For chancellor search finalist Michael Schill, a dean and law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, fundraising and alumni engagement are essential for the future of the University of Wisconsin.
Schill, who is one of four final candidates for the chancellor position, said fundraising is a critical factor for sustaining “great educational institutions” in an email to The Badger Herald.
“I actually love fundraising because I think of it as matchmaking,” Schill said. “You take a great school with lots of needs and a donor with lots of love and gratitude for the institution. When you make a great match, it is better than anything you can imagine!”
Although there is potential for increased state funding for UW, Schill said only philanthropy can create and maintain what Interim Chancellor David Ward has called the “margin of excellence.”
Schill, who also served as the dean of the University of California-Los Angeles School of Law, said during his time at both UCLA and Chicago, he had extensive experience building successful fundraising operations.
UCLA increased alumni participation from 17 to 31 percent, tripled fundraising and raised over $82 million by the time he left in 2009, according to Schill. At Chicago, he said he helped raised almost $90 million in three years.
The secret to fundraising, Schill said, is to work with faculty, students, staff and alumni to create a compelling vision and then articulate that vision in a way to capture donors’ imaginations.
“Donors need to believe that you love your school and they respond to high energy and devotion,” Schill said. “I spend about half of my time on development.”
During his tenure at UCLA, Schill said he developed a relationship with an alumnus who cared deeply about one of the university’s programs, but who had not been treated well in the past. He said they went to a lot of Bruins basketball games and developed a great friendship together.
Schill said this individual made a multi-million gift to name the program.
“A couple years later after the economic recession, he told me after a game that he was worth less than he had been worth at the time of the gift,” Schill said. “I took a deep breath and thought that he might not be able to continue making the payments. Instead, he told me that it was the best thing he ever did. Can you imagine how good that made me feel?”
According to Schill, such alumni engagement is paramount to UW’s future, as their financial support is needed.
However, he added alumni are also part of a university’s family, noting the ties between the university and its alumni run deeper than funding as each shares a bond that is lasting and strong.
“And we owe our alumni love, respect and admiration regardless of whether they give six figures or one figure,” he said. “They are part of our family.”
As chancellor, Schill said he would bring that same sense of warmth and family to UW, a skill he believes is also an important part of his current role as dean.
While emphasizing a focus on campus relations, Schill also said his work on the board of the Argonne National Laboratory would transfer to a new role at UW, a leading research institute, adding the experience taught him about the science and technology enterprise.
Schill also said he served as chair of the University of Chicago committee on for-credit online education and added Wisconsin will need to confront these issues.
He said if selected as chancellor, he plans to engage with students from day one. This includes attending Badger games, art performances, social and political events and meeting with students because the first step, he said, is to show up.
At UCLA, Schill chaired the Council of Professional School Deans. He said the position gave him insight into the different types of issues facing each of UCLA’s 11 professional schools. Schill also sat on the Chancellor’s Executive Committee, where he said he was able to help address the major issues facing the university.
“UW is, simply put, an extraordinary university,” Schill said. “It is home to an incredible faculty and a wonderfully engaged and brilliant student body. Its staff are dedicated and its alumni bleed Badger red.”