One AU student not enough for OFIC internship program

ASHLAND, Ohio – When the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges (OFIC) was seeking a marketing intern earlier this fall, it decided that one Ashland University student wasn’t enough.

After combing through 20-plus applicants and interviewing several for what was thought to be a single position, Cassie Burnham and Katie Foster, both public relations and strategic communication majors at Ashland, had risen to the top. The OFIC couldn’t decide who to select, so it hired them both.

Turns out there was plenty of work for each of them, as Burnham focused on the student side of OFIC and Foster on the corporate side. The OFIC, founded in 1950, connects corporate and foundation donors with high-achieving students from across Ohio. It solicits corporate donations and distributes funds to member institutions, which in turn impacts local economies and provides opportunities for corporations to strengthen and multiply their pool of future college-educated workers.

“After several rounds of interviews, we narrowed our talent pool down to two candidates, both Ashland University students. Our team was so impressed. Katie and Cassie’s work-ready professionalism and ability to contribute to content creation, graphic design projects and a campus engagement strategy was remarkable,” stated OFIC President Bill Spiker.

The focus of Burnham’s internship was to educate the 33-member colleges and universities about the OFIC’s services. She interviewed students who had scholarships through OFIC to learn how the financial assistance impacted them. Specific efforts Burnham initiated to raise student awareness included pursuing a school representative at each campus to help promote the organization.

Burnham, a junior from Ashtabula, Ohio, who is double majoring in religion, is very appreciative of the experience that in a short time has provided her an array of public relations duties from marketing and design to social media management. “This internship gave me a lot of perspective in several ways. It was all virtual, so it gave me a lot of practice with time management and working independently. It was also for a big (organization), it was for the entire state, which was an amazing opportunity. I also learned how to stay within brand guidelines … I have to learn to market within those guidelines. I know that in the future I’ll have to do a lot of similar things, so I’m grateful for that,” she said.

For her work with the donors, Foster utilized an Ohio University economic study that established the significant impact colleges and universities make within their communities and the state as a whole. Utilizing a growing concept called the “war for talent,” she underscored the importance of OFIC members’ relationship to corporations, illustrating the cycle of higher education institutions preparing a steady pipeline of students to provide their future workforce and those same corporations assisting to make education affordable.

Foster, a junior who grew up in Shelby, Ohio, felt her duties combined her major and minor (digital media journalism) perfectly together. Working with a variety of mediums, she edited promotional videos and audio summaries, wrote press releases and summaries and dabbled with a bit of infographics for social media, not only expanding her résumé but helping her hone in on a career path. “It was really exciting. It (has made) me realize where I want to be. I’m happier doing promotional things for companies,” she explained.

Burnham and Foster are thankful that the OFIC made room for each of them. Foster will continue interning with OFIC during the spring semester, while Spiker believes the decision to hire both was valuable for all parties involved as well as a testament to Ashland. “Their experiences in Ashland University’s public relations and strategic communications program prepared them to successfully obtain and complete our internship program, and without a doubt will enable them to secure employment, become contributing citizens and enhance Ohio’s economy after graduating,” said Spiker.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.