Q+A: former Integrated Marketing Communications student returns to teach same program at KUEC

Our faculty strive to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world. Meet Angie Hendershot.

Angie Hendershot

Angie Hendershot always planned to teach at the college level, so early in her professional career she pursued a master’s degree at the budding KU Edwards Campus. While gaining experience in various communications roles at local corporations she completed a program launched through the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, leading to new opportunities in digital communications, brand management and marketing strategy. As the current professor of the practice for KUEC’s MS in Integrated Marketing Communications program, she brings more than 20 years of industry experience combined with volunteer civic and non-profit work to the classroom. 

We sat down with her to discuss KU’s Integrated Marketing Communications program, how the skills she learned in the program helped her along the way, and why she chose to return to teach the program that graduated her.

You were in the first graduating class with the IMC program before moving into the corporate world. Tell us about your journey there and back again to KU Edwards.

My plan always was to be a teacher at the college level to help mentor students on their career path. I was influenced by an undergrad professor at Drake University who brought her real-world working experience into the classroom in a way that I found very helpful. 

Shortly after starting my corporate career, I pursued a master's degree at KUEC while also trying to collect experiences that I thought would bring more insight into the classroom someday. I began at the Edwards campus when it was only one building in the Regent Center and enrolled in the first class of the integrated marketing communications program. I met some lifelong colleagues and friends there.

After graduating, I went on to continue my professional career, working at Sprint in public relations, advertising and digital communications, and marketing strategy roles. Then I moved into a more B2B focus at Assurant, a financial services company in downtown Kansas City, where I worked in communication, marketing, and brand strategy.

Twenty years later, I circled back to teach full time. Just as I started looking for opportunities in higher education, a professor of the practice role at the IMC program opened up. It felt a little like destiny.

Could you talk about your work in revamping the IMC courses and setting them up to be more student-friendly? 

Well, the IMC program has always been geared to be an applied program. That means it’s relevant to what working professionals are doing in the field, and the direction that the industry is moving. By bringing in my 25 years of corporate experience, plus my time volunteering in the community, I had the chance to refresh the types of organizations that students in the program were exposed to.

Partnering with program director Dr. Matt Tidwell, we reconfigured the Introduction to Marketing Fundamentals class into an online, eight-week class offered twice a year. So, when people wanted to start their master's degree journey, they didn't have to wait a full year in order to take the class. We integrated electronic textbooks, video case studies, and recorded guest speakers in the class so students could apply all the concepts in their very first class.

A favorite activity for students in the Fundamentals class is developing a market scan for an organization of their choice. They immediately apply the concepts they’re learning to an organization they're working for, want to work for, or one that they volunteer for. It also gives them the chance to explore a variety of industries.

We also reimagined our Leadership course as a survey course focusing on Kansas City's leaders in marketing and communications. We invited a heavy rotation of guest speakers to bring leadership skills and lessons to our students. This expands our students’ professional network by giving them face-to-face interaction with some of the best thought leaders and marketing communicators in the Kansas City area.

What do the master’s degree candidates do to complete the program?

The last two required courses are a research class and a capstone class focusing on a client that the program chooses. In the research class, students conduct a series of secondary and primary research projects to really understand that client. Then we offer an intensive capstone intersession course, where students meet every night for three weeks to do a strategic marketing communication plan for that organization. Basically, we provide an agency-level marketing and strategy experience for the client at no cost.

For this experience, we purposely seek out not-for-profit organizations or emerging companies that are really contributing to our community. Previous clients include the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Kansas City Area Development Council, and Children's Mercy Hospital.

That is a great way to give back to the community. Could you talk a little more about how the students work with these local organizations?

One recent example is the project we completed for the Kansas City Area Development Council. Their project – creating ambassadors for Kansas City through social media – was a really rewarding experience because we helped that organization think about ways it could continue to promote Kansas City as a region in new and diverse ways.

During that process, one of our IMC students served in a leadership role and became increasingly engaged in the topic of area development and economic development. At the conclusion of our project, the organization really wanted to implement our ideas and needed more staffing, so that turned into an opportunity to move into a full-time role with that client 

The other organization that really stands out to me is our first research and intersession client, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. After we presented our capstone plans to them, the vice president of development told me that she planned on using the students’ materials and ideas the very next day at a development meeting. It was clear that we were able to help them and provide them with more capacity to do the great work that they do.

Networking seems to play a big role in the IMC program. Can you expand on that?

Yes. A benefit of enrolling in a program like ours, and being a student at the KU Edwards Campus, is the professional networking that it facilitates. 

In the IMC program, students build their professional network with their classmates through group work and applied projects. They develop an understanding of each other's talents that leads them to learn from each other as much as they learn from the course. That then creates long-term connections that can help them in their future career. 

We facilitate events where IMC students and alumni come together for presentations by local leaders, and even events where they engage with prospective students. There's a continuous loop – from the time someone becomes interested in our program until long after they leave – where they still have opportunities to meet, network and provide advice on job openings, vendors, or ways to get our work done in the marketing communications field.

In these hard financial times, students are concerned about the programs they pursue providing a good return on investment. How does KU’s Integrated Marketing Communications program address this? 

Our program, and many other programs at the Edwards campus, have a mixture of faculty who bring not only expertise, but their own professional experience and connection to the classroom. These classes are taught by experts in the field and bring in local leaders to show how the top organizations in the country are implementing concepts including branding, digital communication technologies, podcasting, vlogging, and blogging, just to name a few.

It's everything you need to know to build your career professionally from a management and a leadership standpoint, and you’re immersed in the technical aspects that keep your skills fresh with some of the smartest and most successful local leaders. It's an investment for people, and we make sure it's high value.

I tell students all the time that it's not the master's degree that will earn them more money or give them job security; it's the way that this program teaches them to think, and their experiences while earning their master’s, that will make them the professional that has a long-lasting and successful career.

What you learn here is important. But it’s critical to continue learning.

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