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Spotlight on Betsy Burns

Betsy Burns is WFAA’s senior director of development for the UW–Madison School of Education. A graduate of UW–Milwaukee and the College of St. Scholastica, she and her husband and three-year-old daughter live in Madison. We asked her to reflect on her five years with the organization.

What led you to the field of development as a profession?

I interned in development work doing fundraising and special events all through my undergraduate days for various organizations in Madison and Milwaukee. It was just one of those areas I was exposed to early on and was hooked instantly. I continued to work in a variety of development roles upon graduating from college before stepping into the role of an associate development officer at another Big Ten institution.

What brought you to Madison and WFAA?

I was born and raised on the west side of Madison, and my parents both worked for the UW, so it felt like I practically grew up on campus. Because I’ve been in development my whole career and moved around a little bit, I always knew that I was working toward the ultimate goal of coming back to my hometown and working for one of the very best universities in the world. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join the College of Engineering development team as a Director of Development in 2011.

How has your career gone since you were hired?

It’s been great! I arrived at a time that the Foundation was seeing a tremendous amount of growth and change in large part due to the transition of leadership–everything from a new CRM to business practices to the eventual merging of WAA and UWF. In addition, we went through a dean transition during my time with the College of Engineering, when we shifted from a college-wide fundraising approach to a departmental fundraising focus. After four and a half years with the College of Engineering, I had the opportunity to move over to the School of Education and lead its development team.

What professional development have you had?

WFAA does a good job of encouraging annual professional development for its staff. The opportunity to have good training initially when you arrive is important, and certainly, I’ve experienced it along the way, too, with being able to go to a couple different kinds of conferences. Our mentorship program is particularly helpful for someone who is new to WFAA in the field of development. Having that matchup of someone as your actual mentor for me was invaluable. Linda Halsey, who was my mentor, took me under her wing, and we went to San Francisco together for a donor trip within my second month of being at WFAA. I deeply value that experience. And also, the informal mentoring I’ve received from other colleagues has been readily available

How would you like your career to progress from here?

I’m extremely committed to higher education, so I would like to continue to contribute to WFAA. I’d like to see the School of Education’s campaign goal and the campaign goal for the entire university come to fruition as kind of a major career goal for myself. I think we can all learn a lot by participating in the campaign from start to finish. I have a hard time picturing myself outside of Madison — it’s a wonderful place to live and raise a family. I live here with my husband and three-year-old daughter. She goes to daycare on campus, and my husband works over in the School of Pharmacy, so our whole little world is a one-mile circumference — it’s quite lovely.

What would you say about your coworkers?

I feel really fortunate to work with such supportive and collegial colleagues across the various divisions of WFAA. We work for a special organization where everyone seems to be really committed to the mission of the university, and along the way, we have a lot of fun and interact with some really inspiring alumni and donors.

What would you say to someone who is considering working for WFAA?

For me, it’s been really enjoyable, and I can’t believe how quickly five years have flown by. WFAA is a wonderful place to work, and in particular, the growth and changes that we’ve seen in development is exciting. It’s an inspiring time to be working here in the midst of an aggressive comprehensive campaign, knowing that the work we are all doing will help to move UW–Madison forward for years to come.