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Professional athlete Emily Allard (IMC14) says Medill ‘hits a home run’

Graduate Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) students come to Medill from different backgrounds with a shared desire to push their marketing and communications skills to the next level. We spoke with one of those students, professional athlete Emily Allard (IMC14), about how her softball career inspires her marketing philosophy and how Medill IMC bettered her marketing game.

Q: What made you decide to pursue a master’s degree in IMC?

A: I started the IMC full time program in 2013 in an interesting twist of fate. I took two IMC classes earlier in my career as an undergraduate student at Northwestern. At that point, you don’t know exactly what you want to do, but I loved the marketing content and classes. As I got older, I knew Medill and IMC would be the best degree to have to succeed in the marketing field of today. You can’t go wrong with Medill.

Q: How did your sports career inform or further your understanding of marketing?

A: Grad school came into the picture for me because I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2013 with one more year of eligibility in softball, and while I loved softball, I also loved marketing. Whatever I did down the road, I wanted to find a way to help further women’s professional sports - they aren’t as structured as the men’s side - and so helping people understand women’s sports through marketing requires different skills. I knew Medill IMC would be essential in helping me bridge that gap. 

Q: Tell us about the unique client you worked for during your Immersion Quarter.

A: I got drafted to play professionally in the summer during the IMC Immersion Quarter which was a blessing because I got to pursue two dreams at once, but made choosing a client for me to work with tricky.  I was lucky enough to work with a client that mirrored my ideal career - interning for the National Pro Fastpitch league (NPF) that I was also playing in. We would be on the road two to four weeks at a time and that wasn’t exactly conducive to an office job. Instead, I interned remotely auditing the NPF’s social media presence. I was responsible for conducting a competitive audit, increasing engagement on all major social media platforms and finding inspiration from other women’s professional leagues who were doing social media marketing well. I created a social media plan for the organization moving forward while I was playing for them at night and on the weekends. I was in such a unique position to advocate on the field and use that experience to help them off the field.

Q: What IMC class or faculty member most influenced your education?

I am the biggest fan of Professor Don Schultz because of the way he presents his ideas. They instantly hook me. I also enjoyed Professor Candy Lee’s classes because she brought in incredible guest speakers straight from the industry. Her Content Marketing class was my favorite because the topics applied directly to my Immersion Quarter project with the NPF. From Candy, you’re learning how to apply the ideas from class into the real world, how to create a content plan around an existing company. For my final quarter, Tom Collinger has been incredibly influential. He can relate any topic to business, but he can further that insight into the real world and life as well. He has an uncanny ability to hold the attention of the class and it has been such a joy to learn from him.

Q: What did you enjoy most about the IMC full-time program?

I loved the people at Medill and how diverse the full-time program is. Northwestern is a diverse university in itself, and Medill IMC is open - people want to hear your story and they want to figure out where you came from, how you got there and why you think the way that you do. In addition, the faculty members are all warm and welcoming and so interested in my holistic experience in the program. They really got to know me - when I got drafted, I got emails from seven or eight faculty members. Medill IMC provides a supportive environment where my academics were a focus, but my other passions were considered assets, too.

Emily was recently hired as the Manager of Marketing for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, an opportunity that came from her Summer Immersion Quarter experience.