BY: Casey Markiewicz (’20)
To start off this semester’s Alumni Spotlights, I had the pleasure of getting to know Marisa Skwiat. Marisa graduated in 2001 with an Ad Hoc degree and obtained her master’s degree in Media Management in 2003.
Right now she is working in New Jersey for PRS In Vivo, a global research agency focusing on packaging, marketing, and new product execution. She’s also a mother of two and just recently celebrated her 10th anniversary with her husband, Mike Skwiat, who also graduated from Marywood.
Casey: What made you choose an Ad Hoc for your major? And then to follow that up with a Master’s in Media Management?
Marisa: I really didn’t want to limit myself with one specific academic path. As I continued through the undergrad coursework, I became less and less interested in the more “hands-on” components of the field and really started to take an interest in the more managerial responsibilities and career prospects. I continued on to graduate school to explore those other, more corporate opportunities.
Casey: Would you encourage other students to pursue an Ad Hoc degree?
Marisa: Definitely! It gives you the opportunity to explore so many different areas, and I think students will find they are so closely mingled “in the real world.” The Ad Hoc program allows you the opportunity to be a much more well-rounded job candidate. Perfect example: At my first job, as an Advertising Assistant at a clothing company, my main responsibilities were clerical but when opportunities arose I was able to say, “Hey, I know how to do that!” and what do you know, I was creating ads and store signage. That was not my immediate academic focus, but I had that knowledge because of the diverse Ad Hoc program.
Casey: Can you tell me what an average day is like at PRS In Vivo?
Marisa: PRS In Vivo focuses mostly on packaging research. My average day consists of setting up and planning focus groups and helping to create our clients’ printed and live stimuli. At PRS In Vivo, we are able to create large 2D shelf prints that allow our respondents to virtually shop from a store shelf. We also own and operate several Shopper
Lab’s. These labs are setup to look just like real stores so we can place any test products/designs right on a shelf. This allows our clients to make clear and informed decisions when thinking about or planning packaging and designs changes.
Casey: What type of qualities do you think someone should have to follow this type of career?
Marisa: Organizational skills are an absolute must. At times, I am managing up to 10 projects at a time, many happening on a global scale. It’s also important to do your homework. You need to instantly become an expert on whatever product you are working on.
Problem solving skills and being able to think out your feet is very necessary as well. Much of my job is putting out fires. I am based in New Jersey, but my projects take place all over the world, so I cannot attend each one to ensure they all go well. At times, I have had to get creative to help resolve an issue. An eye for detail is also a must. Throughout the day, I oversee several graphics files and clients rely on my eyes to ensure they are ready for research.
Casey: What has been your favorite project you’ve done so far in your career? Why?
Marisa: It’s difficult to pinpoint a favorite, but I do enjoy conducting children’s research. It’s always fun to see and hear a child’s perspective. Sometimes we will conduct research for various toy companies and you can see first-hand that kids do say the darnedest things. I also really enjoy working on beer projects. Those focus groups definitely yield some fun feedback from respondents!
Casey: What are some words of advice you have for current Communication Arts students?
Marisa: I would say to explore any and all possibilities. This major can be extremely far reaching if you allow it to be. Since I was a little girl, I always thought I would be a camera woman (on Saturday Night Live, to be specific) and I actually continued to believe that until about junior year. Although my career (now) falls under the umbrella of the Ad Hoc program, it is definitely not what I had originally envisioned for myself. And the bonus, I can edit my own home movies in my spare time.
Casey Markiewicz is a freshman Public Relations/Advertising major. When she’s not in class or writing for Frame Your Future, she’s getting involved in the PRSSA/AAF organization.