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SMU PRO Opens Doors to Career Opportunities: A Success Story

“Forty percent of white collar jobs will be disrupted or replaced in the next 15 years due to AI, machine learning and other technology advancements. Professionals must learn to be lifelong learners,” says Brad McCormick, principal at 10 Louder, a digital marketing strategies firm, and instructor in digital marketing strategy for the SMU Professional and Online (SMU PRO) initiative.

This prediction mirrors the mindset of the majority of professionals who have enrolled in SMU PRO’s certificate and master’s degree programs. Some professionals become SMU students with a goal of expanding their knowledge and remaining relevant in their area of expertise. Other career-minded students want to launch a new path that may be closer to their passions or will propel their career progression and longevity. Through SMU PRO, professionals can strengthen their resumes and become more marketable for career advancements.

Corporations are also encouraging their employees and providing tuition reimbursement for their team members to stay up-to-date on key industry practices. Industries that are continuously evolving to keep pace with the latest technologies have been popular certificate programs at SMU PRO, including data science, digital analytics, project management, user experience design and more.

“My students are already at large companies who want to level up. Some past students included professionals from Mary Kay, Dallas Cowboys, DFW Airport, as well as company owners, self-employed and small businesses in service industries,” says Dan Sturdivant, senior consultant at Collin Digital Marketing, and SMU PRO instructor for search engine optimization strategies.

SMU PRO Instructors Are Successful Practitioners

Professors and instructors who teach courses and degree programs at SMU PRO are chosen because they are experienced practitioners in their fields. Learning is derived not just from books, but from industry best practices. Metrics and analytics are emphasized, along with the newest tools and dashboards to assist in data-backed decision making.

Most importantly, the instructors share their success journeys, how to avoid and recover from setbacks. Classes regularly include lively discussions about news and current events that impact businesses. Students often comment that insights from their classes are put into practice immediately.

SMU Connections Lead to Career Advancements

One of the unique values for SMU PRO students is access to the university’s unparalleled network in the business world.

Abhi Vyas is an SMU alum (2003) who is marketing lead for digital marketing and personalization at Verizon Wireless. Abhi is also an SMU PRO instructor for mobile marketing and analytics and says, “I owe my first job to my SMU degree and connections. As an international student, the SMU name made me stand out.”

Another remarkable success story includes Mara Zemicael who received a Digital Marketing Certificate in 2016.

When Mara entered the program, she was a marketing coordinator in the financial services industry. Since her background was in public relations and marketing communications, Mara realized she needed technical skills to continue advancing in her career.

While taking the Digital Marketing Analytics class with instructor Rebecca Visconti, Mara stayed after class to ask about search engine optimization (SEO). They soon developed a rapport and Rebecca recommended Mara interview at Rebecca’s employer at the time, BELO & Co.

“I recognized Mara’s excitement about marketing and dedication to continue learning and improving,” said instructor Rebecca Visconti, who is also associate vice president of marketing analytics at Mr. Cooper. “It was clear that she would thrive in a fast-paced environment and quickly grow in her career.”

Although the new role was a lower level position, Mara accepted the job to get more hands-on experience. At BELO, Mara began as SEO optimization specialist, working on SEO and paid search. Mara was quickly promoted to SEO Content Manager, working on keyword strategy as part of overall content development and helping improve clients’ brand presence and reach.

Mara’s career path continued to progress. Today, Mara is Marketing Manager at ACEP, American College of Emergency Physicians. The role allows her to use many of the digital marketing skills she learned at SMU.

Mara says, “SMU programs allow professionals to bridge together experiences and get closer to where they want to go with their career. SMU was well-worth the investment in my career.”


To learn more about SMU PRO’s certificate, master’s degrees and corporate programs, call 214-768-2273 or email