OHIO alumna Ashley Laber carries lessons learned at OHIO into her career
When Ashley Laber came to Ohio University, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study, or what kind of career she wanted to pursue after college. She credits OHIO with helping her develop strong communication skills and the experiences that have served her well as she has taken on different roles in her professional career.
Laber entered University College undecided before declaring a major in communication studies and earning her degree from the Scripps College of Communication in 2011. When she graduated from OHIO, Laber was ready for a taste of big city life, so she moved to the New York City metropolitan area. There, she was able to parlay her experience planning events for Parents and Siblings Weekends as a member of University Program Council into an internship planning and executing special events at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club.
“That first role really built toward subsequent roles after that and that's where the whole fundraising area of my career kicked off,” Laber said.
Laber then spent four years in a communications and fundraising role for the YMCA of Greater New York, specifically impacting neighborhoods in Brooklyn. From New York City, Laber made the move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she worked as the development coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. Laber served as a liaison for patient families who had had experiences at the hospital and wanted to give back to children through the hospital and its foundation. She loved her work with families and doctors and found meaning in helping families stay connected with the hospital through philanthropy and annual events.
After 10 years of working in the nonprofit world planning events and working on fundraising, Laber decided she was ready for professional growth. She transitioned into a role as a physician liaison at Cancer Expert Now, a company that offers on-demand personalized cancer education and support through an online educational platform connecting patients, oncologists, and employers with global leaders in oncology.
In her new role, Laber connects and onboards physicians to the Cancer Expert Now digital platform which helps link physicians with patients and people with a recent cancer diagnosis or life science (pharmaceutical) companies. She also recruits physicians outside of the oncology field as the company expands its offerings to other medical specialties.
“The same experts that I recruit may also help patients who are looking for a second opinion on a recent diagnosis,” Laber explained. “It's really nice to have a part in recruiting those physicians even though I'm not sitting in on those patient interactions.”
She is proud to work with a company that is positively impacting patient lives. Building meaningful relationships has been an important part of every role Laber has taken on, whether she is connecting with patients and their families or engaging with physicians.
Though Laber now lives and works in Pittsburgh, nestled in a different set of hills, the hills of southeast Ohio and Athens will always have a special place in her heart.
She has fond memories of her time at OHIO and all the local businesses like Brenen’s Café, Donkey Coffee, and the Farmacy Natural Food Store that make Athens unique. Last year she returned to Athens and OHIO to gather with friends for their 10-year class reunion.
Laber appreciated her rich first-year experience at OHIO where she had the opportunity to join student organizations, meet people from different backgrounds, and explore her academic options.
“OU does such a good job of providing opportunities to figure things out,” Laber said.
Laber added that her first-year Learning Community helped her make connections and feel supported while exploring her academic options at OHIO.
“That experience getting to know our cohort of students helped me feel more comfortable exploring different options because I was learning and meeting all these people,” Laber said. “All of those students came from different backgrounds and had different ideas of where they wanted to go.”
She appreciated the support of her Learning Community and her Learning Community instructor, Dr. David Descutner, who was then the dean of University College, along with Learning Community Leader Didi Chilcott, now the transfer and relocate student services coordinator for University College. Not surprisingly, Laber later became a Learning Community leader herself and helped other Bobcats build connections and community.
Laber said she had a few hurdles to overcome as a first-generation college student navigating the college and financial aid application process. She remembers seeking help from her neighbors with her college applications and financial aid forms. Once she became a Bobcat, she found support from her advisors and professors.
Sandy Rawlins, Laber’s University College advisor, was an important source of support and guidance.
“She was always there, encouraging me to get involved in different organizations, try new internships, and take advantage of all the opportunities that OU offered,” Laber said.
As a student Laber took full advantage of experiential learning opportunities, helping to plan and organize events with University Program Council, serving as a work-study student in the Scripps College, helping first-year students as a Learning Community leader, and completing several internships including one planning special events at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Laber grew up in the Akron and Canton, Ohio, area so she welcomed the opportunity to spread her wings and travel south to Ohio University. A visit to campus was all it took for Laber to choose OHIO.
“I just fell in love with the campus,” Laber said. “How can you not? How do you say no to Ohio University? It seemed like OU was in this perfect college town (Athens) and you could really have so many different experiences. Everybody was so welcoming.”
There were also several classes that made a big impact on Laber. During an interpersonal communications class taught by Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth, Laber realized that even though she’d been communicating for years, there was a theory of interpersonal communication that she could put into practice and carry with her into her life and career.
She noted that the field of communication and related careers is constantly changing so it’s hard to tell what the field will look like in 10 years. The job she has is one that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
“The position that I'm in right now didn't even exist when I graduated,” Laber said. “Advances in communication and technology are continuing to change the health care landscape. The company I am with wasn't even formed 10 years ago when I was entering the workforce."
As she progresses in her career, Laber said she tries to focus on the jobs she has and building relationships with her coworkers.
“No matter where you end up going or what job you end up taking, whether it's your first job or your fifth job, you have the ability to be successful because of the skills and foundation that Ohio University has helped you build,” Laber said.
She advised current OHIO students to avoid putting too much pressure on themselves as they think about their post-graduation career plans.
“There are so many chapters in your life and you can't jump ahead to see how it ends,” she said. “You can't think ahead to the end of the book. You can only think ahead to the next chapter. I think OU helps give you the confidence that no matter what chapter comes next, you'll be able to tackle it.”