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Q&A: Sitting down with new VP of Advancement Jason Petrovich

Bradley’s new Vice President of Advancement Jason Petrovich. Photo courtesy of Bradley University.

This week, The Scout interviewed Bradley’s new Vice President for Advancement Jason Petrovich, who begins his role with the university on Jan. 30. 

The following interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

Q: You’ve held similar positions at other Midwest universities like DePauw and Valparaiso, so why did you want to come to Bradley?

Petrovich: Well, I tell you, I’m pretty much a lifelong resident of the state of Indiana, so I grew up a Midwest kid and I too am a sports fan. So for as long as I can remember, I’ve always known about Bradley and from a distance, I’ve always respected it and held it in very high regard. I met various Bradley alumni through the course of my life that were great. So, when this opportunity became available, and I started looking into it and started reading up on the institution’s history, [I was impressed with] the first university in the country founded by a woman and the constant innovation that happens all throughout the decades. And I did a little bit of looking at our president Stephen Standifird and thought ‘He seems like he’s got it all together,’ this might be a good fit for everyone.

For me, as a product of private higher education coming from DePauw and then spending 18 years working there and then the following 10 plus years at [Valparaiso], another private institution, this is what I know, this is what I love. All this gets wrapped up into the bottom line that Bradley is a great institution and I look at it and keep coming back to thinking that it’s just too good not to be better.

Q: For those that don’t know, what does the Vice President of Advancement do?

JP: This position is charged with the overall leadership for basically everything that happens with the engagement of Bradley alumni and friends with the university. So that covers everything from planning alumni events all over the country that folks show up to, to supporting the institution to the best of its ability whatever that may mean. 

For me, I’ve always viewed that a really well-run institution creates and promotes kind of a cradle to grave relationship. Even if someone is currently a student, somebody is 10 years after graduation, or 50 years after graduation, they still find value in keeping in touch with Bradley and also in supporting Bradley.

Jason Petrovich

Q: As the VP of Advancement, what areas will you initially focus your efforts on and overall, what do you hope to accomplish at Bradley?

JP: My top priority is to get to know Bradley and get to know my team. I’m a big sports guy; I played sports in college and it’s always been a team attitude, everything has always been team-based. So coming in now, I still have a lot to learn about Bradley and a lot of people to meet, but that really also includes my team at Bradley and creating and reinforcing this environment that all of this are in this together and we are going to be successful because we are a high-functioning team.

Something I’d like to work on is a downfall about the sort of work we do, [which] is exterior-facing to the university. We’re out there traveling the country, we’re seeing folks from Bradley all over the place. Very rarely do advancement professionals ever get to know students all that well. I’m trying to figure out a way on campus that we can create a better sort of environment to actually meet students and faculty included in that as well. All of the fundraising that we do is to ultimately support and benefit our students and faculty. It’s going to be nice to meet some students and faculty to be reminded why we’re all here.

Q: How will the work that you do affect the students day-to-day here?

JP: The impact of our work falls into a few different areas for students – students at Bradley who receive scholarship funding. There is a strong chance that a scholarship that they received, perhaps the scholarship was endowed by a donor at some point, or perhaps the scholarship came out of the university’s operating budget. All of those funds need to be raised. So in some way, most of the students at Bradley are probably benefiting from our work on that front.

Jason Petrovich

Same with our faculty; some of the opportunities for them to be the best that they can be as their role as teachers and mentors with funds to go to conferences and stay on top of best practices, like research or funds for new equipment for example. On a grander scale, every now and then we look at building a new building or fixing an old building. All of that impacts the way that people at Bradley feel about Bradley and for a prospective student, it makes the institution look more appealing.

Q: What’s a past campaign that you’ve done that you’re the most proud of and how did you do it?

JP: So the campaign that we recently finished at Valparaiso from start to finish, I was a part of it [and] I was the main driver of it. We raised a little over 302 million dollars for [Valparaiso]. So that team made its largest campaign in the history of the university. We recently set a goal of $250 million so we eclipsed our goal by over 20 percent and that feels really good. What feels really good about it though is, in 2012 when I first got to Valparaiso, we were just kind of talking about what really needed to happen for the campaign to be successful. We were strategic and found the people and it felt like at times we were building the plane while we were flying it but it all worked. I’m proud to leave [Valparaiso] in a state that’s better than what I found it in and I have the same hope and aspiration for my time at Bradley.

Q: Although you haven’t started your job at Bradley yet, do you see any obstacles to Bradley’s situation and if so, do you have any ideas to overcome them?

JP: I don’t see any blatant obstacles in front of us that are going to impede our success. The bottom line is that every institution out there wants to raise more money and it’s the same at Bradley. So that is the expectation that I have. I am a firm believer that you set goals that are aspirational, yet attainable. I think that’s going to be the way we go about our business in advancement. Now I’m not on the ground in Peoria yet so I don’t know if there’s something staring me right in the face or not. I’ve done some due diligence and I feel like what I’m inheriting is a strong team that is looking for strong leadership.

Q: What are some bright spots and opportunities you see at Bradley?

JP: I think the opportunities and the bright spots are coming into Bradley. I’m starting fresh so I’m going to spend a lot of time early on shaking a lot of hands with some great Bradley alums and donors and saying ‘Hi, I’m Jason, tell me your Bradley story.’ That’s how you start to build a good, long-lasting relationship because our work is based on strong relationships, pure and simple.

Q: What is a long-term plan that you have?

JP: President Standifird, the campus community and the board recently went through the strategic planning process and that’s pretty standard at just about every institution out there. The key to a good strategic plan is that it’s actually like a living and breathing document, you just don’t finish it and put it on the shelf. A lot of what needs to happen at Bradley going forward is very well articulated in that strategic plan in terms of funding needs and things that will keep Bradley on top of the competitive edge that it’s always had in the marketplace. 

The plan is there and so we, along with the president, the provost and the board, will start to take the strategic plan and tease out the things in there that can really be attractive to donors. The fundraising, it’s great to have a need, but it has to be a good need that really resonates with a donor and that’s what we’re hoping for.

Jason Petrovich
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