Digital media degree opens doors

October 07, 2019

Magdalena Owczarska headshot

Magdalena Owczarska, MS ‘17, is a graduate of Quinnipiac’s MS in Interactive Media and Communications with a concentration in user experience design. In this program, she not only “gained insight related to theories, principles and strategies in the field,” but immediately applied what she learned in her digital media degree to her work.

As a child, Owczarska immigrated to the United States from Poland with her parents and only a couple of suitcases. Her parents taught her that hard work pays off. While her classmates were going to high school dances, Owczarska was going to work so that she could save for college.

Her parents were right - she graduated Summa Cum Laude Honors from Central Connecticut State University in 2011 and went on to pursue her master’s degree in interactive media at Quinnipiac a few years later. In her last semester at QU, Owczarska was hired as the Digital Solutions Manager at Connecticut-based advertising agency, Mintz + Hoke, has been promoted twice and is now the agency’s Senior Experience Designer. In her current role, Owczarska collaborates with cross-functional teams to create user-centered digital solutions for clients.

Quinnipiac’s interactive media and communications program prepared her for her professional role and she “couldn’t be happier or more proud.” Owczarska says the digital media courses taught her skills in presentation, critical thinking and collaboration while providing hands-on experience in digital tools that she uses in her current role for user research, information architecture, user interface design, prototyping and testing.

Owczarska’s focus is her professional life, however, this program also allowed her to combine her talent and one of her passions. She used the program as an opportunity to promote adoption of senior dogs by creating a website called Grandpa Dachshund’s Secrets.

The site was created to educate people with dogs on what to expect as their dogs age and to commemorate her beloved senior dog, Phílíp. Although the mini-dachshund passed away at 18 years old, Owczarska shared his adventures and tugged at the heartstrings of over 3,400 followers through his own Instagram account @grandpa.dachshund. This capstone project, a degree requirement, is now part of her professional portfolio, showcasing her digital media talent.

Owczarska credits Quinnipiac with her ability to confidently use the communication, design and digital skills she learned to excel in her profession: “The MS in Interactive Media and Communications program propelled me through the digital world, and I am excited to see where it takes me next."

Q & A

Why did you choose Quinnipiac?

Quinnipiac is a well-revered university known for being on top of the latest knowledge in the digital field, so choosing Quinnipiac for my graduate degree over another university was a no-brainer. The Interactive Media program’s professors provided a well-structured curriculum, additional help for more challenging topics and resources to gain insights that would take my learning experience to the next level. Because I live in Connecticut, I also wanted the option to be able to meet with my professors.

What made your Quinnipiac experience special?

My Quinnipiac experience was exclusively online, but I was always connected to my colleagues via chats, email, video conference, social, and phone. Not only was I able to network with other brilliant individuals in my field, I am now also able to apply everything I learned in the interactive media program to my full-time job on a regular basis.

Have you overcome any obstacles to achieve your goals?

Time and money. To achieve my goals, I had to exercise exceptional time management because of professional and personal responsibilities in addition to my course load. Many times I would come home from work exhausted, but still had to focus on multiple assignments due that week.

Unfortunately, this meant late nights and weekends devoted to course work. Because the program is online and assignments typically had a week before the due date, I had the flexibility to allocate different amounts of time each day to completing my work.

The other obstacle I mentioned was money. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I knew I wanted to get my master’s, but needed to take several years off to afford it. I was used to working multiple jobs and tutoring to pay for college, so I just did what my parents had taught me to do. I lived in a couple of crummy apartments, worked, and saved as much as I could.

Sometimes I think back and wonder how I did it, but I’m happy. Higher education opens up a lot of doors. It’s a long-term investment.

How did you decide on digital media for your career?

When you think about how much of our lives are now digital: connecting with people, shopping, banking, looking for information, etc., there are a lot of opportunities to create experiences that will make people happy or (unfortunately in many cases) unhappy.

A challenge for people working with digital media is understanding that digital experiences are not one-size-fits-all. It’s important to empathize with the end-user in their own individual circumstances of using the digital product, in order to truly understand their experience.

Having worked in customer service, I saw the value in taking a close look at individual experiences from the customer’s perspective, and leveraging insights to make improvements; these are the same principles applied in user-centered design. In the digital space, I can leverage research from the perspective of the end-user in addition to research from big data to strategically design digital experiences that make the user successful and happy.

What was the online learning experience like?

I found the online learning experience rewarding because it not only helped me focus (I personally get very distracted with in-class dynamics), but it also expanded resources beyond the classroom in a well-structured and well-organized way. It was also nice to be able to put on some sweats and not have to sit under fluorescent lighting.

Can you tell me about your experiences with a professor you had?

Although all of the classes were online, each professor structured and managed the courses differently. Some professors were more involved and hands-on, while others more hands-off. Despite their differences, all of the professors were readily available to help clarify and guide.

In the same respect, my needs for each course were also different. For example, in the more hands-on Introduction to Front-End Development course, Professor Gruhn was always available to help check our lines of code, but also encouraged us to take advantage of the internet’s vast amount of existing resources. I was not only learning how to structure HTML, but how to find information even after the course was done, when I would no longer have Professor Gruhn to kindly check my code.

What advice would you give to someone if they were thinking about returning to school for a master’s degree?

My advice to anyone thinking about going back for their master’s is: Find something you’re passionate about. Even if it’s not directly related to your passion, there is a track that will help get you into a field you will enjoy. I enjoy helping people, and I do that by helping them have positive digital experiences. Find your passion, find a way to infuse your life with ways you can help that passion grow, and if going back to school for your master’s may help, then make it happen. It’s worth it.

If you are thinking about taking your digital media design career to the next level, want to learn something new or are looking for a career change, click here to see QU’s Interactive Media and Communications program.

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