Member Profile: Dustin Wunderlich
Over the course of his career in advancement, Dustin Wunderlich has seen that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: gratitude.
"We all face a lot of demands on our time and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the tasks that need to get done in a day," says Wunderlich, director of marketing and communications at the University of Washington's College of Education. "But whatever your role is in the advancement profession, we rely on other people to achieve our goals and ensure our institutions thrive."
Here, he discusses gratitude, his career pathway in advancement, and making an impact in education.
How did you find your way to advancement and your current role at your institution?
I love talking to people with different perspectives, hearing what they’re passionate about and helping share their stories. After starting my career in journalism, I had an opportunity to return to my alma mater (Valparaiso University in Indiana, U.S.) as director of media relations. It was a role that enabled me to tell important stories and give back to an institution that I knew was helping students achieve their potential and contributing to the well-being of society.
That foundation continues to inspire my work now at the University of Washington College of Education. On top of that, both of my parents were K-12 educators. From an early age I saw the power of education to transform lives. The work our faculty, students, alumni, and community partners are doing to ensure every child has a high quality and affirming education is inspirational and so needed today. I’m grateful to be able to play a role in advancing that work.
How did you get involved with CASE, and what have you enjoyed most working with your district?
At the beginning of my career, I attended CASE District V conferences for several years and always found it energizing to see what other institutions were doing. But it wasn’t until I took a new position at The College of Idaho that I stepped up my involvement. At the time, the institution wasn’t active in CASE and I felt there was an opportunity for not only me but the entire advancement staff to learn and grow. So I started encouraging my colleagues to attend the District VIII conference, volunteered to serve on the conference communications committee and my involvement snowballed from there!
Over the several years I’ve volunteered in District VIII, working with other people who share a commitment to lifting up the work of our institutions has been truly rewarding. People in our district are so generous with their knowledge and I appreciate being a part of helping people learn from one another.
What’s one professional achievement that you’re particularly proud of?
Our marketing team at the UW College of Education is small, but we’ve done a lot to expand our storytelling over the past few years. We’re producing compelling video content, we’ve gotten into podcasting, we’ve supported our faculty in writing more op-eds, we’re still producing our print magazine but have expanded that into an immersive multimedia website. Seeing that storytelling translate into greater awareness of and support for the College’s work is gratifying and it wouldn’t be possible without the partnership of so many faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others in telling these stories.
What’s one piece of wisdom you’d pass along to starting out in advancement?
Make it a point to get outside of your bubble. Talk to people in different departments around your organization who you wouldn’t typically interact with so that you have a better understanding of how other parts of the operation can impact your work. At conferences or other networking events, be intentional about interacting with people from other institutions, and especially other types of institutions. If you’re at a large state university, talk to a counterpart at a small private college, and vice versa. Gaining a better understanding of these similarities and differences can open you up to new ideas and career opportunities.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
Bring a spirit of gratitude to your work. We all face a lot of demands on our time and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the tasks that need to get done in a day. But whatever your role is in the advancement profession, we rely on other people to achieve our goals and ensure our institutions thrive. Make sure you express your gratitude in a meaningful way and pay it forward—your colleagues will remember that. The highest-performing teams I’ve been a part of were infused with gratitude and that was essential to overcoming the obstacles we encountered.
What’s something you keep on your desk or in your office that’s special to you?
In my home office where I’ve been working during COVID-19, I have a painting that I bought from a graduating art student at The College of Idaho as part of their senior exhibition. I’m grateful that in my work I’ve always had a lot of interaction with students and had opportunities to build relationships with a number over a longer period of time. And when you can make an impact in ways outside the standard duties of your job—like supporting a student who is just launching their career as an artist—it’s a reminder of how important our work is, not just in the abstract, but in tangible ways.
On a less serious note, I’m a lifelong Green Bay Packers football fan and we’ve had a bit of rivalry with the local Seattle team in recent years. So at my work office I’ve put up a small display of trading cards of some of the great Packers players—Reggie White, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and so on. It’s a good reminder to my colleagues which team has won more NFL championship titles than any other.