Oakland begins search for Vice President of University Advancement

Another year, another national search for an administrative position.

The Oct. 16 Oakland University Board of Trustees meeting gave the OK to start a national search for a Vice President of University Advancement. A growing trend in higher education, the position focuses on fundraising, evaluating current university funds and gaining donors — a job that usually falls on the university president.

With state funding to universities dwindling, many are creating the position in efforts to continue university growth. A simple Google search reaps dozens of schools who are trying to boost fundraising efforts. This is a growing problem for Oakland especially, as the 2017 state appropriation amount for Oakland was more than $30,000,000 below the state average. Only about 18 percent of Oakland’s total funding comes from the state of Michigan.

The university has formed a search committee to review and interview applicants that is chaired by Provost James Lentini. The committee has representatives from the BOT, the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, Campaign and Stewardship, Communications and Marketing, Athletics and the Golf and Learning Center. According to Lentini, the committee is hoping to fill the position before 2017 comes to an end.

“Fundraising has been important to public institutions like OU for many, many years now,” Lentini said. “A lot of mid-sized institutions or young ones like Oakland wouldn’t have had to spend a lot of resources on raising funds in the past. But, that has changed dramatically in the past few years.”

According to Lentini, the Vice President of University Advancement will lead a team of individuals whose sole purpose is to fundraiser for the university. This person will also work closely with people such as college deans and the president’s cabinet, who have many alumni connections and ties to potential donors.

“We have been looking for how to make a fundraising operation that will be robust and able to fund itself,” Lentini said. “It’s required, really, of all public institutions now. Having the systematic pieces in place to raise funds on a sustained basis is what we’re really looking for.”

Though a national search is being conducted and in-person interviews with the committee will eventually take place, there are no plans to do open forums with the final candidates like Oakland has done with some positions in the past.

“An advancement position will be working with deans and others behind the scenes,” Lentini said. “The position is not one that is outwardly facing the campus, so we don’t think we’ll do open forums with the campus. The other challenge with searches is that you’re likely hiring someone who currently has a position somewhere else. So we want to get the best applicants while not putting them in jeopardy of losing their job.”

He then looked back to presidential applicant Carl Camden, who stepped down from his position as CEO of Kelly Services not long after being announced as one of two finalists for Oakland’s presidency. With situations like that and the fact that the individual will not work closely with students and faculty, the interviews will only involve those in the search committee.

The interview process is planned to begin at the end of this month and finalists to be selected shortly after. According to Lentini, Oakland wants to compensate for public funding loss without putting the burden on tuition as quickly as it can.