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IMC & DMC scholarship recipients bring diverse experiences to the virtual classroom

From an active-duty U.S. Air Force member to a first-generation college student, the 2024 WVU Reed College of Media IMC & DMC Scholarship recipients run the gamut in terms of life and work experiences, but they each demonstrate the drive to advance their careers and the desire to make a positive impact on their communities.

Recipients Erin Dunsey of Peoria, Arizona, and Sierra Snigier of Seaford, Delaware, are enrolled in the College’s online Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) master’s degree program. Erica O’Brien of Houston, Texas, is enrolled in the online Data Marketing Communications master’s degree program, and Izabella Workman, a U.S. Air Force member in Suffolk, United Kingdom, is part of the IMC program’s Defense Information School (DINFOS) cohort of military affiliated students.

“Our students hail from all over the world and come to us with a variety of experiences, which really enriches class discussions and allows for diversity of thought,” said College of Media Assistant Dean of Online Programs Chad Mezera. He and his wife, Teaching Associate Professor Catherine Mezera, established the scholarship in 2017. “I’m always inspired by the personal and professional stories our students are willing to share with us as part of this scholarship application process, and I’m honored to be able to reward and recognize just a few of those many stories.”

This annual award established by the Mezeras is the only scholarship dedicated to online graduate students in the Reed College of Media. Applicants must be enrolled in one of the College of Media online master’s degree programs in Data, Digital or Integrated Marketing Communications, and a scholarship committee reviews and selects the recipients.

Several generous alumni, instructors and friends have contributed to the scholarship, which is among the College’s fundraising priorities for the annual WVU Day of Giving on March 20, 2024. This year’s scholarship recipients join 19 others who have received the award since its 2017 creation.

Erin Dunsey

Dunsey is the communications manager for the Peoria Unified School District in Arizona. Her team recently earned a Gold Medallion Award from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) for a kindergarten enrollment campaign titled “Calling all Kindergarteners,” and she was invited to present about the campaign at the NSPRA summer conference. At 45 years old – with two young children – Dunsey earned the Accreditation in Public Relations credential and embarked on a master’s degree with the hopes of leading strategic communications for a private sector organization and teaching at a higher education institution.

“As a mom to two incredible children, I am trying to demonstrate that you are never too old to achieve your goals,” Dunsey said. “I am teaching my kids that no matter what obstacles get in your way, you should never give up – they are learning about hard work, resilience and grit.”

Sierra Snigier

Snigier is a first-generation college student who earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Penn State in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an undergraduate student, she held leadership positions including student government president and community relations coordinator for her sorority. She was also on two Penn State Division-3 athletic teams – tennis and bowling. Snigier is now the global marketing and engagement coordinator for Soroptimist International of the Americas, a worldwide nonprofit that helps empower women and girls through education. She hopes to remain in the nonprofit sector and eventually pursue her passion for wildlife and conservation by working for a zoo, sanctuary or conservatory.

“The IMC degree has already helped me better understand analytics, insights and how to use them effectively and measure my work for success,” Snigier said. “The knowledge I am gaining has made me more confident in my choices and given me tools to reflect on my work. My colleagues have noticed a change in my confidence and overall marketing knowledge. I am more willing to jump in when analytics and strategy meetings occur. I know what is happening in those meetings and can participate with suggestions and ideas.”

Erica O'Brien

O’Brien also earned her bachelor’s degree during the pandemic. While pursuing a degree in corporate communications from the University of Houston, she volunteered, interned and discovered a love for nonprofit work. She was part of a student team that won an $8,000 grant for Elijah Rising, an organization that combats sex trafficking . She interned for Discovery Green, a Houston village green that hosts events, markets, and play areas for the community, and Undies for Everyone, a nonprofit that provides underwear to children in need. Through these experiences, she managed social media, created content, and gained experience with grant writing, sponsorship proposals, and community betterment. She now works as a marketing coordinator for NewQuest Properties, where she brought email processes in-house, saving the real estate company more than $100,000 annually.

“WVU’s Data Marketing Communications program will elevate my knowledge of data sets and allow me to provide concrete numbers that justify my marketing decisions. I want to improve and be an expert in my field. I want people to know I know what I’m talking about and trust that what I say will benefit their goal,” O’Brien said. “I’m very grateful for my experience with NewQuest Properties, but I hope to return to a nonprofit organization one day.”

Izabella Workman

Workman is a public affairs planner specializing in information warfare for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, where she helps shape narratives and strategies crucial to national security missions. She also recently launched a pet shelter initiative to help find homes for dogs left behind by USAF members facing logistical challenges. Following her military career, Workman hopes to provide marketing communications support for startups and nonprofit organizations.

“The comprehensive curriculum and experienced faculty at WVU present an invaluable opportunity to acquire the advanced knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the competitive marketing and communications landscape,” Workman said. “Beyond the practical aspects of career advancement, my master's degree journey is driven by a desire for job satisfaction and a sense of pride in my work, but my vision extends far beyond personal success – it's about making a lasting, positive impact on the world and the dynamic field I'm passionate about.”

To learn more about the online graduate scholarship and see a full list of recipients, visit marketingcommunications.wvu.edu/alumni/imc-dmc-scholarship-donor-roll. To make a gift to the scholarship fund, contact Development Officer Mary Esposito at mary.esposito@mail.wvu.edu.