In 1982, Charlotte Ariss enrolled at the University of Minnesota, and promptly started on a track she didn’t expect to take so quickly: real life.
“I became a single parent,” said Charlotte. “I had to drop out of my classes, retool and figure out what I was going to do.”
After her daughter was born, Charlotte applied for every scholarship and grant she could find, and started school at the college then known as Minneapolis Community College (MCC).
“What I liked about MCC is that there was so much diversity,” said Charlotte. “In one of my marketing classes, I sat next to someone in his 50s, and another single parent, and someone who spoke Arabic, and someone who was a janitor.”
Starting her studies in the Psychology department, Charlotte dabbled in classes like the psychology of colors and packaging. “I had no idea how packaging could be used to elicit consumer reactions, or that there was a science behind packaging,” she said. “All of a sudden a light bulb turned on. From there, I started to study the science behind marketing.”
Charlotte had nearly completed her degree when she was faced with a momentous decision: Take one final class for the last two credits she needed for a degree, or take a job offer that had just been made. “I was offered my dream job,” said Charlotte. “My favorite marketing teacher warned me not to leave, because I’d never come back.”
That advice haunted Charlotte for a long time. “I wish I had taken my instructor’s advice about finishing, but I couldn’t do it at the time,” she said. “I needed a job.” As a single parent, Charlotte dove head-first into her new job with Carmichael Lynch ad agency. “It’s possible I could have finished with a night class, but I felt like I had to focus.” And focus is what she did.
From the ad agency, Charlotte moved to other marketing adventures. She worked for advertising agencies Campbell Mithun, the Lacek Group and Rapp Collins, spent 14 years with Target, and most recently has moved on to location scouting.
“If you told me just a year ago that I’d be doing this, I would have laughed my head off,” said Charlotte, who recently finished filming a commercial for Timberland in downtown Minneapolis. “I’ve been working with Best Buy, Target, Medica, 3M, Polaris, Cenex, Ashland Midland and others. It’s intimidating at times, but I can pull this off thanks to the experience I’ve had.”
On a fall day 31 years after her first semester at MCC, Charlotte walked into the school now known as MCTC to drop her second daughter off for her first day of Post-Secondary Enrollment (PSEO). Hoping to thank her old marketing teacher, she found herself in the MCTC Marketing and Communications service department with a few stories to tell.
“I loved being here, and felt incredibly connected. Even though I left school with only a couple credits left, in a way I never really left.”
Click here to see one of Charlotte’s recent commercials aired nationally.