Students talking to each other in front of posters

James McKenna

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James McKenna

Poughkeepsie, NY

Academic School

Communication & the Arts



James McKenna is a member of Marist's online MA in Integrated Marketing Communication Class of 2013. He received a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management from SUNY Plattsburgh, and is currently a Marketing Communications Business Partner at Tompkins Financial Corporation.

Tell us about your work history before Marist, including years of experience, industry, companies, and positions. 
Prior to Marist, I spent 6 months as the Marketing and Promotions Manager for a seasonal restaurant, 8 months in business travel account management at Liberty Travel, 2 years as a marketing coordinator at Liberty Travel, and 2 years as a unit marketing coordinator at Sodexo.

What are your career goals? 
I would like to continue to be creative, have opportunities to grow, explore new marketing initiatives, and pursue freelance opportunities. I think the best thing I can do to grow my career and develop professionally is to utilize my skills in different industries.

Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Marist? 
Since it became clear after graduation from SUNY Plattsburgh that I wanted a career in marketing, I felt formalizing my education in IMC would be crucial to my personal and professional development. I was concerned about being “typecast” as only a hospitality marketer. Since I did not have a formal marketing education, it was exciting and fun to learn about all of the concepts I practice every day at work.

Tell us about a project or course that was particularly meaningful to your professional development? 
For the Consumer Insights course, we had a group project where we analyzed an organization and provided solutions for improvement. This was meaningful because I never had the chance in my work experience to dive into consumer insights. This is an aspect of IMC that I never thought too much about and was excited to propose solutions. The organization we analyzed was a local financial institution. Little did I know that a few years later I would end up working for a financial institution. The content of the project is proving helpful right now as a look for ways to target the 18-35 year old demographic.

How has a degree from Marist and your course work enhanced your career? 
Without my degree, I do not think I would have been able to make a smooth transition outside of hospitality. My Masters in IMC has allowed me to expand my knowledge by joining a company outside of my prior industry work experience. It has been great for my professional development to work in marketing for a new industry, and I owe that to my Marist education. I also feel it gives me an edge over other candidates. When I was looking for new employment in 2015, I had no problem attaining interviews.

What advice would you give to a student considering pursuing their master’s degree at Marist? 
It is important to work at some level in the field of IMC. I found it much more useful to be able to apply what I was learning in the classroom to my career. Also, I was able to bring in relevant examples from my work experience. I was only two years out of college when I joined the program, but I had gained enough experience to enhance my education.

If you took an online class or had online learning as part of a regular course, tell us about your experiences – any tips or suggestions to pass along to future students? 
The IMC program is 100% online. This was important to me in choosing a program. If you are looking for flexibility, this is the format for you. Also, I feel I learned more from an online program. You are forced to engage in conversation with your classmates, read materials, and find creative ways to work on group projects. My advice is to utilize this format even if it is not required. It allows you to have discussions you may not have in a live setting.

Please feel free to provide additional comments. 
I was one of the first graduates of the IMC program, and I could not be happier with its results.