YCP@Work: Michaelean McCormick, Director of Major Gifts for Penn State Cancer Institute at Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine
Michaelean McCormick graduated from York College in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She currently works as Director of Major Gifts for Penn State Cancer Institute at Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, PA.
What made you choose to pursue a degree in this field?
Through some volunteer efforts I pursued in my sorority, I had an opportunity to experience the nonprofit sector early on and I was hooked. A communications degree was the perfect preparation for my future career.
Describe a typical day on the job.
I work in major gift fundraising for Penn State's Cancer Institute, and no two days are the same! Most days I'm communicating with donors who have a passion for medical research and education, and the faculty and medical staff that work in those areas. I often speak with patients who are experiencing a cancer diagnosis, and I am always humbled by their desire to be philanthropic with us despite all they are going through.
I'm fortunate to work alongside many physician researchers who partner with me in the philanthropic process. I also work with an incredible team within the Office of University Development and Alumni Relations who I get to interact with on a daily basis.
How have you used your York College education since graduating?
Only every single day! Communicating is 90% of my work, and I think back to my experience as an undergraduate often. Some of the things that I learned have become so ingrained that they're second nature. Dr. Furio's Interpersonal Communication course comes to mind as one I use regularly.
What is most challenging about a career in this field?
There is no shortage of need, so the demands are considerable. And the work requires a tremendous amount of emotional intelligence and energy. Having said that, it's an incredibly rewarding feeling to know that you are helping to fund potentially life-saving research and patient care.
What do you like best about your career?
No matter how my day or week went, I never doubt for a minute that my work is making a positive impact on the lives of others. Just a quick walk through the halls in this hospital will reinforce that for me. I'm needed here, and even though I will never know the people who benefit from the funds I help to raise, I know that the work is important.
What advice would you have for a student who is just starting out in this major?
Public Relations is such a versatile major, and I would definitely encourage anyone studying it to do some research into fields that PR majors go into that aren't with a big firm. The one thing almost all organizations need to do more of—and better—is communicate with their audiences. Whether it’s in a nonprofit organization, government, finance, etc., your communication skills are extremely valuable. Look around and find something you are passionate about!