About Megan Fullagar: Megan Fullagar works as a Marketing Manager for Penthera Partners, a mobile video start-up based in New York City. Her considerable experience as a marketing professional includes positions at both Comcast and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world. Before moving into marketing, Ms. Fullagar was an Architectural Designer, and worked for prestigious architects such as Robert A.M. Stern and Daniel Libeskind.
Ms. Fullagar majored in Architecture and Design as an undergraduate, earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas. She completed her master’s in 2016, through the Master of Professional Studies in Branding + Integrated Communications (BIC) program at The City College of New York.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Megan Fullagar] Since graduating college, my life has taken many twists and turns. I actually studied architecture as my undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas and moved to New York City to become an architect. I was lucky enough to work for a couple of great designers including Robert A.M. Stern, who was the dean of the Architecture School at Yale, and Daniel Libeskind, who did the masterplan for the World Trade Center.
Fast-forward four years when the recession hit, and I lost my job. This actually ended up being the biggest blessing – it made me completely rethink my career. I decided that I wanted to help businesses grow and stay profitable, even in times of economic distress. It seemed that marketing was a great place to do this. I ended up shifting my work into architecture marketing and then technology marketing. Along the way, it occurred to me that while I had a lot of great skills, such as graphic design and project management, I needed to back them up with education. In 2014, I was accepted into City College’s BIC program, which would lead me to marketing roles at Comcast and my current position building up the marketing for an ad-tech start-up.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Professional Studies in Branding + Integrated Communications (BIC) program at The City College of New York?
[Megan Fullagar] I have always been a firm believer in education; I come from parents who both have PhDs and they have inscribed the value of academics in me. As I was transitioning my career into marketing and communications, it seemed important to be able to keep up with trends in the industry, best-practices, and innovation. I also wanted to be able to explore other industries beyond architecture, and graduate school seemed like a great place to make connections in other fields.
The BIC program was specifically interesting to me because it is built for working professionals. It’s tough living in New York City, and there was no way that I was willing to put a two-year dent in my resume. Another great advantage of being in the BIC program is that its professors are also working professionals. It seemed that I was able to have a direct connection to those working in a very competitive and fast-moving industry. The program boasted hands-on opportunities, and the chance to work with real clients, in a very collaborative and multifaceted environment. Lastly, City College was pretty affordable! Grad school is expensive and there were programs that I applied and got into that were super compelling but truly broke the bank. I found myself late at night with my calculator trying to figure out how I could possibly make it work without spending the rest of my professional life in debt. City College offered me something that wouldn’t overwhelm my bank account, while also providing networking opportunities and the chance to work while in school.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is the BIC program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Megan Fullagar] The BIC program is divided into three tracks: PR, Creative, and Management. While the class takes their core coursework together, students have the chance to hone in on their interests in classes built around their track. The core coursework revolved around two big projects, one based around a non-profit client and one based around a for-profit client. Once we were assigned a client, we were put in groups that included people from all three tracks. In my years in the program, our clients included City College, American Express, and Universal Music Group.
Beyond the core coursework, we were given the option of taking various electives which included one-credit short term classes and track-specific course work. We were often put in groups, which reinforces an agency workflow. I really enjoyed the diverse array of classes and set-ups; we participated in panels, field trips to agencies, and got a lot of practice presenting in front of people.
The entire course culminates in a portfolio presentation. Unlike some other programs, BIC has every student complete a portfolio in order to graduate (not just their creative students). The school was supportive in helping us complete our portfolios by scheduling reviews, mock-interviews, and work-sessions to help refine our books. It felt that by the end we were set up to succeed in the professional world above and beyond what I would have had without the program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your final portfolio? What projects did you decide to include and why? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their portfolio?
[Megan Fullagar] I redid my portfolio countless times. It was an enormous process in itself, but one that eventually helped me to edit down the content to work that was worth showing. Students in the program had the freedom to do whatever they wanted with the portfolio formatting and type, one student incredibly created a portfolio built into his Instagram. The single best thing I did for my portfolio was participate in a class that’s goal was for students to enter into the One Show’s Young One competition. The One Show hosts awards for students based on a new brief every year. My brief was about gender inequality – being able to work on a project that had such a great goal not only helped propel my portfolio, but also was a great example of producing work that truly inspired me.
The school supported us by having several sessions where we were challenged to present our portfolio. While there were tough critiques, it was great to get our work in front of numerous professionals. Within the creative track, we were required to take a weekly class purely focused on developing our portfolio. We were given creative assignments and then alternated between presenting ideas with the group and working on our books. It was incredibly helpful to have a teacher whose pure focus was to pull out our best work and challenge us to do things better and be more concise.
Our portfolio defense was at the end of the program. We were given the opportunity to present in front of three industry professionals representing our given track. We were told to pick two or three projects to present over a window of 20 minutes. At the end of our presentation, we were rated and critiqued. While the experience was a bit daunting, I thought it was really wonderful to have the chance to close the door on the program in a process that was very much like a job interview. Since being in the program, I felt that having a portfolio has set me above many other applicants.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from CCNY’s MPS in Branding + Integrated Communications program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Megan Fullagar] The MPS program is completely formed around developing professional skills. Shortly after leaving the BIC program, I found myself accepting a new position in the media industry. My class in media planning helped me the best in understanding my new field of work. I’ve also been fortunate enough to utilize my creative skills freelancing in my free time. I know that I wouldn’t have gotten it without the BIC program’s focus on graduating us to be the most qualified candidates for industry jobs.
My personal favorite experiences include winning a gold pencil at the One Show, working diligently with my groups for our core course work, and all of the fun we had in between. When we were getting close to graduation, the professors rallied to land students’ meetings with potential employers. I have yet to go into an interview where my portfolio hasn’t gotten me in the door. Even now, two years after graduating, BIC hosts great networking events. I know the BIC program has set me up with invaluable connections and skills.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the BIC program at The City College of New York? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at CCNY or another university?
[Megan Fullagar] Like so many things in life, you only get as much out of graduate school as you put into it. The BIC program offers so many opportunities to its students: from academic symposiums, to portfolio reviews and networking events, to being able to attend conferences and events. I would tell any student to take advantage of all of these things. When it comes to graduate school, I would urge students to take advantage of their sleep and find a good outlet to escape from the stresses. It sounds cliché, but the last thing I would say is for them to enjoy it! I loved how grad school gave me an opportunity to explore, try new skills, and connect with new people.
Thank you, Ms. Fullagar, for your excellent insights on The City College of New York’s Master of Professional Studies in Branding + Integrated Communications program!