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 worked for five years (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 journalists 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.

Success for Grad Fair

Over 800 soon-to-be alumni attended Graduation Fair on Tuesday, March 24 in the University Center.  Students were able to purchase their cap and gown, visit their college departments, receive information on the new electronic ticket process and much more.

Representatives from the Copy Center, Financial Aid, Graduate Studies, and the Center for Leadership, Activities and Career Services were also on hand to greet students and guide them through the graduation process and offer on-campus services.

Highlights of the fair included the opportunity for students to have a free picture taken in their cap and gown and also to make a video greeting for their family and friends to be shown before commencement in May. Students received information on the benefits of becoming a member of the Alumni Association and were registered to win door prizes graciously donated by all participating Grad Fair departments and vendors.

Talking Crisis Communication with PR Students

News Services and Social Media Manager Sandy Gholston had a great opportunity to collaborate with Ferris Department of Public Safety Director Bruce Borkovich for a presentation to students from the University’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter on Thursday, Feb. 19. The topic of the presentation was “Communication in a Crisis Situation.”

Sandy Gholston, News Services and Social Media Manager, and Bruce Borkovich, director of the Department of Public Safety.
Sandy Gholston, News Services and Social Media Manager, and Bruce Borkovich, director of the Department of Public Safety.

The speaking invitation was extended by Kaitlyn Baase, president of the Ferris State University chapter of PRSSA. Kaitlyn also is one of Sandy’s News Services and Social Media Department students. The opportunity to engage the Ferris PR students was outstanding for the presenters. The students were engaged and asked good questions to strengthen their knowledge of public relations by hearing how it worked in real situations. It was a theory-meets-practice model for the students, future PR professionals.

Bruce and Sandy shared their experiences, including the importance of collaboration, during several crisis situations at Ferris during 2014.  The presentation focused on fundamentals of communication in a crisis situation as well as the steps in a crisis situation from start to finish and some of the key players that are typically involved.

Bruce and Sandy talked about how much they enjoy opportunities to talk to Ferris students and to answer their questions.

Read the Ferris PRSSA perspective on the presentation, here.

UA&M Marketing and Communications Team Wins National Awards

2014-15 Admissions Recruitment Package

The University Marketing and Communications team has earned national recognition for its creative work in support of Ferris State University. The team received three awards in the 30th annual Educational Advertising Awards competition:

Silver — 2013 Ferris Foundation Annual Report

Bronze — Fall 2014 Ferris Magazine

Bronze — 2014-15 Admissions Recruitment Package

2013 Ferris Foundation Annual Report

The 2013 Ferris Foundation Annual Report and the Fall 2014 edition of Ferris Magazine were designed by senior graphic designer Christa Bull. The 2014-15 Admissions Recruitment Package was designed by graphic designer Nate Clark. Director of Marketing Anne Hogenson, communications specialist Betsy Musolf, photographer Bill Bitzinger and multimedia coordinator Rich Piippo created content for the publications.

“It is always nice for the quality of our team’s work to be recognized at the national level,” Hogenson said. “However, we couldn’t produce publications at this level if it weren’t for the wonderful activities of those in the Ferris State community; they give us the stories to tell and images to share.”

Fall 2014 Ferris Magazine

The competition, presented by the Higher Education Marketing Report, is the largest educational advertising awards competition in the United States. This year, more than 2,000 entries were received from more than 1,000 colleges, universities and secondary schools from all 50 states and several foreign countries.

The entries were judged by a national panel of higher education marketers, advertising creative directors, marketing and advertising professionals and the editorial board of the Higher Education Marketing Report.

Harris Scholarship Will Help Environmental Biology Students

Ed and Elaine Harris have made a generous gift to Ferris State University in honor of Ed’s parents, Edward and Marquita Rothe, who worked hard to make it possible for Ed to attend Ferris. As a tribute to his parents, the Harrises created the Edward G. and Marquita L. Rothe Endowed Scholarship for students majoring in Environmental Biology. The connection ties Ed’s father’s work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to Ferris students pursuing a career in the conservation and management of Michigan’s natural resources.

Ed, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from Ferris in 1971, and Elaine attended the Ferris men’s basketball game against Michigan Tech on Feb. 5 along with senior Advancement officer Mark Roof, Biology Department chair Joe Lipar, Environmental Biology program coordinator Paul Klatt and Holli Nichols, a senior Environmental Biology student from Grand Rapids, to further discuss the program and the Harrises’ endowment.

“Such scholarship support for our students can create opportunities and change lives,” Roof said. “We are extremely grateful for such generosity.”

For more information about the Harris endowed scholarship or to make a contribution, email Mark at

Harris Scholarship
From left: Joe Lipar, Paul Klatt, Holli Nichols and Elaine and Ed Harris.