Heading Back to Campus
When Karl Miller Lugo begins his new job as vice president for development and alumni relations at the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 1, he’ll be working as a full-time college employee for the first time in several years. Miller Lugo is moving on from his role as a vice president at Bentz Whaley Flessner, an international consulting firm that collaborates on fundraising with colleges, universities, medical centers, and other nonprofits.
From 2006 to 2016, he served in various fundraising and development leadership roles at UT Austin, where he oversaw principal, major, and annual giving programs. There he helped raise $3.1 billion for the Campaign for Texas, the largest amount in Texas history at the time.
Born in Puerto Rico, Miller Lugo holds bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and public relations and an M.B.A. from Western Kentucky University.
Looking back at your career, what drew you to university advancement work?
I started in higher education as an admissions officer and later as director of admissions at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky. As the director of admissions, I would sometimes be invited on fundraising visits to speak about the student experience. The president asked me if I would consider a move to the development office, and I took him up on the offer. I began my career in advancement as the assistant to the president for corporate and foundation relations.
What’s bringing you back to a UT campus?
I missed being at an institution full time, and UTSA is an institution with an inspiring mission and an exciting, aspirational strategic vision. President Taylor Eighmy is a visionary leader with audacious goals, and San Antonio is a vibrant, culturally rich city.
What are the advancement opportunities and challenges in meeting the needs of students in San Antonio?
The community of San Antonio understands that what’s good for UTSA is good for San Antonio. The institution was founded to serve San Antonio and this region, and it’s done that well for its 50-year history. But there is still work to do. San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the U.S. and ranks among the nation’s highest poverty cities. Access to high-quality education, along with the economic and intellectual outputs that come from a strong and productive research enterprise, uplift cities and transform lives.
There is work already initiated around ensuring we’re meeting our mission to the greater San Antonio community. We recently set up the Westside Community Partnerships Initiative to help it shape educational, economic, and cultural programs and services for individuals living and working in the Westside. UTSA co-developed the initiative with the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders, a nationally recognized non-profit organization specializing in research and data-driven strategies to support equitable neighborhood development.
UTSA’s Westside Community Partnerships Initiative will include four task forces focused on specific needs of the Westside community: economic prosperity; educational excellence; community-based research, sustainable partnerships and advocacy; and community-campus engagement..
This year we celebrated UTSA’s 50th anniversary, and we have launched a $500 million campaign to invest in the university and the people of San Antonio. Priority funding needs include scholarships to ensure students can attend UTSA. The campaign will provide the university with the infrastructure and resources to achieve international recognition as a model for student success and research discovery.
How has CASE’s Minority Advancement Institute, where you were a faculty member in November, helped you in your career, and what are the primary benefits of attending?
Let me count the ways! I was a member of the inaugural class 2006 and I’ve served on the faculty three times. The experience in 2006 came at a time of great professional reflection for me as I was considering what could be next for my career. I’d grown up in Kentucky, and here I was considering a move out of state to start a new job at the largest university I’d ever worked at. I was asking myself, am I equipped? Am I really ready for this? Can I be successful? The experience at MAI came right at that time. I left feeling more confident about my abilities and what I could bring to the table at UT Austin.
The career development discussions and resources provided in this setting were the most helpful of my professional career to that point in my life and perhaps since. People who think they’re going to a "conference” find that it’s much richer than that. The incredible number of ideas put forth and deep discussions create such a camaraderie in the group, and they become so close in a matter of days. I came out of there with lifelong colleagues.
Not only did MAI give me the confidence to pursue the move to UT Austin, it provided a network of colleagues and friends from my class who have served as resources, confidantes, and mentors over the years. One of the clients I was working with just hired a guy from the inaugural class. We had been in touch over the years, and I watched his career grow on LinkedIn. I’ve had several times throughout my career, that I’ve called upon my classmates for ideas, advice, and resources. And vice versa. It’s just been a wonderful network.
About the author(s)
Barbara Ruben is a senior content creator at CASE.