The School of Journalism and Media at the University of Mississippi has long had a global reach, but the story behind one integrated marketing communications graduate (IMC) student’s journey to the school is unique.
Zebiba Miftah Nassir is an advertising and sales promotion manager with Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa. As the second child and only daughter of six, Nassir said she was raised in a humble Muslim family of community leaders and mentors.
“I grew up in a community with a lot of love and encouragement that nothing could hinder me from achieving my dreams and ambition,” she said.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts with Great Distinction in Language and Literature and a minor in history from Addis Ababa University before joining Ethiopian Airlines in 1996.
“The main reason why I joined the airline is because of the love I have for the brand and my aspiration to join a leading enterprise,” she said. “As a flagship airline, Ethiopian Airlines has the love and admiration of most of Ethiopians. So, I fell in love with the brand during my childhood.
“Whenever I saw how highly the public regarded the company, employees of all status, their service buses routing in the city, ads, as well as the aircrafts with the ‘three color feather,’ I would say to myself, ‘I have to join this company.’ Even after 24 years of service, my love and passion hasn’t changed.”
Nassir said Ethiopian Airlines continuously adapts to be competitive. In 2018, leaders of the airline began talking with UM School of Journalism and New Media administrators about creating an opportunity to train the airline’s marketing force with a vision to instill enhanced and cutting-edge IMC skills in key personnel. The following year, the airline established an IMC division to create synergy within the marketing departments and created a pathway for employees to earn a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications at UM.
“I explored the opportunity that was announced in the company and decided to be among the first students to join the IMC program,” she said. “I met the selection criteria and succeeded with the best performance on the entrance exam.”
Associate Professor Robert Magee said Nassir has consistently been an engaged student and a sharp critical thinker.
“I can understand why the airline values her in her executive role,” he said. “I believe her strong experience in advertising and sales enables her to make the most of the graduate program in IMC.”
Nassir said the UM School of Journalism and New Media’s master’s program equips students with comprehensive knowledge of the elements of integrated marketing communications and guides them to understand what it takes to be a self-sufficient account planner. The master’s program has several courses focused on consumer research and insights, effective graphic design, storytelling, and communication strategies, among other areas of focus.
“One of the important aspects of marketing I grasped from this class that has stuck with me is that marketing experts should first study what the consumer is looking for or the problem to produce the solution (product/service),” she said. “Then, they should communicate the brand’s message to the target audience with a unified/consistent message across all touchpoints (‘outside-in approach’).”
The school’s interim dean, Professor Deb Wenger, said the partnership with Ethiopian Airlines has been extraordinarily beneficial to the IMC master’s program.
“We have been delighted with the caliber of students enrolled through this relationship,” Wenger said. “Mrs. Nassir is one good example of the airline’s standard of excellence for its personnel. The fact that we can share the expertise of our faculty with the employees of such an outstanding and innovative global enterprise expands our reach and influence, and helps us further our mission to lead and excel in the education of a diverse body of students.”
Nassir said she has tried to apply what she has learned in the IMC master’s program on the job. One example of an extensive IMC campaign is the airline’s “Go Digital Campaign” to promote a mobile app for an end-to-end digital travel option. She said her team executed a successful campaign and received a rewarding result with one million users of the mobile app.
“In general, the program has helped me a lot in gaining insight in relation to managing different campaigns,” she said. “I am already applying most of the lessons to our ongoing IMC campaigns. I will keep on implementing these new IMC concepts and techniques so that my company can continue to have result-oriented integrated marketing campaigns that have real time and tangible outcomes.”
Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs Marquita Smith commended Mrs. Nassir for managing her full-time work schedule with the demands of family and distance learning.
“Zebiba is one of our top online students, and she’s an example of how new knowledge can translate into every day success stories,” Smith said. “It is my hope that Zebiba will inspire other working professionals, especially African women, to continue their educations.”
Nassir is a student in the school’s online IMC master’s degree program. The program is currently enrolling students for the 2021-2022 academic year and will be accepting applications through July 31. Visit https://gradschool.olemiss.edu/apply-now/ for more information about the admissions process.