A search is underway for Oberlin’s next vice president for advancement, a position previously titled vice president for development and alumni affairs. Candidates will be expected to build upon previous institutional fundraising campaigns, such as Oberlin Illuminate, as well as articulate a strategy for Oberlin’s financial future as shaped by Academic and Administrative Program Review recommendations.
Rachel Smith Silver assumed the position on an interim basis following the retirement of Bill Barlow last June. Upper-level administrators, including President Carmen Twillie Ambar, Acting Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences David Kamitsuka, Acting Dean of the Conservatory Bill Quillen, other administrative staff, faculty, and one student senator make up the search committee, which President Ambar chairs.
The next vice president for advancement will oversee the institution’s major fundraising efforts during the implementation of One Oberlin, a series of recommendations put forth by AAPR.
Candidates for the vice president for advancement position must demonstrate an ability to work closely with Ambar to support her in her role as chief fundraiser.
“The new Vice President for Advancement will be deeply involved in implementing the One Oberlin recommendations by helping inform alumni informed about the progress of One Oberlin, and by seeking their financial support for its initiatives,” President Ambar wrote in an email to the Review.
According to the public job posting, the new vice president must preside over “all aspects of the college’s fundraising activities and constituent relationships, including initiating planning efforts and serving as the lead architect of a comprehensive campaign that is anticipated to launch in coordination with planning for Oberlin’s bicentennial celebration.” Additionally, the search committee hopes to find a candidate that will “participate in and contribute to discussions that guide strategies and policies shaping Oberlin’s future.”
“A lot of what I find myself thinking about in our [committee] discussions is ‘will this candidate be a steward for Oberlin?’” College third-year and Student Senator Patrick Powers, who sits on the committee, said. “I think that everybody on the search committee is interested in the idea of representing something to the outside world, representing something to the student body that reflects Oberlin as a community.”
Isaacson Miller, a national executive search firm, will lead the candidate recruitment process in consultation with the search committee. Oberlin has previously retained the firm during the presidential search that resulted in President Ambar being hired, as well as a 2017 search for a new vice president for finance and administration.
Among other qualifications, candidates must showcase their ability to leverage the success of previous capital campaigns to produce forward financial momentum.
Oberlin Illuminate, a development campaign that ended in fiscal year 2016, raised approximately $317.8 million over five-and-a-half years. The campaign, led by former President Marvin Krislov, finished 18 months ahead of schedule and was created for the purpose of broadening educational accessibility and enhancing the undergraduate and postgraduate experience.
An ideal candidate for vice president for advancement, according to the job description, would look to offset Oberlin’s operating costs by cultivating alumni participation through soliciting donations and alumni engagement. These responsibilities would likely translate to a formal fundraising campaign, the launch of which is yet to be announced.
“I think that when you think about advancement, we can think about it as something detached from current students,” Powers said. “I don’t think that that’s necessarily the case. Most donors are alumni and students who are fourth-years become alums as soon as they graduate. […] Their interactions at Oberlin around giving — whether you want to think of it as philanthropy, donations, fundraising, however you want to frame — the way they thought about that at Oberlin, and the ways that that world looked to them while they were students, matters.”
Associate Vice President for Athletics Advancement and Delta Lodge Director of Athletics & Physical Education Natalie Winkelfoos, who sits on the search committee, is confident in the group’s ability to find a qualified candidate for the position.
“The committee is unified, inspired and enjoying the process of finding our next leader for advancement,” Winkelfoos wrote in an email to the Review. “It is an absolute privilege to be a part of this search committee.”
President Ambar did not share the names of candidates, whether it is possible for Interim Vice President of Development Rachel Smith Silver to apply for the non-interim position, or how many individuals have applied at this time.
“We have a robust pool of candidates for the position,” President Ambar wrote in an email to the Review. “But out of respect for the privacy of the candidates we do not comment on who is in a given pool.”