About Andrew Welch: Andrew Welch is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and has served as Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne since 2011 (but has been with the College since 2008). He has received numerous honors for his work with the school and commitment to the community over the years, including being twice-named one of Fort Wayne’s Forty Under 40. Mr. Welch stays engaged in northeast Indiana by volunteering at places like Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana, coaching volleyball for Saint Charles Catholic School, and serving on various area boards.
Mr. Welch has a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Public Communication from Purdue University Fort Wayne, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Indiana University Fort Wayne. He is a former president of the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) Alumni Association Board of Directors, was named an IPFW Outstanding Young Alumnus, and also graduated from the Leadership Fort Wayne program. In 2011, Mr. Welch earned his master’s degree through the online Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program at Eastern Michigan University (EMU).
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Andrew Welch] I attended Purdue University Fort Wayne and Indiana University Fort Wayne and obtained two undergraduate degrees (Media & Public Communication and Business Management, respectively). During these studies, I worked through college at Fort Wayne’s morning newspaper The Journal Gazette as a sports clerk and graphic designer. My stint in the newspaper industry was mostly part-time during undergraduate studies, but it was actually my first full-time gig out of college.
Upon completion of the two bachelor’s degrees, I applied and accepted a graphic design position with Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW; now Purdue University Fort Wayne), where I worked for four years and earn two promotions during that time. I also wanted to eventually earn a master’s degree, but it needed to be at the right time and the right match for the skills and talents I wanted to utilize in a career.
Six years later (2009), after I had accepted an assistant director of marketing and communications position at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I began researching options in the pursuit of a graduate degree. I came upon the Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications at Eastern Michigan University, and given the proximity to Indiana – not to mention the curriculum – I decided it was time to pursue the degree which eventually became a turning point in my career. It was a lot of work (and a long two years), but it has been worth it in the knowledge and experienced I gained through the program, as well as the connections I was able to make with my cohort members who live across the country.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the online Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program at Eastern Michigan University?
[Andrew Welch] As I mentioned above, it was always a goal of mine to eventually earn a master’s degree of some sort, and I also knew it would be required of me to advance in my career. I had previously engaged with the idea of earning an MBA, but it wasn’t the approach or direction I wanted my career to go. The integrated marketing communications route at Eastern Michigan University covers the topics and research that I needed to become more marketable in the field of marketing and communications. At the time of applying for the program, I also was aware of a possibility for advancement in my current role. The knowledge and experience I gained in the program through brand development/management, creative message strategy, and campaign execution are just a few things I was able to immediately put into action in my daily work.
Fortunately, my work was recognized, and I received a promotion to executive director of marketing and communications for Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne in 2011. I have been with the College for 10 years in October 2018.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is EMU’s IMC 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?
[Andrew Welch] The curriculum is organized, straight-forward, and project-based; but it’s also very demanding for an individual who wants to excel in the program, especially if the topics are great points of interest. Concepts emphasized included the aforementioned, but also audience/consumer behavior, marketing communications research, multi-channel media, direct marketing, public relations, sales promotions, and marketing ethics.
Something I was able to utilize on the job immediately included conducting an unbiased focus group to collect qualitative research in order to drive a deeper quantitative study to make decisions around student support offerings at Ivy Tech Community College. To this day, I still utilize a creative brief approach in organizing and developing new content, approaches, and plans for marketing initiatives at the College.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What were the major pros and cons of pursuing your master’s degree online? What challenges did you encounter throughout your completion of the online IMC program, and how did you address them? On the flip side, what did you enjoy most about completing the degree online?
[Andrew Welch] When researching grad school options, I was initially hesitant at committing to an all-online program. However, since I am more of an application- and project-based learner, the online format was perfect and allowed me to learn and understand the material on my timetable which also helped me apply the concepts in the workplace. I also made great lifelong connections through my cohort classmates — some from Michigan, Minnesota, and beyond. It was refreshing to be in class with individuals headed down a similar career path.
As far as obstacles, I would say finding the balance between work, school, and everyday life was the biggest challenge. With working long days in the office, it was normal for me to get home, eat a quick dinner, and settle in for an evening of grad school work (only to do it again the next day). I always tried to work in at least one day per week for a breather and also took advantage of any week-long (or two) breaks in between the 8-week terms. It was definitely a long (but quick) two years, and it’s hard to believe that I earned my degree in June 2011 (seems like yesterday).
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did it address, and what were your primary deliverables (i.e. communications plan, tutorial, video, visual marketing materials, etc.)? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their project?
[Andrew Welch] Our capstone project included a detailed rebrand and revitalization of the Pure Michigan (CVB) campaign. The project was presented to us as a rebrand and relaunch after funding for the campaign was restored post-recession in an attempt to attract tourism to the state of Michigan. We were assigned in small groups, much like an agency would approach such a project.
Since the program is online, our team submitted a very detailed research paper along with a full creative brief, media schedule, and sample collateral as if the campaign was being pitched for launch. Research was conducted through a variety of sources, including scholarly journals and current marketing trend publications, in order to justify decision-making. There were several review periods with the faculty throughout the capstone course in order to help keep the team on track toward the final bigger goals of submitting a full campaign proposal at completion of the course.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from EMU’s MS in Integrated Marketing Communications program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Andrew Welch] Other than the capstone course, I really enjoyed the course that also allowed us create a social issue awareness campaign around charity: water, for countries in need of access to fresh drinking/bathing water. It fired up my competitive spirit, because the campaigns were submitted to an international business and marketing contest for colleges and universities.
As mentioned previously, I have been able to utilize many aspects of the program’s material in my current role as part of a higher education marketing and communications team for Ivy Tech Community College. I absolutely believe the degree I earned through Eastern Michigan University provided me with the knowledge, skills, and additional experience I needed in order to be considered for the eventual promotion I received in early 2011. I recently completed serving on a system-wide special project marketing team that lasted for seven months and culminated with a presentation to the president of the College and her executive council. Many times throughout the process, I thought to myself that the analysis and research we conducted would not have been as thorough without the education I received from Eastern Michigan University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Eastern Michigan University’s online Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at EMU or another university?
[Andrew Welch] Easy. Do it. If you have a career in marketing and communications (or want one) and are looking to advance in the workplace down the road, why not consider a master’s degree with a very focused approach to curriculum? The flip side of the advice is BEWARE. It was quite an undertaking. The project-based environment was great for me, but it was grueling in terms of the time and dedication for each course/semester. For two years, my days at work vs. my evenings at home doing graduate study work seemed like an endless cycle. I always built in at least 24 hours of recovery each week in order to restart for the next week. I also took full advantage of any break between semester’s courses. That all said, it was time and money well spent, and I truly believe it was the perfect master’s degree program for me.
Thank you, Mr. Welch, for your excellent insights on Eastern Michigan University’s Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications program!