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PUC Alumni and Advancement Sets New Vision

Cambria Wheeler, September 11, 2013
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Pacific Union College’s department of advancement and alumni relations has welcomed new staff and set forth a new vision for connecting with PUC alumni and friends. Walter Collins, the recently appointed vice president for advancement and alumni relations, and the department have set forth a mission-minded strategic plan meant to serve and minister to the college’s constituents, including PUC’s 25,000-member alumni family.

“We really see ourselves as a catalyst for connection, a catalyst for service, and a catalyst for mobilization,” shares Collins. A product of K-12 Adventist education who attended Conejo Adventist Elementary School and Newbury Park Adventist Academy, Collins received his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley. He most recently worked as executive director of the California Symphony Orchestra, during which time the orchestra received a National Endowment for the Arts award and doubled its number of donors. Previously, Collins was the president and CEO of United Way of the Wine Country, overseeing a three million dollar organization that was distinguished as the leading non-profit organization in Sonoma County, Calif.

“I am simply delighted that Walter Collins has accepted our invitation to join the administrative team,” says PUC President Heather J. Knight.  “His extensive experience in fundraising, nonprofit management, and community-building will add an entirely new set of community connections for PUC, which I know will add great value to our team.”

Collins spent the first weeks in his new role leading the advancement and alumni relations staff in developing a vision and a mission for the department. The central goal of the department, created through this collaborative process, is to promote a greater understanding of PUC’s mission and needs, build public confidence and support, and create an atmosphere of philanthropic engagement through partnership and stewardship.

While the process is just beginning, Collins and the team look forward to fostering a thriving alumni community that gives, advocates, and volunteers for PUC. “[Our department] is excited about finding a place where we can be relevant and where we can be of service,” Collins relates. “And it is no different for organizations. If an organization is to be sustainable and meaningful, it has to be relevant.”

Mark Ishikawa, a 2001 PUC graduate, found a relevant application of his skills as the college’s alumni relations director, a role he took on in October 2012 after years pastoring, most recently at the Grand Advent Church in Oakland, Calif. Ishikawa doesn’t see his new role as a career change. “I see myself as being the pastor of a church of 25,000 alumni and friends,” Ishikawa shares. “I have the opportunity to minister to this PUC alumni church and just make sure they’re connected with each other and with this school.”

Ishikawa is spearheading a young alumni retention project with the goal of ensuring PUC grads leave their college home and immediately find an Adventist church family that is welcoming and supportive. Ishikawa, PUC administration, and alumni started by surveying young alumni about their connection to the church. Next, they will develop a model for how congregations and fellow alums can provide for the needs of Adventists who have graduated within the last ten years. On campus, the department of religion has created new courses in practical Christianity that will provide students with strong preparation for living their faith in the secular world.  

The combined efforts before and after graduation will ensure that the thriving spiritual engagement students experience at PUC carries on as they transition to life after college. “We want to provide a continuum of care,” concludes Collins. “Our role is to engage students and connect with our alumni community. That effort is very much tied in to the greater Adventist community as well. We want to serve this college and its mission as well as mobilize our alumni community to change the world through service.”

As Collins, Ishikawa, and the rest of PUC’s Advancement team plan together, meet with alums, and answer a busy telephone, there is plenty of excitement for the future. From connecting with alumni in their communities across the U.S.; to Homecoming weekend back on campus April 25-27, 2014; to an alumni mission trip to South America in the summer of 2014; there is much to look forward to. Visit alumni.puc.edu to learn more.