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July 2013

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George Wythe Welcomes New Vice President of Development

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Laney Cheney who was hired as the new Vice President of Development during spring 2007.

The Statesman (TS): Mrs. Cheney, please tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Laney Cheney (LC): I grew up in Utah, Idaho, and Kansas.  After high school, I attended Utah State University and graduated with a BA in Family and Human Development.  I met and married Carter Cheney during that time and after graduation we moved to Bloomington, Indiana, with our son and soon-to-be daughter, so my husband could attend graduate school.  After living there for one year, my husband passed away quite suddenly and life took some unanticipated turns.  I decided to start graduate school and completed my Master’s in Public Affairs (MPA) with an emphasis in nonprofit management and policy analysis at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University in Bloomington.  Last July, I moved to Cedar City with my son and daughter to start the PhD program at George Wythe College.  

One of the loves of my life is the nonprofit sector, or organizations that function outside of business or government.  Over the last five years I have had the opportunity to volunteer and work for a number of human service nonprofit organizations.  I’ve been involved with organizations that serve people with disabilities, families with young children, and adults or youth experiencing homelessness.  I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact these organizations can have on individuals and communities.  I really want to help this type of organization flourish as a viable solution to a community’s needs and challenges.  Since the sector is still forging its identity with respect to business and government, I plan to lobby for human service organizations and the people they represent. 

TS: What made you decide to attend George Wythe College?

LC: Although I attended a very high-ranking university (in fact, my specific master’s degree program ranked 3rd in the nation to Harvard and Syracuse), I was not fully satisfied with aspects of my experience.  It was certainly a rigorous and well-designed program that taught me many necessary skills.  But I was unsatisfied with the individualized direction I received from my professors, which was minimal due to the 180 students in my program and the university’s focus on research.  Although my career choice does not require another degree, I knew that I needed a more well-developed education to truly have the impact I want to have.  But after finishing my first year of my master’s program, I had decided that I would educate myself by reading books and professional journals rather than by pursuing a degree from an institution. 

Shortly after making that decision, I visited my sister for spring break.  I explained my plan to her and she told me about a “great little school in southern Utah that has mentors rather than professors,” and she suggested I try finding a mentor to help me in my studies.  It was the first time I had really thought about the concept of mentoring and began to understand that I needed a mentor to gain the depth of knowledge I want to have.  So I looked up GWC online and was happy to see that it offered graduate degrees, including a PhD.  I looked into the classes required for the degree and was thrilled with what I saw—I had studied Madison and Jefferson in my master’s degree, but only as a brief portion of a class, never as the topic of the course!  So I was excited about studying, really studying, the classics and furthering my education under the guidance of a mentor.

As a single mom of two young ones, it was a hard decision to make.  I knew I could get a job in my field with my current degrees.  But I also knew that I was not done learning.  I knew that I needed to further my education to prepare for my life’s mission and to be ready to help my children prepare for their life missions.  So I took the plunge and applied for the program.  I have now completed two semesters, and although I’m told that I’m on the 10-year plan (I have to do it very slowly…), I do not regret my decision to pursue this degree at GWC.

TS: Tell us a little about the other positions you’ve held at GWC.

LC: After I decided to attend GWC, I knew I needed a way to help pay for my tuition.  I also knew that my degree in nonprofit management could be useful to the school.  So I did something I had never done before: I solicited an unadvertised job!  I spoke with Shanon Brooks over the phone before moving to Utah, and after a two-hour conversation I had convinced him that I could assist him with fundraising for the school.  After arriving in Utah, I visited with him again and he offered me the position of event coordinator for the Statesman Retreats.  I gladly accepted the position, but was somewhat disappointed that he hadn’t asked me to help with development.  The next day, however, he called me back and extended to me the position of Development Officer, to create and oversee what later became the Build the Campus campaign.  Since I have a habit of taking on more than I probably should, I accepted that position as well and have spent the last 10 months serving as both Event Coordinator and Development Officer.

TS: Why did you want to help with development?

