Unstoppable Alumni, Recent AU graduates prevail over pandemic and land dream jobs

Gracie Wilson, Collegian Managing Editor

For the last year and a half, one subject has been bombarding the minds of people all around the world: COVID-19.

The pandemic has brought a host of issues to the forefront: illness, vaccinations, unemployment and learning how to use Zoom for everything.

One of the big things the pandemic has done however, is take away the normal college experience for many students at Ashland University and around the world.

On campus, students have faced masked smiles, social distancing, cancellation of favored events, the loss of hot bar and virtual classes. However, they did not let that distract them from the bigger goal: graduating  with their degree and starting to find their own job.

Now, recent AU alumni have found themselves landing their dream jobs or post graduate activities, even in the midst of a pandemic and all the challenges that have come with it.


Cecelia Dillon is a spring 2021 graduate of AU, and she has decided to continue her schooling in her post grad years and is pursuing her Master of International Business and Management at the University of Westminster in London, England.

After graduating a year early from AU, she said goodbye to campus, professors, and friends before pursuing her journey abroad.

“I’ve known for so long that I wanted to go abroad and when I was researching schools in Europe, the city of London really stood out to me,” Dillon said. “There is so much history and culture here from all over the world, I felt like it was a great stepping stone to life outside the U.S.”

As soon as her time at Ashland drew to a close, Dillon did an internship with Reynolds American in Pennsylvania, whose parent company is in London. She used this opportunity to learn about where she would soon be attending school.

Now that she has moved to London and spent time there, Dillon plans to stay when she graduates and follow her passion.

“My heart really lies with marketing. Any role where I could follow this passion…would be perfect,” she said. “I would love to encourage everyone to experience what life is like out of your norm. As we’ve all experienced in the last few years, life is short; take risks and really live in the moment.”


Dillon is not the only one who chased her passions. Closer to home, fellow spring 2021 graduate Scout Weber found a job fit for her at Case Western Reserve University as the political science and international studies department assistant.

When she was a senior at AU, Weber was starting off her job search, knowing that the pandemic would make finding a job much more difficult. She made sure to utilize career services on campus to help her find a job she would love.

“I was never the type to know exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “I just kind of asked them for advice and I applied to whatever looked interesting.”

As a result, she found herself back in college, but on the other side. Now she helps students in the department with their needs.

Weber expressed that it was frustrating at times to be a senior in college during a pandemic, but while her own undergraduate experience was out of the ordinary, she has found a new love for her post graduate career.

“I like working at a university, it makes me feel like I’m still connected to that last part of my life,” Weber said. “I like being able to be around students and faculty and feeling like I’m constantly learning [and] I like being able to constantly better myself that way.”


Also dabbling in the political field is Avaerie Fitzgerald, a spring 2021 graduate who now works in the state house as Press Assistant for the governor’s office.

In her position, she helps to write press releases and media advisories to help inform the public about the governor’s office as well as events where he will be appearing.

“I work really closely with the Press Secretary and pretty much the whole comms (communications) department,” she said. “I read the news a lot and I go to events and help manage press so it’s really fun.”

Having grown up in the Ashland area, Fitzgerald was pleasantly surprised when her expectations on city living were different than she imagined. She now lives outside of downtown Columbus, a change from what she has known previously, but not a full leap to downtown life.

“I tried to find something similar to the size of Ashland and adjust there before I threw myself into the city,” she said. “It’s been a pretty easy adjustment, and everybody who works in the state house are really easy to get along with and nice.”

Also making a new home for herself in the capital city is Alyssa Srail, a fourth-grade science and social sudies teacher in the Worthington City School District.


Srail completed her student teaching and graduated in the winter 2020 semester, the middle of the academic year when schools are not hiring and, in a pandemic, where classes were all virtual. On her second to last day of teaching, she finally got a call to be a semester long substitute for Spanish in the Worthington district.

“I [felt] like this was just a great opportunity for me to get my foot in the door and at least just have something amidst all of this chaos and Covid,” she said.

