Kate GinnardSeptember 15, 2020
Originally from southern Illinois, Kate graduated from Truman in 2016 with degrees in Communication and Spanish. She moved to State College, PA, and began working for Pennsylvania State University as a Stewardship Assistant. In 2018, Kate transitioned to frontline fundraising as a part of the Annual Leadership Gifts team. In this role, Kate travels to Virginia, the Midwest, and Southern California. When she is not on the road meeting Penn Staters, Kate enjoys the nature that Central PA and the surrounding areas have to offer. You can often find her with her yellow lab, Hunter, hiking, kayaking, and camping.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
I graduated in 2016 with a concentration in public communication.
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I worked for a few semesters as a publicity representative for Detours Magazine. I was most heavily involved with Phi Sigma Pi and served as President for one year. I also worked as a student caller for Tel-Alumni and had an internship in the Office of Advancement, which helped me to discover the career I wanted to pursue.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I have gone back to school to pursue my Master’s degree in Public Administration. I didn’t go directly after Truman because I wanted to take a break from school and focus on starting a career. When I started working at Penn State, I wanted to take advantage of the benefit of having a tuition discount, so I started the MPA program through Penn State World Campus, the online platform for the University. I’ve been taking classes part time, usually one class each term, while continuing to work full-time. I’m just a few classes away from finishing!
What was your first job after graduation?
After graduating, I moved to State College, PA, and my first job out of school was working as a Financial Consultant at PNC Bank; however, I knew I did not want to continue working in the retail banking industry. I continued to apply for positions at Penn State, where I wanted to work in their Development (fundraising) operations. I was only at the bank for 8 months before I got my first job in what I consider my career path. That job was as a Stewardship Assistant in the Office of Donor Relations and Special Events at Penn State.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
Now, I work as an Assistant Director of Annual Leadership Giving at Penn State. This role is a frontline fundraising position and I travel across the country to meet with alumni and friends of the University.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
A liberal Arts and COMM degree has helped me to become a critical thinker. The skills I learned at Truman have helped me with abstract thought and reasoning that has become critical in my profession.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I really did not like Communication Theory at the time (Sorry Dr. Klyukovski!), but still to this day I can remember the theories that I learned in that class and can apply many of them to situations in my life and work.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
My greatest accomplishment at Truman was completing my degrees. I had to pay my own way through school and that meant working very hard. I worked three jobs while I was a student, was very active in my organizations, and was still able to graduate in 4 years with two degrees (I also have a degree in Spanish!). It was tough at times to juggle all the responsibilities, but it’s still the achievement that I’m most proud of. It took a lot of discipline and determination that I still carry with me as a reminder today when I’m feeling overwhelmed by competing priorities.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
The experiences you have at Truman are invaluable. Being at a smaller school, I was able to get to know my professors and see that they were genuinely invested in my success as a student. I never felt like I was just one of thousands of students – I felt like an individual. I think I would have done fine at a larger institution, but I don’t think that I would have excelled the way that I did at Truman.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
Search out an extra-curricular experience that is meaningful to you. While I enjoyed and learned so much from my classes, the out-of-classroom experiences are what had the biggest impact for me. I studied abroad in Spain and had an internship. For you, it may be an internship across the country, a research opportunity, or something else. Don’t let obstacles stand in your way of having these opportunities – make them happen.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
Do it! Some people have a negative view of fundraising and you always get the jokers who will say, “oh hide your wallets!” But joking aside, this is extremely valuable work in our world. In my role in a major research institution, I am a small part in helping secure resources for students who are pursuing their education and achieving their goals. Whether that’s in the form of a study bubble in the library, lab equipment, or a scholarship, I’m working to bring those resources to those who need it. And who knows… maybe one of those students that received one of those scholarships goes on to solve world hunger!
The biggest piece of advice I could give is to make sure you are raising money for something you believe in yourself. It’s hard to convince someone to give their money to a cause that you don’t even see the value in.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
Ok, there’s a lot that I miss in Kirksville.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“There’s no S in Communication”
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
I have no idea what it would be called, but it would be about how communication builds relationships and would have a splash of persuasion theory in there.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
I think you covered it all – well done! (Editor’s note: Thank you.)
If you would like to learn more of Kate’s story, you can follow her on LinkedIn.