.S. IMC, 2014) is now the Director of Global Brand Campaigns at Dell Technologies. Photo from Relive Dell Technologies World 2023 Solutions Expo.

Hughes enrolled in the IMC program in 2012. By this time, IMC had grown to include more than 325 active students and was the largest master’s degree program offered at WVU. It was the only fully online IMC degree in the country that broke from the cohort model and allowed students to customize their experience by choosing from among a list of different elective options.

“I really liked the fact that there were a variety of courses to choose from and you could set your schedule to balance other responsibilities,” Hughes said. “But it wasn’t easy. It really taught me how to manage my time, and it taught me that I can do hard things.”

Like many other IMC students, Hughes was working full time and enrolled in a full-time course schedule. When she traveled for work, she would write papers on the plane and respond to classmates and instructors in the online discussion board from her hotel. This hard work was worth it, though – she was learning new skills and how to adapt to changes in the industry, and the promotion she didn’t expect to get right away happened just after she earned her degree in 2014. And then again in 2017, 2019, 2021 and finally 2022, when she was named Director of Global Brand Campaigns at Dell.

“I had a real ‘Aha!’ moment recently when I started my new role at Dell. It was much more marketing heavy than my previous communications roles, and even though it has been nine years since I earned my degree, I am still seeing the impact. IMC helped me excel in this field and provided a foundation to keep learning. It’s helped me tremendously.” COURTNEY HUGHES

A foundation for continual learning isn’t just part of the curriculum, it’s also part of Mezera’s managerial mantra. In his 18 years at WVU, the IMC program has gone from being one of the only options for an online master’s degree to being one of hundreds. The way people view media, receive information and make purchasing decisions has changed dramatically in that time. This change and the competitive education market requires constant learning and adapting.

“In the beginning, we were the only online IMC program and we had this opportunity to go fast or to build something scalable and sustainable,” Mezera said. “And we took the harder road and really worked to create the best experience for both faculty and students, and this work is on-going. We’re constantly reviewing our offerings and adapting to new trends and the market.”

Those adaptations have come in the form of new courses, programs, events and partnerships. Through all of this change, however, there are constants. Primary among those is a commitment to students and an earnest investment in their futures. In a recent alumni survey, 98% said they would recommend the IMC program to a friend or colleague, and more than half said they had received raises of 25% or more since earning their degrees. While money isn’t everything, that’s the kind of statistic that can be transformative.

  1. 2011

    First annual Integrate Conference, which brings together industry leaders, instructors, alumni and students for three days of sessions, workshops and networking events

  2. 2015

    WVU IMC named the “Outstanding Online Program” by the Online Learning Consortium, the leading professional organization devoted to advancing the quality of online learning worldwide 

  3. 2016

    New M.S. in Data Marketing Communications 

  4. 2019

    Six new four-course graduate certificate programs

    Six new areas of emphasis within the IMC master’s degree program 

    New wholly online bachelor’s degree in IMC 

  5. 2020

    New M.S. in Digital Marketing Communications 

     WVU IMC named a “Program of Excellence” by the WVU Board of Governors

  6. 2021

    Formal partnership formed with the Defense Information School (DINFOS) that allows military personnel to transfer credits into the IMC master’s program.


Ryan Wagner was part of the first cohort of Defense Information School (DINFOS) students at WVU and now teaches in the IMC program. Check out this feature on Ryan from the 2021 Media Magazine.

The Integrate Conference hosted by the WVU Marketing Communications program started as a small informational weekend and student reunion. Today, it attracts 150-plus alumni, faculty and marketing communications professionals from across the country and features sessions led by industry experts. Photo by David Smith.
“West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program completely changed the course of my life.” WHITNEY HUMPHREY 2022 IMC Graduate

Like Nevin and Hughes, Humphrey waited several years after earning her bachelor’s degree before pursuing a graduate program. Originally from Kanawha County, West Virginia, Humphrey was a first-generation college student and earned a journalism degree from Marshall University in 2011. She spent the next five years as a reporter, primarily covering the West Virginia government for The State Journal, Charleston Daily Mail and then the Charleston Gazette-Mail. After the birth of her second daughter at the end of 2016, she left the newspaper industry for a job with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and a schedule that would allow more time at home with her family. After three years in this new role, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and her position was eliminated.

“I was unemployed for eight months and had applied for more than 80 jobs in nine different states,” Humphrey said. “After receiving rejection after rejection, it was clear I needed to do something to stand out in this competitive job market. With our savings account dwindling and my unemployment benefits coming to an end, I took a leap of faith and enrolled in graduate school. It was truly the best decision I could have ever made.”

Humphrey distinctly remembers receiving her acceptance letter in the spring of 2021 and updating her resume to reflect that she was enrolled in the WVU IMC program. Doors opened immediately, and she accepted a position as a civilian public affairs specialist with the West Virginia National Guard’s Public Affairs Office (PAO). The IMC program’s philosophy of “learn it today, apply it tomorrow” was evident as she started using the knowledge and skills she had gained in audience engagement, communications principles and market research to help better connect with more than 6,500 service members, their families, civilian employees, policy makers and the public.

Whitney Humphrey Whitney Humphrey (M.S. IMC, 2022) is part of a global network of nearly 3,000 WVU IMC alumni who reside in 49 different states and Washington, D.C. and eight countries. Browse the 20th Anniversary alumni yearbook and submit your information if you haven't already. Photo by Alex Wilson.

Humphrey graduated in December 2022 and now works as a communications administrator for the West Virginia Housing Development Fund, where she advises agency leadership, leads communication efforts and develops and implements new ideas and strategies to build and strengthen relationships with the organization’s customers and partners.

“Fast forward to today: I don’t even recognize the defeated woman I was in March 2021,” Humphrey said. “Today I’m with a company I love doing work for and that I find fulfilling and energizing. I would not be in this position without the knowledge and skills I learned through the IMC program, or without the encouragement or mentorship its staff and faculty provided.”

The flexible online nature of the WVU IMC program and the adaptations over the past 20 years have allowed nearly 3,000 students the opportunity to earn their master’s degrees in a highly marketable field. Those students have included 22-year-olds fresh out of an undergraduate degree, working professionals with families and military personnel. This large, eclectic group is part of a close-knit alumni network that continues to engage with each other and future students, and they aren’t the only ones whose lives have been changed by the IMC program.

“Throughout the years, the people have always been at the core of what we do,” Mezera said. “So even though it's been an online program and we’ve been financially successful and we've done some really neat things, it always comes back to the people. We’ve always had an eye on making sure we have positive outcomes and really doing the things that matter. It’s been cool to be a part of it – it’s something that kind of defines a career.”

For more information about the IMC program or other College of Media online degrees or certificates, contact Chad Mezera at

The Birth of Integrate

The Pinnacle Moment

"Raise your hand if this is your first time in West Virginia."

From the Beginning

Rick Bebout

If you've had anything to do with the WVU Integrated Marketing Communications program, you've likely met RICK BEBOUT. Bebout has worked with the Reed College of Media since 1997 and has been instrumental in the design, build and maintenance of courses in eCampus, WVU's online learning platform. He is also the go-to for students and instructors who need assistance. Bebout holds a Master of Science in Journalism (2000) and a Bachelor of Arts in English (1997), both from West Virginia University. He also teaches courses and was awarded the College's Golden Quill Award for Outstanding Teaching twice, in 2010 and 2013.

If you've met Bebout, it's also likely that he's made you feel right at home with a conversation about fishing, hunting or Mountaineer sports.