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Vice President, Advancement

Company: Saint Mary's University
Date Posted: July 5, 2016


Saint Mary’s University is seeking a strategic, collaborative leader and accomplished professional fundraiser to serve as our inaugural Vice President, Advancement.

The Vice President will possess experience in building out advancement programs and teams, and developing a culture of philanthropy across the University.  With a track record of success in major gift fundraising, the Vice President will be a persuasive and authentic relationship builder who understands how to extend networks by harnessing and leveraging the connections of others.  Previous involvement in a significant comprehensive campaign will be critical in this role.

A strong leader who is able to engage and motivate our development, alumni relations, and advancement services staff, the Vice President will develop a high-performance culture that focuses on both results and collaboration.  The successful candidate will bring a strategic mindset and exceptional planning and prioritization skills to bear, and will work with the team to develop systems and processes that ensure a solid base for our Advancement activities and for our upcoming Campaign.

The Vice President will possess exceptional listening and communication skills, and will value the perspectives and ideas of others.  Warm and personable, the incumbent will be a pragmatic straight-talker who operates with respect, trust, and transparency.  The ideal candidate will be an inspiring coach and colleague who is positive and energetic, and who helps others to become successfully engaged in Advancement efforts for the benefit of the University.  


  • Developing a strategic advancement plan, in consultation with Executive Management Group, academic and administrative leaders, Board members, the Alumni Association, and the Students’ Association, to engage stakeholders and increase financial support to Saint Mary’s University.
  • Engaging and strategizing with the President and the other members of the Executive Management Group, in active partnership to build and achieve SMU’s overall vision and goals.
  • Planning for and leading the University into a major fundraising campaign, working closely with the President, Campaign Cabinet, and leadership across the University and its key stakeholder groups.
  • Designing, implementing and supporting effective advancement programs at the faculty level, in partnership with Deans and other faculty leaders, while maintaining centralized reporting and management.
  • Collaborating with academic and administrative colleagues to identify and develop funding opportunities and priorities for each faculty and for the University as a whole.
  • Providing guidance, training, and support to academic and administrative colleagues who serve as partners in fundraising activities.
  • Leading, inspiring, supporting, and directing a team of professionals in development, alumni engagement and advancement services to deepen alumni and donor engagement, and to attract new and increased financial support.
  • Working in partnership with the Associate Vice President, External Affairs to advance the University’s reputation, to ensure consistent messaging, and to optimize the use of communications vehicles to promote SMU’s key priorities and successes.
  • Inspiring and collaborating with Advancement Committee members and the Board of Governors to sustain existing donor relationships and identify and build new ones.
  • Working closely with Alumni Association leaders and volunteers to ensure an integrated approach to the ongoing engagement of alumni in the life of Saint Mary’s University.
  • Ensuring ongoing positive relationships with new and existing individual donors, corporations and foundations, through exceptional relationship stewardship.
  • Serving as Saint Mary’s University’s chief fundraiser, developing and maintaining strong relationships with a portfolio of prospective donors, with accountability for personal revenue and activity goals.
  • Advocating for the importance of data integrity and information management, and the potential of technology to improve and augment Advancement efforts.
  • Ensuring continued rigor and quality of Advancement programs through the monitoring of appropriate accountability measurements for all aspects of Development, Alumni Engagement and Advancement Services.
  • Maintaining networks with other professionals in the post-secondary sector and in the broader advancement community to maintain knowledge of competitive strategies and to benchmark Saint Mary’s University’s advancement practices and performance.
  • Assuming overall accountability for the Development, Alumni Engagement, and Advancement Services annual revenue and expense budgets.
  • Ensuring compliance with legal and ethical standards, and University regulations and policies, as they pertain to Development, Alumni Engagement, and Advancement Services.


