Michael Stratta's Chicago-based marketing agency has had a friendly invasion of late. Three new hires hail from DePaul University's Integrated Marketing Education Program (IMEP), and a fourth recent DePaul graduate has joined his team as a contractor.
Stratta met his new hires earlier this year, when his digital marketing agency, Arcalea, became one of the featured company partners of DePaul's IMEP.
Stratta is not a DePaul alumnus. In fact, as a long-term professional in the marketing industry, he's worked with several universities. Yet, after less than a few months, he's already hired four DePaul alumni and has plans for more. Why?
"It's the students," Stratta says. "There's a multidisciplinary approach to the program that offers students the skills they need to be a world-ready marketing professional as soon as they graduate.
"Marketing today is a challenging environment and the students in this program seem to thrive upon that."
Not Your Typical Marketing Program
Started more than 20 years ago, DePaul's Integrated Marketing Education Program offers undergraduate marketing majors a fast-paced, knowledge-rich, real-world environment to learn.
Three professors teach in the program — Lawrence Hamer, professor of marketing and associate provost; Zafar Iqbal, associate professor of marketing; and Luis Larrea, executive-in-residence in DePaul's Department of Marketing.
Undergraduate business students are encouraged to apply for the program in their junior year. The yearlong program accepts only about 30 students annually. Students meet twice a week for three hours.
Hamer says student learning is integrated and focused on client projects rather than coursework for individual classes.
"In most standard marketing programs, you take classes one topic at a time," says Hamer. "With our integrated marketing approach we put all the topics together and teach them within the decision-making context."
Alexander Sofronas, an IMEP student, says the program's integrated approach gives him a better sense of how marketing works in the real world.
"When you experience a curriculum that will teach you not just by courses but by applying your knowledge to actual marketing plans or a campaign, you get a much better sense of a subject's importance and how the topic fits in with the overall scheme of marketing," Sofronas says.
"It's one of the most rigorous and rewarding programs," adds Sofronas, who works as a data analyst intern at Rise Interactive, a digital marketing agency. "And if you're interested and motived, you should absolutely take it, you won't regret it."
Program Promotes Personal and Professional Growth
Beyond learning marketing, Hamer says the intimate nature of the class allows him to get to know each student on a personal level. He sees his role not just to impart information but also to aid students in their personal growth.
Student learning goes beyond hard skills such as market research and marketing analysis, says Hamer. Students learn critical soft skills that will serve them well in their professional careers.
"We're deeply invested in these students," Hamer says. "We expect that each one of these students will become marketing professionals when they graduate. But to be as successful as they can, it's more than just learning content. They have to learn about themselves, learn confidence in their abilities and learn how to think critically."
This can be the most difficult — but also rewarding — part of the program, students say.
"Our professors really treated our projects like they were a job. And in many cases, we worked on projects for actual clients," Sofronas says, "It was difficult, but I learned a lot more navigating through problems and figuring out how to solve them with guidance than if someone had just given me the answers."
Learn more about DePaul's Integrated Marketing Education Program.