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Phonathon 2017

Students and staff mingle at the Ohio University Phonathon banquet on April 13, 2017.

Photographer: Megan Johnson, BSJ '17

Phonathon 2017

Student employees are recognized for their achievements at the annual Phonathon banquet.

Photographer: Megan Johnson, BSJ '17

Featured Stories

OHIO Phonathon teaches students life, marketing skills

If you’re an Ohio University graduate, you’ve probably received a call that has started something like this: “Hi, my name is Alexandra Whaley and I’m a junior studying communication sciences and disorders.” It’s not a telemarketer or an automated response on the line, it’s a current OHIO student working for the OHIO Phonathon.

The OHIO Phonathon was founded as a way for alumni and friends to give to the University while connecting with students about their shared college experiences. However, the position also strengthens students’ professional demeanor.

The interpersonal skills and experiences gained from working at the call center benefits students. Feeling comfortable talking with strangers, adapting to any kind of situation and keeping a positive attitude are valuable life skills that student callers can apply to their future careers.

“I want to do clinical psychology, and you have to be able to think on your feet,” said Lucas Aschemeier-Brunner, who has worked at the Phonathon since May 2016 and is studying psychology and social criminology. In this job, you have to respond to what people are saying and be able to answer their questions, he said

Located in the Human Resources & Training Center on W. Union St., the call center employs about 75 students per year.

The student callers place between 150 and 300 calls per three-hour shift, depending on how many people answer the phone. While their opening line stays the same, student callers are encouraged to treat the calls as conversations instead of reading from a script. Callers typically talk about three topics related to University events. Current topics include the newly renovated Jefferson Market, McCracken Hall and South Green dorms. 

“We’re often the first hand that gets out to alumni,” said Whaley, a student caller. “We’re one of the main communication links and voices to alumni from the University.”

For many student callers, the best part of the job is getting to talk with alumni about their college memories and experiences. Some share what dorm or off-campus street they lived on, and others recount stories or events that happened during their time at OHIO. Whaley said that while it can be nerve-wracking to call strangers, the great conversations she has with alumni makes it worth it.

“They have so much to give and to say; it’s so cool,” she said. “I love when they share stories that they have; it’s really interesting and a good note to leave a shift on. It just makes your day a little better.”

Working at the call center changed the course of Hanna Merklin’s college and professional career. When she started working at the Phonathon during her sophomore year, Merklin was studying to become a nurse and quickly became one of the top callers at the center. After injuring her back and realizing she didn’t want to continue pursuing a nursing degree, she turned to what she knew she was good at — sales.

The call center helped me realize what I have a passion about, and it definitely helped me figure out my career,” Merklin said. “I wouldn’t be in the place I am now without working in the call center.”

Along with studying marketing, event planning and sales, Merklin now works as a student leader in the call center. Student leaders are made up of a select group of students who train new callers, help their peers hone their giving pitch and keep everyone’s spirits high during a long shift.

Whaley said that working as a student caller has made her feel confident enough to talk to anybody. She’s found that this practiced confidence has helped her excel in internship and job interviews.

“I used to get nervous during interviews because I’ve never met the person and wouldn’t know if they’d like me,” Whaley said. “But now I call 300 people per day and talk to people from across the country, and it’s helped me talk to people and feel confident in myself.”