The West Virginia University School of Journalism’s new graduate-level Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) programwith a distance-learning certificate option for working professionalswill kick off in Charleston next week.

Charles Ryan Associates is hosting the kick-off reception at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, at their offices at 100 One Valley Square in Charleston. All School of Journalism alumni and media professionals are welcome to attend.

The WVU graduate program offers a master’s degree with a specialization in IMC at the Morgantown campusor a 15-hour graduate certificate that can be completed via the Internet.

“This portable certificate program is the only one like it in the nation, and it’s specially designed to meet the needs of working professionals who need the convenience of a flexible, on-line program,”said Christine Martin, dean.

Integrated marketing communications is an innovative, consumer-centered approach that many top agencies are adopting, Martin added.”PR and advertising agencies embracing IMC incorporate cutting-edge research, database management, consumer-driven campaigns, electronic commerce and interdisciplinary teamwork. It really is the wave of the future.”

IMC ’s consumer-centered approach emphasizes dynamic collaboration across the marketing communications disciplines of public relations, advertising and interactive marketing, said Assistant Professor Kurt Schimmel, IMC program director.

Only nine graduate-level IMC programs are offered nationwide, he added. And 95 percent of all IMC graduates find jobs within six months of graduation.

“We created this program because it meets the needs of a changing industry,”Schimmel said.”We want our curriculum to match the marketplace, and that’s what IMC is all about.”