The start of the school year means a fresh start, not only for first-year students, but for new faculty as well. Janna Parker is a new professor in the marketing department. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from California State University, Sacramento, as well as a Master of Business Administration from Cameron University and a Doctor of Business Administration in marketing from Louisiana Tech University. Parker started her career in political campaigns and has conducted research in areas of sustainability and retailer advertising. She is teaching Strategic Internet Marketing, a senior-level course. 

You’re a professor of Strategic Internet Marketing. For those not in the business world, what does this mean?

With Internet marketing, there is the side of it that is the IT (Information Technology) part, which consists of jobs such as writing the codes. There’s also the creative, strategic side that works with an organization, whether it’s a company or a nonprofit, and [its] overall goals. We’re seeing that it’s important for companies to have an online presence, integrated with their offline activities. In this class, students learn how to look at websites and make their own websites using a drag-and-drop platform. They also become skilled in email marketing and social media campaigns. [Students] will work in groups to create strategic social media plans for some local businesses. This is an experiential project that also gets to help the community.   

Why do you think marketing is such an important field right now?

Not only is marketing about providing information, but it’s about providing value to customers and to stakeholders. When we look at marketing, people sometimes have a negative view. It’s not about trying to trick people into buying things they don’t need. In that case, you have hurt your reputation, and they are not going to come back as a repeat customer. Marketing is about finding what your customer’s needs are, and then finding ways to fulfill those needs. Advertising is just one small part of it.  

What stood out the most in your experiences at other universities you’ve attended?

Back when I was an undergraduate, education was a one-way form of communication.  Professors mostly got up at the front of the class and lectured. I think we have changed in education, adopting a philosophy of engaging with students and the experiential learning. Students are involved in their education and are not just passive learners. That’s why James Madison was such a great fit for me; that philosophy here is also how I teach my classes.  

What was the most important lesson you learned as a student?

I learned that sometimes students look at general education classes, and think, ’Why am I taking this?’ I think that anything that I ever had the opportunity to learn has at some point come back in life to benefit me in a way that I didn’t think it would. Students should look at every topic [as an] opportunity to learn about as one that could maybe change their career path. 

What advice would you give to students graduating from college and entering the marketing world?

I think that it’s important for them to understand personal branding. This applies to students in other fields as well. You want to show that you’re different from the others, and that you have unique skills and talents. Being unique is a great quality to have — you don’t want to blend in. Also, it’s important for students to take advantage of any networking opportunities they have. You never know when an opportunity will come. You shouldn’t look at networking as being just about you, instead look at it for developing relationships. 

contact Jamie Simpkins at simpkij@dukes.jmu.edu