Saint Mary's University is home to a vibrant and engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from nearly 120 countries around the world that share a passion for learning and a commitment to contributing to the local and global community.  Established in 1802, Saint Mary's has grown to include undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Arts, Business, Science, and Environmental Studies, as well as numerous professional and executive development programs.  Many of these programs offer field courses, internships, or co-operative education options, allowing students to mix classroom experience with real world skills.  One of Canada’s most international campuses, over 30% of our students come from outside Canada, and we have forged more than 40 international partnership agreements.

Our University is home to the largest Faculty of Arts in Atlantic Canada, which includes unique programs in a variety of areas such as geology, anthropology, and occupational psychology. The Faculty of Science is widely known for its cutting-edge research in areas such as green chemistry, population genetics, and green roof ecology.  We also offer the only undergraduate astrophysics degree program east of Montreal, and our flagship science program, the PhD in Computational Astrophysics, is the only one of its kind in Canada.  As well, the University’s Sobey School of Business is the largest business school in Atlantic Canada and the only school in the region that offers a full spectrum of business programs - from baccalaureate to doctorate.  

A compact campus, small average class sizes, and welcoming students, staff and faculty help foster a spirited and inviting atmosphere that is the hallmark of the Saint Mary's community.  The University has an annual operational budget of $125 million, and an endowment of approximately $35 million. More than $100 million has been spent over the last 10 years upgrading almost every part of campus. 

Saint Mary’s is distinguished in our global focus. In keeping with our vision – to be the University of choice for aspiring citizens of the world – our University is expanding its global reach at an unprecedented rate.


Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray, our new president, was appointed on July 1, 2015 and formally welcomed into the Saint Mary's community during our Santamarian ceremony in September 2015.  Over the past year, he has been engaged in consultation sessions as a means to provide an organized forum to inform and engage members of the University community on key strategic priority areas, seek their involvement and input, and mobilize understanding and support going forward.

Learning Centred

Saint Mary’s will build on its tradition of being a university that is learning-centred.  All members of our University community are learners and we strive to support life-long learning for our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

We are a community of scholars.  A learning-centred environment brings faculty and students together in a complementary pursuit of learning – it lays a foundation for a broadened and more meaningful faculty and student interaction.

Being learning-centred also means that we place a high value on the process of research and innovation, as a student, as a professor, as a researcher, ensuring that we are not simply transferring knowledge but creating it – the distinguishing feature of a high-quality university.  Everything that we do should be about discovery.  We have a practice of seeking ways to support faculty talents and community interest in order to develop research programs that meet the needs and interests of the community and of our students.

As university educators, we are being challenged to take our teaching beyond a transmission of information.  As a result, experiential learning opportunities are emerging in many program areas.  Experiential learning takes various forms – co-ops, internships, research, community engaged service learning, and other educational activities that encourage students to learn by doing.  As a result, students will have a more profound learning experience which can enhance their understanding of the world and ability to participate in society.

Valued and Values

We must focus on the value Saint Mary’s brings to civil society.  Our value comes from educating in the broadest sense, in both deep knowledge and liberal breadth, in all facets of the arts, science, and business.  There is immense value in educating future leaders with a knowledge of self and society; of making discoveries that transform human health, economies, and cultures.

The liberal education at the heart of the University shapes young people’s values and attitudes, and inspires all of us to build just and safe communities.  At Saint Mary’s we engage in a culture of respect that acknowledges diversity and cultural intersection, and one that supports civil dialogue.  The University is committed to accessibility, diversity, and the provision of a positive and supportive learning environment.

The ultimate objective of a Saint Mary’s education is to nurture and support productive, critical, and responsible citizens.  The true value of a university education is realized when it also instills in all members of the University community a strong sense of personal worth, and a commitment to social responsibility.

The purpose of liberal education is to cultivate in students a broad knowledge base, skills of enquiry across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, appreciation for the importance of historical and cultural contexts, and respect for truth and ethical conduct.

A clear and pervasive commitment to social responsibility enriches the educational experience of current students, inspires prospective students to choose Saint Mary’s University as the place to study, and contributes significantly to their development as active citizens.


