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Nazareth College works with experts on degree

Rochester Business Journal
June 13, 2014

When Nazareth College planned to create a master of science degree in integrated marketing communications, the program’s architects went to the source.

Nazareth officials put together a committee of local marketing and communications experts whose members told the college which skills needed to be covered and will provide ongoing feedback along with instruction for students.

The new program has 25 seats and is in the enrollment process; it starts in the fall.

College officials believe the program will allow students to keep up in an ever-evolving industry and shine as an example for other colleges and universities looking to make partners within industries.

The degree program is meant to advance professional development for those working in the marketing and communications field and provide in-depth study and training for those looking to enter the field, Nazareth officials said.

To develop the curriculum, Nazareth officials looked to regional leaders known for their innovation.

“The textbooks sometimes can only capture things that have already been out there a few years, but by going right to the leaders in this industry, we were able to talk to people doing it and address changing needs in real time,” said Gerard Zappia, dean of Nazareth’s school of management.

Nazareth officials also looked to a model that previously had brought success. For more than a decade, the college’s graduate program in human resource management has relied on an external group of executives in the field, using them as a sounding board for creating and shaping the curriculum, Zappia said.

“That model really served us well,” he noted. “That’s just a good way for higher education to develop programs, so instead of staying in our ivory tower, we actually go out to the people who will need our students to do their work in the future and let them inform us on what is the most relevant and important.”

The advisory group for the integrated marketing program includes Leslie Zornow, manager of advertising and branding at ESL Federal Credit Union; Raymond Martino, partner at Martino Flynn LLC; Peter Infante, president of Butler/Till Media Services Inc.; and Mary Hadley, regional director of relationship management at Hillside Family of Agencies.

The committee is far from a group of figureheads, Zappia said. Members have given input from the creation of the program, offering suggestions that have allowed Nazareth to make ongoing changes. Some will be teaching courses, he noted.

The program is designed to be responsive in an industry that shifts quickly, said Mark Weber, the program’s director.

“One of the core aspects of the program is how to respond to new media like Twitter and Facebook,” Weber said. “We teach them how to analyze new forms of social media and how to be proactive. They can have information coming at them 24/7, and they have to be able to take that data and turn it into decisions.”

Members of the advisory council have praised the program for its flexibility.

“This new program is built for the real world,” said William Murtha, president and CEO of Roberts Communications Inc. “Vetted by some of the smartest industry pros in the region, it is loaded with the right content and strategies graduates will need to meet business realities of today and tomorrow.”

Hillside’s Hadley said the program will help students and professionals in many fields, adding that it has been useful for her work in the non-profit realm.

“Working within the tightly constrained marketing resources of a non-profit organization, I’ve had to focus even harder on earned advertising and social media,” she said. “This program can help non-profit marketing professionals learn to deliver strong brand positioning and communication outreach to donors, clients and the community in an effective manner while fitting within very limited budgets.”

Zappia said advisory groups are far from a new concept, especially among business schools, where they have been common for decades. But he believes Nazareth has found the optimal way to use these groups.

“Advisory groups don’t last long if they’re just window dressing, but we found if we really engage them and hand them a mission so it’s clear what we want them to help us with, they are of great value,” he said.

Nazareth intends to keep lines of communication open both ways, providing feedback to advisory members on the suggestions they make.

“Every time they give us advice, we report to them what we did with it,” Zappia said. “We don’t always take it, but at least they know that we’re listening and know why we make the decisions we do.”

The program has created such a deep connection between the curriculum and the marketing and communications industry that Nazareth officials are trying to promote their success. Officials say they plan to present their program to other colleges and universities looking to replicate the model.

“We are putting together a paper on how colleges can engage advisory councils, and we’re taking it to a conference next year,” Zappia said. “If we can get the word out, we can let people know what we did and how we did it, and most importantly how to keep a group engaged.”

6/13/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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