Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

IW hires new VP of Advancement

IW hires new VP of Advancement
Jul 02, 2018
Photo by: Submitted Mike Heaton recently became the new Vice President for Advancement at Iowa Wesleyan University.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

For three years, Iowa Wesleyan University has been searching for their next Vice President of Advancement, the right person to help grow the university through special fundraising initiatives and connecting with donors.

A national search led to Mt. Pleasant native Mike Heaton, who began his employment with IW two months ago and is quickly becoming a key leader in helping advance the institution.

The opportunity at IW was too good for the former managing director of the Great Plains Regional Office of UNICEF USA to pass up. Looking to relocate from Dallas, Texas back home to be closer to family, the offer from IW came at the perfect time.

“It was one of those perfect storms where everything comes together,” Heaton said, speaking to The News over the phone from southern California last week, where he was visiting with IW alumni and seeking donations for the university.

While Heaton, a graduate from the University of Iowa with a degree in Religious Studies, never attended IW himself, he said it still played a pivotal role in his life growing up in Mt. Pleasant. From IW football camp to countless pickup basketball games in the Old Gymnasium to piano recitals in Old Main, Heaton identifies IW as a piece of the community that makes Mt. Pleasant tick.

His experience at UNICEF has reinforced his belief that education is a social safety net in communities. Strong educational systems from preschool through graduate studies are what makes communities grow and thrive.

With UNICEF, he traveled all over the world. From places like Madagascar and Nicaragua, he saw that where the schools were struggling, the community struggled. “You see the same thing reflected in Iowa as well,” Heaton said. “There are communities you see are struggling, and then you go somewhere like Mt. Pleasant where you have great schools and a great university. It really changes the dynamic of a town and the quality of the whole region.”

Heaton would take donors and advocates around the world to see UNICEF’s work in the field and show off the innovative and unique schools being built. He noticed it was the little things that make a difference in whether a student is able to achieve their goals.

In Madagascar, a lack of electricity hindered student’s ability to study. They would come home from school in the dark. Sometimes, they would use gas lamps, which are dangerous and expensive. UNICEF partnered with a company that produced LED rechargeable lights. They started a small business working with local female entrepreneurs who would rent these lights to students who would use them for a week and bring them back to be recharged.

Not only would these LED lights give students the chance to study at night, families would use them to see to cook in their kitchens.

While Mt. Pleasant and IW doesn’t have an electricity problem, there are places within the university that need a light to shine on them through strategic planning and fundraising dollars.

It’s a fragile time for independent higher education and especially for rural institutions, IW President Steve Titus said. “We are doing things that few institutions are doing and yet we still are financially fragile,” he said.

As enrollment at IW continues to grow each year, the university lacks student housing. To continue competing with other universities, Titus said it’s also time to modernize IW’s academic facilities.

“What becomes key is our philanthropic partners,” Titus said. “These relationships are absolutely essential … to grow and deepen those so we can get more investment into the institution.”

That’s the challenge Heaton faces, a role that will be pivotal for the university’s continued growth in the coming years. “It was definitely the Holy Spirit at work, I think,” Titus said about Heaton coming to IW.

Although Heaton misses his job at UNICEF, one of the draws to IW was their international program. With students representing almost 30 countries from around the world, Heaton said he continues to feel very connected to places around the globe.

As Heaton settles down in Mt. Pleasant again, he said his quality of life has dramatically improved from his life in Texas where he would have an hour commute to work each day. Here, he hops in his car and is at IW in under a minute.

“You don’t have to make reservations for restaurants, if you want to catch a movie it’s not going to be sold out, there’s all these things that make living in Mt. Pleasant such a joy,” Heaton said.

In addition to his degree from the University of Iowa, Heaton has a masters’ in nonprofit management from Regis University.

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