Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

Brian Ibsen was appointed the director of philanthropy by the Office of University Advancement on Sept. 19. Ibsen shared details about his role as director and his goals for the new position.

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Photo credit: Chase Burnett

He comes to UAA with 25 years of experience in higher education fundraising. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and holds a master’s in teaching from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

As director, he manages a group of fundraisers for the university, focusing on efficiency in acquiring new resources for the university’s programs and people.

When asked why he took a position in Alaska, Ibsen cited a romantic notion of the state.

“I’d never been to Alaska before interviewing for this job,” Ibsen said. “It’s exciting to be at the Last Frontier; I love the concept. I know there’s very hard problems in Alaska but it’s just great to be here.”

Ibsen was chosen after the university identified the fundraising team needed more support to be as effective as possible. There was a position similar to Ibsen’s in the past; however, this is the first time a Director of Philanthropy has been implemented.

“[The university] refashioned the position to call it Director of Philanthropy just to focus on the fact that we want to create a culture of philanthropy at the university and in Alaska,” he said.

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His role focuses on nurturing a sense of giving to higher education in Alaska.

With experience in fundraising for both public and private institutions, he finds working with public institutions inspiring.

“Public institutions are about access and really giving more people the opportunity of higher education,” he said.

Ibsen believes working with public universities means helping where the need is greatest.

Ibsen has helped implement several initiatives in previous roles that he’s particularly proud of. At the University of New Mexico, he helped raise $25 million for a health policy initiative for the university and the state.

“That’s a public university and, going back to what I said earlier, that’s going to make a big difference to the ability of that state to really improve the health of its citizens,” he said.

He also played a key role in fundraising for the University of Chicago.

“That’s a really top university but it had a hole in its programs. It had no engineering school,” he said.

He was responsible for raising money for the university’s first Institute of Molecular Engineering and described a sense of pride in the programs’ success and influence.

Ibsen’s new role as director of philanthropy differs from his previous positions, but it utilizes his extensive fundraising knowledge. With this knowledge, he’s working with his team to foster a culture of philanthropy at the university and throughout the state.