About Ananya Bhowmick: Ananya Bhowmick specializes in corporate communication, public relations, and digital communication. Before relocating to the U.S., she worked as a Territory Manager for Edenred India, handling client relations and business operations and development. Her background also includes positions as Client Relations Manager for Weber Grills and Business Manager at Tata AIA Life Insurance, both located in India.
Ms. Bhowmick holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Calcutta, and an MBA in Marketing from ICFAI Business School–Hyderabad in India. In 2018, she completed her second master’s degree through the online Master’s in Strategic Communication program at The University of Iowa.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Ananya Bhowmick] I graduated this Spring with a Master’s in Strategic Communications from The University of Iowa. Prior to that, I earned my MBA in Marketing in 2008 and an undergraduate degree in English Literature in 2005 from India.
My last position was Territory Manager-Client Relations at Edenred India Pvt Ltd. My profile, in a nutshell, was of Business Operations and Business Development. This included managing a portfolio of corporate clients allocated, maintaining a multi-level relationship, retention of client, driving revenue growth of existing accounts, new product launch presentation, preparation of marketing communication material, and customer data analysis.
After completing my MBA, I joined Tata-AIG Life as a Business Manager, where my work entailed training and customer relations, imparting product and sales grooming, business development through the team and interacting with customers and addressing queries and grievances.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program at The University of Iowa?
[Ananya Bhowmick] I was looking at relaunching my career here in the United States. I already had an MBA in Marketing, hence a degree in marketing communications or holistic communications seemed just right and a perfect add-on to my academic portfolio.
Why UIowa? Well, lots of reasons. A varied portfolio of communications courses to choose from, affordability, flexibility of deciding your pace and reputed faculty. To me, this degree was to give me the right impetus to pursue a career in corporate communications or public relations or marketing communications.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on your experience in UI’s online MA program? How is the program structured? Were courses asynchronous (prerecorded), synchronous (live), or a combination of both? Did the school’s online platform enable you to interact with faculty members and classmates?
[Ananya Bhowmick] The online MA Strategic Communications program is divided into 10 courses — four core and six elective courses. Most classes were synchronous with the complete recording of the class available on the UIowa Canvas platform. Few core courses were offered asynchronous.
The courses I took were:
- Financial and Budget for Communicators
- Strategic Health Care Communication
- Media Management for Strategic Communicators
- Business of Media: Profits, People, and Power
- Strategic Political Communication
- Risk Communication Crisis Communication
- Digital Strategic Communication
- Capstone Project Strategic Communication
- Strategic Communications Research
- Strategic Communication Writing
- Foundations of Strategic Communication
Few of the core courses were offered in the “at your own pace” format. These courses were to be finished within the semester timeline but did not meet for a class at a specific time or day. Class materials, readings and exams were available on the UIowa Canvas. All my elective courses mostly met once or twice a week via Zoom, through which we could attend the class, talk and interact with professors and fellow class mates, just like we would have done in an on-campus classroom.
[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?
[Ananya Bhowmick] Before the Capstone Project course started, to be honest, I was getting apprehensive about the amount of work that a successful and holistic project entails and how to approach it. As the classes kept rolling, Prof. Frank Durham divided us into groups of students dealing with similar kinds of organizations. I was grouped with two others who were developing the communication strategy for not-for-profit organizations.
My Capstone project was a strategic communication plan for ARC Community Services [ARC Community Services Inc is a not-for-profit based in Madison, WI. They provide intervention, prevention and treatment programs for women who have experienced some sort of substance abuse or have been victims of violent crimes]. Why was the communication plan needed? ARC Community Services lack a comprehensive communication strategy which would work to enhance the reach of the program and create awareness on FASD [fetal alcohol syndrome disorder] and about the treatment opportunities offered by the ARC’s Smart Start Program. A holistic communication plan encompassing print, traditional and social media is what is required for the FASD Program and ARC in general for it be in the top recall of its target publics.
It was a huge project encompassing several target publics and devising communication strategies for all of them. What made this huge task not so cumbersome? Prof. Durham divided the project into several small parts with specific deadlines. The groups were asked to finish a portion of the project before we met the next week and the groups could see each other’s work, discuss and review it. Citing one class, Prof. Durham asked us to finish a part of the objectives, projects and tactics and have it mailed among the group. In another class, we had to write and edit the part on the organization background, their work, operating environment, target publics, products/services and the problem statement.
For preparing a strategic communication plan for ARC Community Services, firstly, I got in touch with their Director of Residential Programs to get an initial check on what their current program is, which channels they use, and how frequently they use. Researching their web, traditional media and social media, I prepared my initial review of the existing communication plan. Based on this evaluation, I proposed new channels, the objective of the new strategy, the project it will entail with detailed steps, timeline and budget.
After the section on objectives, I prepared a Gantt Chart on the proposed timeline for each objective [each objective had several sub-divisions in the form of projects]. A capstone project also calls for presenting ways of evaluation of the proposed objectives — qualitative and quantitative. There was a detailed section on qualitative, quantitative and post-hoc evaluation. The project ended with an appendix section with bar graphs on timeframe: start date/end date, start date-days to complete and days to complete each objective.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from UI’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Ananya Bhowmick] Writing blogs, articles or critiques were something I have been doing from my undergraduate degree days. The UI’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program taught me the technicalities of writing, namely, AP Style, MLA style, using SEO and Google Analytics, creating content for landing pages, creating buyer personas, crafting research questions, quantitative content analysis, sampling process, crafting a pilot instrument, outlining quality checks, devising possible coding sheets, and preparing questionnaires to assess requirements.
Writing out client pitches, media advisories, media pitches and fact sheets, press releases and devising regular print and institutional media advertisements were also part of my learning. All of these are just a snapshot of what is actually taught in class. All these prepped me for a career in communications and I am equipped to take up a communications role irrespective of the sector.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting The University of Iowa’s online MA in Strategic Communication 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 UI or another university?
[Ananya Bhowmick] For the fellow future Hawks, first a few pointers to keep in mind: The degree being online does not mean it is less rigorous or strenuous. It’s actually double the work. First, it’s all the same work as on campus; second, the onus is more on you to be on track. The faculty will go all out to make the classes more engaging, informative, fun and ensure maximum interaction among the class. A lot of reading has to be done before class, be sure you do that, as a lot of discussion happens from there.
Choosing the electives is a vital part of the degree. Get on board those courses which closely resemble your career preferences, this might help you to ace the next interview or promotion. Be on track – very important, never leaving an assignment or reading in the to-do list for long. While considering a Master’s in Communication, always look deeper into the courses offered and the faculty support.
Thank you, Ms. Bhowmick, for your excellent insights on The University of Iowa’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program!