PLYMOUTH — In its new Vice President for University Advancement, Plymouth State University has found an experienced and successful leader.
For Paula Lee Hobson, the opportunities at Plymouth State University are “limitless.”
“There is a solid foundation at Plymouth State, with alumni and supporters engaged in the future of the University,” she said.
Plymouth State University President Sara Jayne Steen announced Hobson’s appointment to lead the University’s Advancement Division, which includes fundraising and alumni relations. Hobson begins her duties July 28.
“Members of the search committee and campus community were deeply impressed with Paula Lee’s strong record of securing private support,” commented Plymouth State University President Sara Jayne Steen. “She is exactly the right leader for the next stage of PSU’s outreach to those who believe in our mission of transforming lives through education.”
Currently the Executive Director of Institutional Advancement at Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) Foundation in Reno, Nev., Hobson brings more than 30 years of experience in development, institutional advancement, marketing and public relations to Plymouth State. Most recently, she has managed TMCC’s first major gifts campaign, so far raising $24 million toward a $25 million goal to support capital projects, student scholarships and advanced technological instructional equipment.
Larry Haynes, President and CEO of the Grappone Automotive Group and chair of Plymouth State’s President’s Council, its volunteer fundraising council, says Hobson’s “incredible track record” will help take the University to new heights.
“As Chair and on behalf of the Plymouth State President’s Council, we look forward to working with Paula Lee. With Paula Lee’s considerable experience, past successes and leadership qualities, our advancement team is well positioned for an exciting future,” Haynes said.
With 7,300 undergraduate and graduate students and an alumni base of more than 30,000, Plymouth State University has grown significantly over the past decade, adding programs in nursing, criminal justice, sales leadership and a master of science in accounting to now offer 55 bachelor degree programs and 75 graduate degree and certificate programs. The University was recently approved to begin construction on the 108,000 square foot Center for Active Living and Wellness (ALLWell) North, an academic and athletic complex that will strengthen the connection between classroom learning and hands-on experiences for students majoring in programs such as Athletic Training, Adventure Education, Health, Physical Education, and Exercise and Sport Physiology.
“When I look at the initiatives that are currently under way, the opportunity for ALLWell is huge,” Hobson said, but other priorities, such as growing a sustainable annual fund, expanding student scholarships, and investing in the endowment and the new Museum of the White Mountains are also important.
“I see these initiatives as critical to advancing the University’s mission in educating students, serving the region and the state, and supporting faculty research, scholarship and creativity. I look forward to playing a part in Plymouth State’s unique and important contribution to the world,” she said.
Hobson also acknowledges the fiscal challenges facing public universities in a country of shrinking support for higher education. Public institutions are increasingly becoming “publicly assisted” rather than publicly supported. Plymouth State, she says, must, as President Steen often says, “take ownership of the destiny of the institution. We must become more entrepreneurial ourselves so that people’s dreams – whether they are age 17 or 73 – can be met. Private funding is the difference between an ‘ok’ university and a ‘phenomenal ‘university that is making a difference in the lives of young people.”
The spirit of entrepreneurship is evident in Hobson’s language, speaking of “investments” in the University and its people rather than “gifts.” She believes institutions such as Plymouth have a mission to serve “the state, the country, and the world,” and that donors want to be partners in fulfilling that mission. “When you have a compelling case for support, donors will invest. They genuinely want to support higher education.”
Supporting Plymouth State, she adds, “is a return on investment in human terms that will be the product of your investment.” Plymouth’s challenge is connecting philanthropists with Plymouth and Plymouth State will become alive to them, and the University will go to the next level. I am confident we can do that at PSU.”
A native of Oregon, Hobson grew up in a small town near the Pacific coast. As a first-generation college student, she has much in common with the 40 percent of Plymouth State students who also identify themselves as the first in their families to attend college. And, similar to many Plymouth students, a faculty member “changed my life.” A pre-med major at first, she was encouraged to follow her own dreams by an English professor, Dr. Gloria Johnson, at the University of Oregon.
“That intersection between teaching and learning and faculty and student happens every day across this country. And it happens at PSU. I want to identify donors who can relate to that story of students at PSU,” she said.
Prior to her years in educational advancement, Hobson worked in the private sector, primarily with engineering and scientific consulting firms. She was Vice President for Marketing and Sales at HSI GeoTrans, regional marketing director for Kleinfelder, Inc., and Marketing Director for the Mark Group. These experiences, Hobson says, are compatible with the skills needed in fundraising.
“It was never about what we were selling; it was what the client needed.” Donors also have needs, as well as many choices about which not-for-profits to support. “Our job is to align where the donor wants to go with Plymouth State’s needs.”
“If you listen with your head and with your heart, the donor will tell you where they want to go.”