When I came to campus for a college visit in 2005 (please don’t do the math!), I knew right away that Valparaiso University was the place for me. By the time I graduated in 2010, I knew I wanted to come back— but I didn’t realize exactly how my vocation would bring me home to Valpo.
I was still studying at Valpo when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Most of my mentors in Valpo’s English department had gotten their Ph.D.s in English from the University of Iowa, so I assumed that was the path; if I wanted to teach English at Valpo, I had to go to Iowa. So I went, and six years later, I matriculated with a Ph.D. in English literature (or, more specifically, superhero comics). I started applying for teaching jobs, but the academic job market was not a friendly place in 2016.
After applying to schools in nearly every state from Alabama to Alaska, I knew I needed a backup plan. I wanted to move back to the Chicago area, so I looked for open jobs at Valpo. Lo and behold, there was a job posting for a research analyst in the advancement office. “I have no idea what advancement work is,” I thought, “but I know how to research.”
Six years later, I am now the director of annual giving. I lead a team responsible for raising more than $2 million for the Valpo Fund, which is the University’s unrestricted fund and our largest source of annual scholarship support. I have the distinct blessing of waking up every morning, helping alumni and friends make their best gift to Valpo, in turn making student scholarships possible. It is not a job I knew someone could have, but after six years I have a new appreciation for the supporters who came before me and gave generously so that I could receive a first-rate education.
My day usually begins with a voicemail from a donor calling to make their gift. After connecting with our supporters, I meet with my team and colleagues to plan our outreach efforts, working on communications and programming to keep alumni and friends engaged with Valpo.
The best part of my day, though, is meeting with alumni and other supporters. I spend several weeks out of the office, traveling across the country and visiting with people who love Valpo almost as much as I do. There are mornings when I wake up and cannot believe that my job is to get coffee and lunch (and sometimes ice cream!) with interesting Valpo people. I’ve met alumni who worked on the James Webb Space Telescope and who shared an elevator with Andy Garcia that morning; I’ve connected with alumni who took O.P. Kretzmann’s senior seminar and who helped save hymnals from the chapel fire in 1956.
But most of all, I meet with Valpo people who are doing great work in a world that needs them, and I help to reconnect them with our alma mater. Even better, that reconnection usually involves a gift for student scholarships or in support of a department that shaped their future. This is definitely a campus that will change your life, and I am so blessed to be a part of making sure our students have the care they need.
If you want to make a gift to Valpo, talk vocation, or just gab about the latest superhero movie, email me at email@example.com, or call 219.464.6923. I’m also happy to connect with Valpo people on LinkedIn. [[link: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zachary-king-phd/]] Go Beacons!