Abigail Fern has held positions of both education and marketing, though now she will hold position for both at Pitt State. Fern, hired as the university’s first ever Chief Marketing and Communication Officer (CMCO), will begin her position full-time Monday, Oct. 8.
As CMCO, Fern will lead the university’s marketing strategies directly and handle all communication efforts. Fern, PSU alumna, holds a bachelor’s degree in history and is currently finishing her master’s. She previously worked at Pitsco beginning in 2000; from 2003 to 2016 she was head of marketing for Lego Education North America, and returned to Pitsco in January 2017.
“Oh, I’m really excited about it,” Fern said. “I love marketing, it’s what I’m built to do, so I’m happy to be back in marketing, especially for Pitt State. So, I came to school here, and I ended up staying in Pittsburg and we spend a lot of time at Pittsburg State University doing lots of things just with our family, and so then, it being my alma mater, I really appreciate being able to help the university grow.”
As Chris Kelly, previously associate vice president of marketing and communication, moved to the athletics department, Fern will takeover Kelly’s previous responsibilities under the new title CMCO. Fern plans to begin her initiative with the university by getting to know her marketing and communication team and evaluate potential challenges.
“… I really like brand building, making sure that the brand’s message is consistently communicated,” she said. “I just really like helping brands grow … And I like helping people connect to brands in a very personal way; I connect to the Pittsburg State University brand in a very personal way and I want other people feel that way. …”
Though Fern’s degree is in history, her expertise is centered on education and marketing, as her work experiences have all entailed K-12 education.
“… I didn’t necessarily make a plan to be in marketing, that wasn’t my intent when I started school there, but it’s what I found that I loved once I got into the workforce; it’s what I gravitated to, it’s what I enjoy doing,” she said.
As CMCO, as well as the entire marketing and communication unit, recently moved to the president’s division, she will report directly to PSU President Steve Scott. She also will take a seat on the president’s council, where policy matters and important university decisions are discussed.
“I think that’s going to serve to elevate the importance of our marketing and communications efforts,” Scott said. “… I’ve spent a lot of time with that unit over time and it’s almost like it’s organically happening that it makes sense that that office would report directly to me. Because … one of the most important things that presidents have to deal with would be the image of the institution… But you just think about… that whenever we’re marketing, we’re also communicating and whenever we’re communicating, we’re also marketing. So, it’s really just building this brand for Pittsburg State University and helping us attract students and resources… because this is a very special place, it is a terrific institution, I believe that.”
Scott said Fern’s corporate background interested him, saying it could enlighten new perspectives and energy. Scott is hopeful about what Fern will bring to the table, emphasizing brand development and enrollment growth.
“I’m just very excited about this, I really am,” Scott said, “And we’ve made a lot of progress… in telling our story and I think there’s even more room for us to do even better… we’re just going to continue to work to better tell that story because we do have a great story to tell.”
Fern said she is excited to begin her new position side-by-side students while diving back into the marketing industry.
“… I wanted to apply for this position because I wanted to go back to marketing,” Fern said. “My role (at Pitsco) is not in marketing and that was intentional, I wanted to try something different and get that experience… I always intended to go back to marketing at some point in my career and this is a great opportunity because it’s such a great brand. I wouldn’t leave Pitsco for just anywhere, but leaving it for Pittsburg State University is exciting because it’s such a great place to go with a good mission and doing good things for the world.”