Katie Fenton, Online Reporter
In fourth grade, Nicole Ferris knew she wanted to be an ESPN news sportscaster; but now, she’s the new donor and alumni relations manager at Pierce College.
Ferris works with the college’s foundation, a non-profit organization that provides students with scholarships funded by a variety of donors.
As the new donor and alumni relations manager, Ferris coordinates donor recognition and stewardship, handles distribution of funds in accordance with donor intent and coordinates communications and activities with Pierce College alumni.
“It’s a new position,” Ferris said. “Already I’m involved with some scholarship application reviews, (and) I’ve learned so much (about) Pierce and the students here just by reading the applications.”
Ferris grew up in a military family and lived in England before moving to Washington to attend Washington State University, where she received her bachelors in communications.
Her major placed an emphasis on broadcast production. Ferris participated in the production of a mini documentary before she realized her interests changed.
“I got my mind around business, which is what I really, really loved,” Ferris said. “It’s about being able to strategize and implement a plan. Sometimes it can be very successful and sometimes not, but knowing that you have the ability to influence outcomes is pretty cool.”
Ferris went on to become an executive team leader at a Target store in Washington D.C. and later the senior director for membership engagement at the Dale Turner Family YMCA in Seattle.
With her passion for business, Ferris implemented a new system of engagement strategies for YMCA staff. Ferris has experience with outreach and fundraising, which she said helped prepare her for this new role at Pierce.
“Especially working at the YMCA, donor relations was a huge part of a non-profit organization,” she said. “I’m very passionate about that, especially in the community in which I live.”
The position at Pierce appealed to Ferris because her family shares a rich history with the college. Her sister started her volleyball career at the Fort Steilacoom campus, while her mom and dad attended the college.
According to an article on PierceNews, Pierce was ranked the most military friendly community college in America. When Ferris read the article, she decided she wanted to get involved with the school because the military played a key role in her upbringing.
“My husband is in the Marines, so military is a huge part of my life and I wanted to get reconnected to that community and be able to give back,” Ferris said.
As the new donor and alumni relations manager, Ferris wants to improve the sense of community at Pierce. She wants to organize events similar to TED talks, which are short, inspirational speeches that cover a variety of topics.
Ferris said the talks would be called “PACE Talks,” inspired by an acronym she came up with, which stands for positivity, accessibility, community involvement and excellence. Pierce alumni would host the talks, allowing them to be engaged with the campus and meet current students.
“There’s a person behind the scholarship,” Ferris said. “And there’s going to be a person who’s receiving the scholarship.”
She also wants the foundation to gain more recognition and encourages students to get involved.
“There’s so much more that goes into the scholarships that people don’t realize,” Ferris said. “A lot of donors have a specific intent where they want the money to be given to a military family member or a single parent going through college or somebody with a disability.”
For more information about the foundation, scholarships and donations, interested staff and students can speak with Ferris or Marion Sharp, director for development or visit the foundation’s website, http://www.pierce.ctc.edu/foundation/.
“There’s so much scholarship money available,” Ferris said. “It’s free money waiting to be given to somebody. The foundation is a great resource for people who have questions about scholarships (and) they can guide them to the right resources on campus.”
Ferris also encourages students to apply for scholarships even if they think they won’t receive it.
“Apply, even if you don’t think you’re qualified or that you’d get it, apply for it,” Ferris said. “The stories that people have to share are amazing, and everyone has a story. Nobody’s story is too small for something like a scholarship.”
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