Faculty & Guest Speakers
Howard W. Heevner
Howard Heevner joined the University of California, Berkeley in 2019 as the executive director of annual programs. In his current role he oversees annual giving, leadership annual giving, milestone giving, next generation giving and parents philanthropy and engagement. With more than 20 years of higher education fundraising experience, he has held a number of roles.
Prior to coming to Berkeley, Heevner was the assistant vice chancellor of university development programs at UC Santa Cruz, the director of annual giving at Penn State University, the director of annual and special giving at DePaul University and the associate director of annual giving at University of Michigan. He began his career in development at the University of Iowa.
Howard has been a regular speaker at CASE conferences throughout his career and currently serves on the CASE District VII board. Heevner has also worked with more than 30 institutions across the country to review the effectiveness of their annual giving programs.
Heevner earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and his master's degree in higher education administration from Penn State.
Adrienne Brown is the current Executive Director of Annual Giving at New York University. In this role, she oversees the strategy and outreach from 18 team members, securing over $30 million in unrestricted funding for the University. Adrienne joined the development office at New York University 10 years ago, after holding progressively responsible roles in marketing and advertising supporting companies such as American Express, General Motors, and United HealthCare. In her 10 years, she has been responsible for launching NYU One Day - NYU’s 24-hour day of giving, Rising Violets – NYU’s crowdfunding platform, and the 1831 Fund - NYU’s senior class gift program which is now on pace to reach a historic 65% senior class participation, up from 7% when she began.
Adrienne is a member of Women in Development and African American Development Officers. She also helps oversee diversity and inclusion efforts in her department by sitting on the Belonging and Inclusivity Committee which helps ensure inclusivity for all, specifically in the area of development and philanthropy. In her spare time, Adrienne enjoys spending time with her husband and family and is a proud alum of NYU, receiving her Master’s in Higher Education Administration in 2016. She’s also a proud MSU Spartan, originally hailing from East Lansing, Michigan – Go Green!
Jenny Cooke Smith
Jenny Cooke Smith is a senor strategic consultant for CASE, with a focus on AMAtlassm, the global resource for educational advancement-related metrics, benchmarks and analytics. Jenny specializes in analyzing advancement trends, interpreting comparison benchmarks, and helping people understand the “stories behind the data.” In this role, she is responsible for developing and leading facilitated cohort groups to help members better understand advancement outcomes by practice area, thereby informing thought leadership and best practice. Prior to joining CASE, Jenny spent 15 years in a variety of positions within Blackbaud’s Target Analytics, most recently leading donorCentrics™ benchmarking cohorts, which provide opportunities for institutions and organizations globally to review and discuss direct marketing and annual giving trends. During her time in this role, she built and expanded the Higher Education cohort groups, spurred development to analyze the impact of newer initiatives within fundraising, such as giving days, crowdfunding and mid-level giving analysis, and partnered with offices in Canada, the U.K., and Australia to deliver results specific to NGO’s in those fundraising markets. Jenny has also been a CASE volunteer and frequent speaker at CASE conferences.
Brian Gawor’s focus is research and strategy to help propel both alumni engagement and fundraising results of clients. Brian has 20 years of higher education experience in student affairs, enrollment management, alumni engagement and development.
His efforts supported the achievement of record enrollment at Knox. He then joined the college’s $3 million Knox Fund as a fundraiser. Most recently, Gawor served for four years as director of development for the College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University. He has worked to direct RNL’s fundraising research, providing actionable insights to hundreds of clients each year, for the past six years.
He regularly presents at professional conferences, including CASE and AFP. He also hosts a popular Fundraising Voices podcast, and has regularly been featured in industry publications and webinars, including CASE, NonProfitPro, the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Inside Higher Ed.
Gawor holds a master’s degree from Western Illinois University and is currently completing a doctorate at Illinois State University, where he is studying higher education alumni response, predictive analytics of donor response and industry trends.
Christina Sebastian is the executive director for Strategic Individual Giving and Donor Relations at Columbia University, a position she has held since 2017. Her responsibilities include overseeing the Annual Fund Programs team, comprised of fourteen members, who are responsible for the direct marketing efforts across campuses, including Columbia’s graduate and undergraduate schools, and special projects, as well as the signature 24-hour fundraising event, Columbia Giving Day, which raised more than $22 million dollars in its eighth year this past October. In addition, Christina leads the central Donor Relations and Stewardship team of nine, who are responsible for recognizing, engaging, soliciting, and stewarding University donors and prospects.
Christina has more than 22 years of institutional advancement experience. She began her career as a student phonathon caller while completing her BA at Penn State. While earning her MBA, she started her professional advancement career at the University at Albany within its central Annual Fund and then at the School of Education as its director of development. Christina spent eight years at Albany Law School, moving from the Major Gifts team to become the director of Alumni Affairs, where she helped forge new relationships and collaborations between the Development and Alumni Affairs offices. Prior to joining Columbia, Christina was the director of Fordham University’s annual fund, where she implemented new initiatives including the Fordham Fund brand, student philanthropy committee, student giving, young alumni leadership giving levels, and a consistent giving society, recognizing those donors who have given to the University 20 years or more.
