Heather Day graduated from Waynesburg University in May 2009 earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations. After taking only three years to complete her degree, Day has utilized her education and taken her career to impressive lengths.
Day’s first job post-graduation was as a leasing agent in a housing complex in State College, Pennsylvania, but she soon moved on to a position at Penn State University.
“It was not my favorite job, but I do have some great stories from it! I had moved to a new town and didn’t know the area. I held that position for about six months, and learned about the town and Penn State community,” said Day. “I found a position that was a great fit for me at Penn State, and worked there for more than four years. I worked in Development, specifically Donor Relations, planning events for Penn State donors and alumni. It was such a great experience with a lot of great mentors that shaped my vision for myself.”
Her time at Penn State was certainly impactful, as Day eventually discovered her passion for donor relations. In addition to this, Day was employed at the institution during the Jerry Sandusky scandal, which she had the opportunity to examine from a PR perspective.
“It changed my perspective on how a PR crisis can impact an organization’s image all the way down to each individual employee,” said Day. “Post-scandal, people’s reactions were different to even me saying that I worked at Penn State. An event like that is lasting, and has ripple effects. It certainly made me reflect upon my PR background.”
When she moved on from Penn State, Day did a little more exploring before accepting a position at West Virginia University Health Science Center.
“After leaving State College and moving to Morgantown, initially, I spent some time managing marketing for a local business. It was an opportunity to apply my skills in a different way, but ultimately working in development and donor relations is what I want to do,” said Day.
Day was inspired by the way philanthropy transforms institutions and enables new opportunities, stemming her passion for donor relations.
“I get a front row seat to so many positive experiences from people helping people,” said Day. “It ranges from seeing students enabled to attend college because of scholarships, to faculty who are transforming their profession through discovery and research, to new or improved facilities that improve the experience for many, and it’s all thanks to people or organizations that are compassionate and are giving back.”
According to Day, her education at Waynesburg University was instrumental to her preparedness for the PR field.
“From my experience, successful PR requires good writing, effective design of materials and proper and thoughtful strategy. I feel like I was educated on all of those things at Waynesburg, and then some,” said Day.
She did not settle for simply going to class, however. Day also accredits much of her success to her previous involvement with the PR Team and the Yellow Jacket newspaper, because they provided her with the opportunity to explore her interests and manage her time wisely.
“I started out as a journalism major, but switched to PR as it was more adaptable to different fields and industries and has a broader base of options for jobs. I was heavily involved in the PR team, as well as the newspaper. Since I didn’t come in to the Department of Communication set on PR, the PR team provided opportunities to explore my newfound path and learn more,” said Day. “It can be a lot to take on responsibilities in groups like the PR team or newspaper staff. It takes attention and time, both of which are valuable. However, I feel that they made me more experienced and more knowledgeable. Worth it!”
Heather Day is a stellar example of how enthusiasm for the field, paired with active involvement and hard work, will lead to a rewarding career. She recommends that current PR students explore a variety of career options in public relations, help their communities for experience by looking for volunteer opportunities, and start a blog or online portfolio and positive social media pages. Day also says to “be prepared to work hard and start a career from the bottom up. You learn the most ‘from the trenches’ and become the best kind of leader that way. Have fun, help others, and enjoy your work!”
Teghan Simonton is currently a freshman at Waynesburg University, pursuing a dual major in public relations and journalism. She holds the position of publicity chair for WUPRSSA and copy editor for the Mad Anthony Yearbook. She is also highly involved with the Yellow Jacket student newspaper. When she is not doing these things, she is running for Waynesburg’s Cross Country and Track teams.