LC: I had heard about the plans for building an additional campus and assumed there was some kind of capital campaign to raise funds for the structures.  I had just completed a very rigorous and thorough course on fundraising that was developed by the Fundraising School in Indianapolis and taught by a well-respected researcher in the field of nonprofits, Dr. Kirsten Gronbjerg.  As part of the course, I had the opportunity to work with a team as consultants for a local nonprofit organization to assess its development plan and suggest improvements.  I learned a great deal during those months and felt confident in my ability to assist in an organization’s fundraising effort.  Little did I know I would be asked to head up a campaign on my own!  But it has been a great opportunity and over the last year I have become more and more grateful to be a part of expanding GWC.  It will be so amazing in 50 years to see the Monticello campus, full of aspiring statesmen, and know that in some way I was able to help to build it.

TS: How will your position change as Resource Development Vice President?

LC: We recently created our development department at George Wythe College.  Shanon Brooks has been driving fundraising efforts for GWC for the last several years, and as a Development Officer I was assisting him with that, but more so behind the scenes.  As CEO, he has many responsibilities and, thus, needs to have a supportive team leading out in needed areas.  Hiring Gary Arnell as Vice President of Administration released him of the daily responsibilities in administration and that is what he intends to do with fundraising as well.  He will still be involved, and will do a large amount of fundraising himself, but the daily activities and overall direction of our department will be released to me and others on our staff. 

TS: Tell us a little about the new department.

LC: It is called the Department of Resource Development and our vision is to develop resources to fund the mission of George Wythe University; in other words, we raise the money that is necessary to build men and women of virtue, wisdom, diplomacy, and courage who inspire greatness in others and move the cause of liberty.  Specifically, we develop resources to provide scholarships, sponsor Wokh-sa-pe Pte San Philanthropic Society, finance buildings, create endowments, and fund programs.  One principle of fundraising that has really driven home for me is that raising funds is not about getting money; it is integral to the mission.  Every noble cause requires funding, and our mission to build statesmen is no different. 

To help us in this, the Department of Resource Development houses several smaller areas of fundraising, including Major Gifts, Planned Giving, Capital Campaign, and Endowments.  Symbria Patterson has joined the department as Major Gifts Director and she will raise funds through large donations and spearhead our fundraising event, the Wokh-sa-pe Pte San Philanthropic Society Gala, held each spring. 

As the school continues to grow, we will add directors of each of the other areas as well.  Until that time, I will develop and manage those areas within our department.  We have a goal to raise $4.2 million by the end of 2009!  This is very exciting and, I admit, somewhat daunting to me.  But I have seen people pull together and make amazing things happen; and I know that supporters of GWC have already pulled together to make it possible for us to move into our current building in Cedar City.  So I’m excited to help make that happen for our Monticello campus as well!

TS: How can someone who supports the GWC mission join your efforts to build the Monticello campus?

LC: We currently have a few options to choose from.  Donors can start giving $100 per month towards our Monticello campus and receive two seats to the 2009 Gala, which promises to be even more amazing than those in the past!  Be sure to watch for the announcement on the 2009 Gala in the July issue of The Statesman.  

Another option is to help us build the campus Brick by Brick by purchasing a personalized, inscribed brick for $300 which will be used in the construction of our campus.  This is a great way to support our mission while establishing a legacy for your children and grandchildren.  Brick by Brick is also a contest, so you and your friends or family can join us in acquiring donations and give yourself the opportunity to win $100,000 in tuition to GWC! 

Some of us want to help, but don’t have the pocket book to choose either of those options.  So, for those of us who want to give in small amounts and still make a difference, we have the Build the Campus drive.  Donors can give $20 per month (or any amount, really) towards the campus.  It may not seem like much, but we were able to move into our current building in Cedar City by using just this approach in 2004.  It’s amazing what a small amount can become when joined with hundreds of others!

All of these options are offered on our website, or, of course, I would be happy to answer any questions over the phone at (435) 586-6570 ext 150.

TS: Thank you for your time, Mrs. Cheney.  We wish you the best in your new position and hope you and your team are successful in your fundraising!

LC: Thank you!

Laney Cheney has a Bachelor of Arts in Family and Human Development from Utah State University and a Master of Public Affairs with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management and Policy Analysis from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Over the last ten years she has been involved with several nonprofit organizations as a consultant, volunteer, and board member. Currently, she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Constitutional Law from George Wythe College. A native of Utah, Laney has also had the pleasure of residing in Idaho, Kansas, and Indiana. She is the wife of the late Carter Cheney and currently lives in Cedar City, Utah with her two children.