Saint Mary’s is recognized as Canada’s leading international university.  The University has a strong commitment to internationalizing its community through the development of its overall teaching, research, service functions, and supports for student success.

This environment provides exciting opportunities to advance the intercultural learning for both domestic students and international students by developing a deep understanding of cultural differences and underlying values.  The goal of the University is to support international and domestic students in their relationships and interactions with persons and groups of other cultures to cultivate global citizenship through practice and example.

Saint Mary’s is known for its excellent support services for international students in Canada.  Over 32 per cent of its students arrive from destinations beyond Canada, a proportion of international students not matched by any other university in this country.  We are well known for international research collaborations, ranking first in Canada last year with our students and professors working with colleagues from Halifax to Helsinki, Antigua to Zimbabwe.  With 44,000 alumni in over 110 countries, we have many actively engaged chapters from Calgary to Hong Kong.

We must focus on the value of an intercultural campus – we have built into our identity a strong intersection of cultures.  We value the way in which our differences help us advance.  We want to better understand the conceptual values of cultural intersection and what this does for ideas and change.  We have the opportunity to address issues of our time.

Financial Sustainability

Saint Mary’s University has a record of excellent fiscal management.  We have stayed on budget while delivering excellent programs and services to students and we have done this consistently throughout our history.  We have always proven ourselves to be a nimble, well run, and innovative university.

Saint Mary’s has a solid reputation as one of Canada’s most accessible universities and a demonstrated track record of leveling the playing field for disadvantaged youth.  We have gone the extra mile not only in admitting students who might traditionally be left behind but also in supporting them fully once they arrive on campus.  While maintaining this commitment, we must continually assess our policies and practices to ensure that we are not compromising the quality of education we can afford to offer.

Saint Mary’s University needs to be financially sustainable and this will involve the rebalancing of resources.  We have an obligation to our current and future students, faculty, staff, and alumni to put our resources to work to support our mission and goals.  We need to put ourselves in a position to support and make investments in new initiatives and programs.  Saint Mary’s is seen as an innovative and relevant University, and this must remain our position.

In the future we will focus more on friend-raising and fundraising, on engaging our external benefactors, our internal community, and our alumni, encouraging them to give back to our university with its 200 year-old history of providing value and values.  Our plan is to increase the revenue stream from more engaged alumni and donors.  Our success will depend on how well we engage and serve these important stakeholder groups.


Halifax is Nova Scotia’s capital city, and the major centre of the Maritimes.  With a population of only 400,000, Halifax enjoys the advantages of a smaller community with the features and benefits of a larger urban centre.  Nestled on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, our small metropolis offers exciting city life, yet it’s only a 20 minute drive to the gorgeous Nova Scotia countryside.

One of the oldest cities in Canada, Halifax provides a blend of history, culture and modern amenities.  Halifax is the education centre for the Atlantic provinces, with more than 30,000 students choosing to study in one of its seven post-secondary institutions each year.  Because of the municipal demographics, Haligonians enjoy a vibrant music scene, amazing restaurants, and terrific museums and galleries. 

Nova Scotia is a great place to have an active lifestyle.  From the sandy beaches and headland cliffs to pristine lakes and lush farmland, Nova Scotia boasts an array of year-round recreational opportunities including sailing, kayaking, cycling and hiking.  The climate in Nova Scotia is provides pleasant springs, colorful falls, and a summer that brings an average high temperature of 22º C. Average winter temperatures range from -5º to -1º C.

Halifax is a very affordable city to live in.  According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the average house price is around $300,000.


KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.) has been retained by Saint Mary’s University to conduct this leadership search. Individuals who would like more information are invited to contact Tara George, Senior Vice President, via email at

To view the Executive Brief for this position, please visit

The Search Committee will begin consideration of candidates on August 5, 2016.

Candidates may send resume and letter of interest to the above email address.  All submissions will be held in strict confidence.

Saint Mary’s University invites applications from all qualified individuals. We are committed to the principles of employment equity.