Don’t Just “Show Me the Money”

Communications Specialist Heather Young gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the process of writing advancement feature stories.

The news feed for University Advancement and Marketing can sometimes be pretty routine, with cut-and-dry press releases listing the facts and figures of who donated what amount. . .

However, behind each of these donations there are human beings with interesting stories and passions motivating their generous gifts to the University. This is where storytelling can be a powerful tool, not just to inform, educate, and entertain, but it can also inspire, influence and drive action.

Storytelling: from war-torn Afghanistan to the small-town Big Rapids

NATO Headquarters, where Heather Young served as an intern (photo courtesy of NATO).

The art of storytelling is something that I advocated and honed while working at NATO headquarters. As a recent graduate of broadcast and print journalism, I started working at the political, military organization as an intern.  At the time, NATO struggled to explain its role in Afghanistan in a positive light to national constituents. Talking heads were not getting the job done, and so the NATO Channel was born. The concept was to show, not tell, what NATO was doing and why. Six video journalist in Afghanistan put together video stories – from an Afghan doctor who was building medical devices out of scrap metal, to an Afghan women who created a business to employ widows, to stories of soldiers on the frontlines – stories about people. While I can’t give an accurate measure of perception, we did see a significant increase in website views and journalists downloading our video footage. Today it has evolved into an award-winning campaign for the organization, called Return to Hope.

I believe storytelling is one of the best tools an organization can use to advance themselves. Stories can capture our imaginations, arouse our passions and influence our actions in a way that a list of facts can’t do. Now that I am back in the United States and working for Ferris, I hope to share the Ferris story and make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

We are all fundraisers

I actually work in the Communications side of our division, so fundraising really isn’t in my job description. But nonetheless, perhaps I am part of the process, because in communications we create content that can influence perceptions, which in turn can influence decision-making, i.e., the decision to donate or not, or the decision to go to Ferris or to another school.

That’s why advancement stories can be a great opportunity for storytelling and reputation building. So far, I’ve written four web articles, which has given me the opportunity to listen to donors, learn about their passion for Ferris and share their stories. Being new to Big Rapids, it’s been a fantastic way to meet community leaders and learn more about Ferris.

You can find some of the stories I’ve written on The Ferris Foundation website: Alten, Carter, Trimarco and Proctor. Check out the stories, learn about our donors and maybe you’ll decide to donate yourself. If so, I look forward to telling YOUR story soon.

Ferris Foundation Gifts and Grants Committee Reviews Proposals

The Ferris Foundation’s Executive Director, Carla Miller, met with members of The Ferris Foundation Gifts and Grants committee in late March to review numerous grant proposals that have been submitted as part of the Faculty/Staff Merit Grant program at the University. Proposals are funded by the net proceeds of the annual Ferris Foundation Benefit.   The Gifts and Grants Committee is chaired by Ferris Foundation Board Director, Dr. Robert Friar.  Board Directors John Collins, Jr., Bobby LaLonde and John Engleman, along with representatives from the Ferris faculty/staff community, are charged with reviewing all exceptional merit grant proposals submitted to The Ferris Foundation as well as the Foundation’s Opportunity Scholarship. In their final review process, their submissions are all presented to the Ferris Foundation Board for final approval.

The Ferris Foundation’s Gifts and Grant Committee


Plastics and Rubber Program Holds Florida Alumni Reception

With support from the Ferris Alumni Association and Advancement staff, the Plastics and Rubber program in the College of Engineering Technology hosted an alumni reception on March 24, 2015 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Florida.  Program faculty and several students attended “NPE2015: The International Plastics Showcase”, the world’s most important plastics trade show and conference which is held in the United States every three years.

“We took this opportunity to host our reception to provide an opportunity for some excellent alumni engagement and networking,” said Karen Lerew, interim director of Advancement.

Over 100 alumni attended the reception which was sponsored by long-time supporters of the Plastics and Rubber program Asahi Kasei Plastics, Chase Plastics, and Ravago.

Florida Plastics and Rubber Reception
Alumnus Chris Whalen (left), a 1991 graduate of the Plastics Engineering Technology program and a member of its advisory board, is pictured with Robert Speirs, FSU program coordinator.

Barish Renews Scholarship for Surveying Engineering Students

Gilbert Barish

Gilbert Barish, a graduate of Ferris State University and the owner of Geodetic Designs, Inc., in Lansing, Mich., recently renewed and doubled his donation of the Geodetic Designs, Inc. Annual Scholarship for Ferris students majoring in Surveying Engineering. Barish graduated from the program in 2000.

The Geodetic Designs, Inc. Annual Scholarship, created in 2011, is available to junior and senior students with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Karen Lerew, interim director of Advancement, worked with Gilbert on his scholarship renewal.

Barish is an active member of the College of Engineering Technology’s Surveying Engineering Advisory Committee, Lerew said.

For more information about Surveying Engineering scholarships, visit, or email Lerew at

FSU Mascot Program Wins Award


Members of Student Alumni Gold Club received notification that their beloved pooch, Brutus, and their mascot program was honored with an award for Outstanding Internal Program for District 5 by CASE ASAP (Affiliated Student Advancement Programs).

The CASE ASAP program celebrates extraordinary dedication to student advancement in education. The award is a tribute to their achievements and ongoing efforts to advance education and their organization.

All award winning programs for District 5 will be submitted to the National Network  Convention in Washington, D.C. in August.  Good luck to Brutus and congratulations to SAGC!

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