President's Perspective: A Powerful Force
I cannot wait to see many of you again in person at the 2022 CASE Summit for Leaders in Advancement in Chicago, July 17-19. It has been far too long since we last convened in Boston in 2019. This year’s Summit is all about global exchange: exchange of insights across regions, countries, disciplines, and many other dimensions in service of advancing education to transform lives and society. The Summit unites us as one body of committed advancement leaders. We come together so we can lead better, support our institutional colleagues more effectively, and serve our constituents more fully.
I have recently ventured out again, making up for the two years in which I could travel only sparingly. I traveled to CASE and CASE-related convenings in San Diego, Mexico City, Boston, Denver, Singapore, and Melbourne and Adelaide in Australia. Like many of you, my travel skills are a bit rusty, but reconnecting face to face with our CASE board and regional council members and with members at events and conferences has served as a vital reminder of the value of human contact. To share a meal, a conversation, a hug, or a moment of reflection bridges distance and difference. We have been nimble, adaptable, and unstinting during the past two years in what has been a predominantly virtual world for many of us. Human contact, though, is at the heart of what we do. We are born explorers, adventurers, and seekers of companionship and collective engagement in three dimensions to advance education.
During the past two years, we have done our important work of increasing understanding and support for our institutions by reaching people in new ways. We have innovated and connected using means we should not abandon. But it is time for us to come together again, face to face, old friends and new, to reflect on what we have experienced, to celebrate our successes, to mourn our communities’ losses, and to honour what we have achieved as leaders working through a period in which we have had to rely on instinct rather than direct experience.
At your institution, you are part of a powerful force for advancing its success. Regardless of how your advancement function is structured, your leadership and service made a tremendous difference during an unimaginable time. Communicators, marketers, fundraisers, advancement services leads, alumni relations or foundation professionals: Your engagement leveraging this work across your institutions (and, indeed, across education generally) matters profoundly. We can’t do this alone or in silos.
Author David Brooks, a speaker at our Summit several years ago, wrote a thought-provoking piece in The New York Times in February titled “The Dark Century.” In it, he speaks to the natural order of past centuries in which “global affairs resembles the law of the jungle, with big countries threatening small ones.” If there is any antidote to this “dark century” concept, it is the significant growth in access to education around the world since the end of World War II. And yet, given the challenges our children and their children face in the future, this is not enough. We must continue to expand access to education in our communities; in every community, the future of humanity depends on it. We, indeed, are all in this together.
Education transforms lives and society. Those of us in advancement help connect our institutions with the people who love them and support them. In this way and many others, we contribute to pathways that support greater access. Let’s come together this July in Chicago and talk about how we can continue to champion the power of education to change the world. Come home to the CASE Summit, your professional community.
About the author(s)
Sue Cunningham is president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which supports more than 3,600 schools, colleges, and universities worldwide in developing their alumni relations, communications, fundraising, and marketing operations in order to advance their institutions. As CASE president and CEO, she provides strategic and operational leadership for one of the largest associations of education-related institutions in the world with members in more than 80 countries. She became president of CASE in March 2015.
Cunningham engaged CASE and thousands of its volunteers in a comprehensive strategic planning process resulting in Reimagining CASE: 2017 - 2021, an ambitious and comprehensive framework for serving CASE’s members and championing education worldwide. This volunteer and member engagement extends into a comprehensive effort to refine CASE’s governance structure to more effectively support CASE’s global reach and service to members.
Under her leadership, CASE acquired the Voluntary Support of Education survey and created AMAtlas. CASE has reinvigorated its global advocacy agenda and is engaged in reviews of the curriculum across all advancement disciplines and an update of CASE’s management and reporting standards and guidelines, which operate as the industry-leading set of standards. She is most proud of CASE’s efforts to diversify the advancement professions and CASE’s commitment to talent management, within the organization and across CASE’s membership.
Cunningham serves on the steering committee of the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, is a member of the Council of Higher Education Management Associations, and the International Women’s Forum, and serves on the fundraising committee for the Aurora Foundation.
Prior to CASE, she served as vice principal for advancement at the University of Melbourne and as the director of development for the University of Oxford. She served as director of development at Christ Church, Oxford, and as director of external relations at St. Andrews University.
She is an honorary fellow of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a recipient of the CASE Europe Distinguished Service Award, and a CASE Crystal Apple Award recipient. She holds a master’s degree from Oxford University and a bachelor’s degree in performing arts from Middlesex University.
Article appears in:
Diversity and inclusion, engagement, leadership: Inside the challenges and opportunities for senior diversity leaders in higher education; integrating alumni relations and development; and resetting in-person, online, and hybrid events.