After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, Madelyn Banat discovered that marketing is her true passion.
"I did some freelance work for a couple of different places," she said. "Because I didn't get a degree in marketing, a lot of times my applications were not being viewed or accepted for a lot of jobs. I decided to pursue marketing and get a degree to help boost my resume and get a marketing position."
Banat completed the online Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) with a 4.0 GPA in June 2021.
"I worked at a hair salon, Set Blowout Bar, in Wilmington," she said. "When COVID-19 hit, it lost all of its business because it could not have people in the shop. I was close with the owner, so I told her I could create a website to sell her products online.
"I spent a few months learning how to build websites. I built the site, then marketed it through her email list and social media. I was not in marketing at all, and then jumped into it. She trusted me and gave me the freedom to do what I wanted."
Developing the website unlocked Banat's passion for digital marketing, which gave her direction for graduate school. The decision to return to college paid off. Banat landed a position at a Raleigh, North Carolina based arts and design company. She was promoted to the marketing team after completing her Master's degree from UNCW. Since leaving that position, she is expanding her experience in social media marketing for other companies while pursuing the goal of opening her own marketing firm.
"It has already made me a more competitive employee and opened doors for me in my career," she said. "I get a lot more recruiters on LinkedIn telling me that my skill set fits their needs."
The online format made it manageable for Banat to earn her undergraduate degree while continuing to work part time as a website and marketing assistant for Simply Downsized.
"It was manageable," she said. "I was proud to get a 4.0. I liked it being fully online. I had really good communication with my professors.
"They made a good point of that at UNCW … They were available when I needed them."
Banat is from Wilmington. She graduated with a bachelor's degree that included a minor in Spanish for business professionals from the University of North Carolina in 2021. When searching for a master's degree program, she wanted to remain close to home.
"I liked that UNCW was fully online and at your own pace," she said. "I wanted to get done as quickly as I could to move up in my career. I doubled up on my classes, pushed through and got it done in one year. That was an enticing thing about the program."
Digital Storytelling and IMC was Banat's favorite course in the online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) program curriculum.
"You could make your own campaign for a made-up product that you come up with yourself, or for a company that already exists," she said. "I did mine on Ulta Beauty and focused on diversity and inclusion issues. I really enjoyed it."
The information that Banat learned in the online master's degree program paid off immediately when she landed her first full-time job post-graduation.
"I use it at work with social media marketing and video creation," she said. "A lot of what I learned in the program applies to my job.
"There was an organizational culture aspect to the program where you think outside of marketing. You look into how you interact in the workplace and apply that information to different concepts throughout the program."
Banat hopes to walk in the commencement ceremony in December 2022. She said her family and friends are happy she earned a master's degree.
"They are super proud of me," she said. "They couldn't believe that I was able to complete the program while working full time."
Now that she has a master's degree, Banat hopes to feed her entrepreneurial spirit sometime in the future.
"I would love to start my own freelance business and target small businesses," she said. "I'd target business owners who can't afford a big marketing firm to shore up their website and social media strategy and be an all-encompassing place for small businesses to get help with the marketing initiatives."
Banat, who enjoys art and painting in her free time, believes that asynchronous learning was the best way to further her higher education.
"You get to monitor your own pace," she said. "What's so great about a program like this is if you double up and take two classes one semester, you don't have to do that the next if it's too intensive. Everyone goes at their own pace. I definitely got good value out of the program."
Learn more about UNCW's online M.A. in Integrated Marketing Communication program.
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