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Graduate’s job marries her two majors

Thu., Dec. 30, 2010

On the Web: Read previous stories about Danika Heatherly, above, and other recent college graduates at (File)
On the Web: Read previous stories about Danika Heatherly, above, and other recent college graduates at (File)

Whitworth alumna finds work in home state

In May, 22-year-old Danika Heatherly earned her journalism and marketing degrees from Whitworth University. Like other journalism graduates, her inbox was not crowded with job offers.

In a Spokesman-Review article about job prospects for recent college graduates, Heatherly said she’d move nearly anywhere for a decent job in journalism or marketing. She said she’d take a job in Hong Kong, if offered one.

Within a week after graduation, Heatherly received an offer to work part time for a Spokane nonprofit, but she declined. She knew, as most liberal arts graduates discover, jobs for those who want to remain in Spokane are limited and not likely to pay big salaries.

Most of her Whitworth classmates also moved off to jobs across the West. Still, the vast majority of Whitworth’s latest journalism grads have landed jobs they wanted or jobs they now are happy to have, said the school’s newspaper adviser, professor Jim McPherson.

Because she grew up in Visalia, Calif., Heatherly heard about and applied for a job with that city’s visitors and convention bureau. She aced the interview and was offered the position. It was advertised as visitor services coordinator. But after they hired her, the bureau’s board redefined the job as manager.

The Visalia staff is just two people: Heatherly and another worker for sales and marketing.

Heatherly said she loves the job and plans to stay at least four or five years in Visalia.

“When people ask about my job, I tell them I use both my majors every day,” she said.

The visitors bureau encourages companies or organizations to book meetings and conventions in the central California city of roughly 125,000. Her other role is to boost tourism, promoting Visalia as the “gateway to Sequoia National Park,” a destination for international travelers.

With her journalistic toolkit, Heatherly has taken on a number of tourism-focused writing projects. One is a travel piece on that area’s spookiest haunted houses and ghost tales.

She said the job also lets her use marketing skills, creating Twitter and Facebook accounts to reach online audiences, plus helping develop a full-bore regional marketing campaign.

“I’m amply paid,” she added. “We compare notes and I’m sure I’m paid more than what nearly all my friends are earning now.”

A decent salary wasn’t the key factor, either, in taking the California job.

“It was really more about finding something where I could go to work every day and take pride in what I’m doing,” Heatherly said.

Right out of school she admits being uncertain where her career would take her. “At first I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But now I realize I love working with the travel and tourism industry.

“I could really see myself doing something in this industry forever.”

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