Maggie Utsch joined the advancement team at the College of Saint Benedict in 2012 as director of annual giving. But in her heart, she’s been a Bennie since she arrived on campus as a student in 1996. That alumna experience fuels her drive to ensure that the women who choose Saint Ben’s get the chance to experience it as well. She also takes her passion and drive for education and community by serving as the vice-chair of the Paynesville Area Community Foundation and a School Board Member for District 741.
She currently oversees the annual giving program with a data driven mindset. She is curious and loves a good brainstorming session, but is also able to put those ideas into action. More importantly, measure the results and implement changes when needed.
In today’s challenging higher-ed climate, Maggie and her team continue to generate year-over-year improvement in annual giving. In order to do that, Maggie has had to learn to balance her natural caution with a willingness to seek out and try new tactics and programs. The end result is innovation with a healthy dose of competitiveness that helps her and her team reach their ever-increasing goals
James grew up in England and earned a degree in Theatre Studies from Lancaster University. He got a job in the Phonathon and was one of the worst-performing callers ever hired. So eventually they made him a manager, and he made it a career. After graduation, James moved to the US where he worked in annual giving and marketing roles at Centre College and the University of Louisville. In 2014, James moved to the University of Cincinnati Foundation where he serves as the Executive Director of Annual Giving and Marketing, working with both the university and its academic healthcare system.
Mitchell Bates is the Director of The Stanford Fund, the undergraduate annual fund for Stanford University. He started in development as a student caller for Ruffalo Cody at UC Santa Cruz (go banana slugs!) where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. After leaving Santa Cruz he worked as a National Account Manager for Yelp, before joining Stanford development in 2014. Mitchell also earned a Master’s of Science in Information Systems from the University of San Francisco, but he considers himself more of a banana slug than a Don, much to the frustration of USF development.
Connie L. Cochran
Ms. Connie L. Cochran is Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations & Special Events at Texas Southern University; prior she was Executive Director of Alumni Relations at the University of Illinois, College of Medicine. She has more than 30 years of experience creating and implementing activities to support alumni relations programs and alumni giving. She oversees outreach and communications to graduates and former students and works to increase membership. Her goals are to engage, educate and reconnect alumni to the University through involvement and financial support. Ms. Cochran also serves as an advisor to several student organizations.
Michelle Joyce is Director of Regional Engagement at the University of Oregon — a first of its kind position housed within Development. She spent a decade engaging volunteers at nonprofits, and a decade running a digital marketing agency, where she served clients including Stanford University. She brings a non-traditional approach to her work in higher education, which has proved vital in identifying the next generation of donors. Michelle has been at UO for nearly three years, and recently led a team that won a CASE VIII Gold Award for creating virtual engagement opportunities to feed the donor pipeline. In her personal time, Michelle is on a mission to prevent unhealthy posture. She’s given two TEDx Talks and made numerous national TV appearances to promote her book on that topic.
Paul Muite is the executive director of annual giving at Stony Brook University where he oversees annual programs for the campus, Stony Brook Hospital, and the Long Island State Veterans Home. Prior to Stony Brook, he was the Director for annual giving at Florida International University and Barry University and the Associate Director for Annual Giving at Georgetown University. He began his career in development at UCLA in 2003.
Paul has been a speaker at various conferences throughout his career and led multiple CASE award winning annual giving initiatives. Paul earned his bachelor's degree in political science from UCLA.
Sarishni P. Patel
What started out as a student fundraiser job in the Foundation’s phone center blossomed into a successful, and fulfilling, advancement career. During her tenure at the FSU Foundation, Patel has held roles in donor relations and stewardship, board management, and major gift fundraising.
Patel is a two-time graduate of Florida State University. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and a Master of Science in Higher Education with a specialty in Administration & Finance
With a passion for HBCUs, Mr. Shaw has held leadership roles and led numerous successful fundraising campaigns at Florida A&M University, The United Negro College Fund, Inc. (UNCF), and Texas Southern University. Mr. Shaw’s career includes hands-on and strategic-level experience in every component of development and advancement operations, from annual giving and major gift programs to donor engagement and board development. Within each of these, Shaw has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to bring people together in support of higher education.
Tyrell Warren-Burnett has served as the Senior Director of Annual Giving at the Oregon State University Foundation since August 2017. At the OSU Foundation, he provides strategic execution and management of a comprehensive annual giving program focused on acquisition and pipeline development. Prior to this, Tyrell worked at the Washington State University Foundation where he led Annual Giving for three years. He also served as strategic Marketing and Direct Mail Coordinator for annual giving at WSU, after working for several years in sales and marketing. Tyrell holds a BS from Michigan State University and an MBA from Ashford University.