Each year alumni return to campus to attend the O’Neill School’s Master’s Program Office’s Spring Experience Day – a one day event for prospective graduate students to meet faculty, staff, alumni, and current students.
This spring, alum Ashley Meruani (BSPA’13, MPA’14) returned to campus for Experience Day and was interviewed by the O’Neill School’s Office of Alumni Relations. Ashley is currently a senior director at CCS Fundraising and provided advice to new students and recent graduates.
“When I was a sophomore in undergrad I attended a SPEA Career Fair where I met Lindsay Marciniak (MPA’10). Lindsay was tabling for CCS Fundraising and she was one of the most poised and professional people I had ever met. She was doing amazing work on a campaign that was saving lives and her firm worked with some of the most well-known names in the nonprofit word. So, every time Lindsay was on campus, I would hear about her visits from SPEA and I made sure that I scheduled time on her calendar. As I was graduating, she invited me to interview at Kiwanis (her client at the time).
I spent two-and-a-half years at the Kiwanis Children’s Fund working on a $110 million campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. I had the privilege of going to Ghana and seeing the incredibly important work that was being done in the field. I learned the best practices of being a frontline fundraiser. When that campaign wrapped up I reached out to Lindsay and another leader from the CCS team. Fast forward and now I’m in my third year with CCS and am working with my sixth client.”
When you graduated, what on your resume set you apart?
“One benefit of being at O’Neill is that you get to do so much experiential learning. I had done internships, but I could also say that I did specific work for organizations. My Capstone project was with Charity Navigator and Dr. Les Lenkowsky. I had the experience of presenting recommendations to the executive director of Charity Navigator, and that’s exactly the kind of work I do now.
In Dr. Kirsten Grønbjerg’s class we each wrote a fundraising plan for a real organization. Then, when I applied to jobs, I had that written plan as an example of the type of work I could accomplish. I also did an internship with the School of Education’s Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration where I worked on a program called the Balfour Pre-College Academy. We invited high school juniors from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to visit IU. We talked to them about academics, clubs, athletics, etc. The program still exists today, and that opportunity came about through my time at O’Neill.”
What advice would you give to a new student?
“Enjoy your time here and network with the people around you. This is your time to build your network with similarly-minded students, as well as with faculty members who are incredibly well versed in their work. Be genuine in your relationships. This experience is unlike anything else. Say “yes” when you can and say “no” when you need to prioritize. Find a couple of things that seem really exciting and engaging. For example, I was on the board of the Nonprofit Management Association, but would also go to IU basketball games. Try to stay up-to-date on relevant news in your sector when you can.”
What advice do you have for a recent graduate?
“Don’t be afraid to reengage, reach back out, and use your resources. The O’Neill School’s Career Hub was instrumental for me and those resources are available to you as an alum. You have a whole network of people who know other people; reach out. And don’t be afraid to apply for something just because you think you might not have the exact right experience. If you’re excited about an organization, then go for it!”
We really enjoyed talking with Ashley and learning more about her career path at Experience Day! O’Neill Bloomington is looking for graduate program alumni to volunteer during next year’s Experience Day on Friday, April 3, 2020. Alumni participants serve on an afternoon panel, chat with current and prospective students, and provide feedback and career advice. Complete a short survey to indicate your interest in the 2020 Experience Day and beyond — we will follow up regarding your interests and see if you are a good fit!