Though it took her a long way away from her hometown of Cleveland, Srail has felt incredibly lucky to have her substitute position turn full time in the district and allow her to move to Columbus full time with her fiancé, Jerry.

“I think, especially as a first-year teacher, being away from my family and friends, it’s been really helpful to kind of develop my new family here and my new friendships,” She said. “That’s just been the greatest part.”


After her own senior year filled with COVID-19 restrictions, spring 2021 graduate Hailey Howard is now in the medical field herself as a Registered Nurse at the OSU Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

As a nurse in the brain and spine hospital, Howard is working in a neurology and stroke progressive care unit taking care of patients recovering from brain injuries.

Having grown up in the central Ohio area, Howard is happy to stay in a familiar area and has found her work rewarding since she made the move to the city.

“Earlier in Covid, we did not allow any visitors whatsoever, so I was kind of having to act as not only a caregiver, but also [as] family,” Howard said. “Nobody’s there at the bedside with them so I was kind of having to act as the family figure while they’re in the hospital.”


Making a little magic for herself after college, Morgan Tinnirello graduated during the spring 2020 semester as an early childhood education major. 

Before taking on the role as an educator, she has decided to head to Disney World to take part in the Disney College Program.

“I work as an Attractions Hostess on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride in Hollywood Studios,” she said. “I work all parts of the attraction, including greeter, theater, loading guests onto the train and working the consoles.”

Tinnirello applied for the program while she was still in college, but due to COVID-19 complications, Disney World was unable to bring in university students. When the program opened again, she took the leap and went to Florida.

“I started substitute teaching and tutoring right after [graduation],” Tinnirello said. “I kept my options open…because I still wanted the experience of working at Disney World for a semester.”

Upon her return to Ohio in Jan., Tinnirello looks forward to pursuing her next dream as a teacher.

“Disney is one of the most incredible companies in the world and I’m honored to work for them,” she said. “The experience gives you so much professional development and advancement useful to any future career.”


Moving down south after graduation is Cass Tolliver, a spring 2021 graduate whose dream was to pursue a social media career, and she has done just that after relocating to Fort Worth, Texas.

After moving to a new city to start a life with her fiancé, Johnny, Tolliver began job searching but found it would be just as profitable to work for herself as an influencer and do something she loves.

“I chose Texas not really based on anything other than the fact tat it sounded fun,” she said.

Since becoming an influencer, Tolliver has accumulated 47 thousand followers on Instagram and has worked with brands such as ALV Jewels in Columbus, Amazon, Neutrogena and Shea Butter Boutique.

“I just love doing the ones with clothes [and] clothing hauls,” she said. “It’s just so fun, representing clothes and jewelry and lifestyle which is what I’ve always wanted to do.

Down the line, Tolliver said she would like to stay in Fort Worth with her soon to be husband, continue influencing, grow her YouTube and TikTok platform and start her own jewelry brand which is currently in the works.


The city feel was not only appealing to Tolliver, but also to Dec. 2020 graduate Christine Jenkinson, former Ashland Times Gazette Reporter who is now a Production Assistant for the Don Lon talk show on News Nation in Chicago.

Coming off her job as education reporter for the Ashland Times Gazette, Jenkinson will move to Chicago in mid Oct. to start her new job that includes assisting with booking production, cutting video and audio for social media posts and assisting on set.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’m not tied down,” she said. “I don’t have a mortgage or anything to stay [for]…and I’ve known I wanted to go. Taking this opportunity is a step into my dream job and this is the time to go.”

After being in Medina and Ashland for 20 years, Jenkinson is excited to finally leave Ohio and start making moves toward her dream job as a book producer in the Windy City but she is thankful for the opportunities given to her by AU and the Times Gazette.

“When you move on to doing what you want to do, you have that experience under your belt and you have the knowledge,” she said. “You can take all of that and go to Chicago, or wherever you want to end up.”