When Dr. Mary Lackie and Rodney Parks went to Pakistan in November they may have been providing the farthest mentoring connection in UAFS history.
As with other forms of mentoring, the experienced team from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Foundation was reaching out to share best practices, training, and advice to their counterparts at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), a school Lackie likens to the “Harvard of Pakistan.”
Lackie, UAFS vice chancellor for university advancement, knew Dr. Sohail Naqvi from her time working in Pakistan from September 2010 to December 2012 when he served as executive director of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission. Naqvi is now the vice chancellor of LUMS, a position equivalent to a chancellor in the U.S. The two kept in touch after Lackie left Pakistan.
Naqvi told Lackie he was looking for a consultant who might come to Lahore to help them with their alumni and fundraising activities. Fundraising for educational institutions has an established tradition in the United States, but it is new to much of the rest of the world, Lackie said.
Lackie suggested he seek help from CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and although some people from LUMS attended CASE conferences, Naqvi was looking for still more. Finally, he asked Lackie if she would consider spending a week with his staff, offering some onsite advice and training. Lackie said she was excited to have a chance to return to Pakistan, which, she says, has “the most hospitable people in the world.”
In the end, Parks, senior director of major and planned gifts, accompanied Lackie as “value added,” he said. With the blessing of UAFS’s chancellor, Dr. Paul Beran, the two took a week’s vacation, and with their travel expenses paid by LUMS, they made the quick trip as mentors, Lackie explained, not as paid consultants.
They started their work with a SWOT analysis – a look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – of the university’s fundraising, and alumni activities. Where appropriate, they also provided some on-the-spot training.
Parks said that training included roleplaying scenarios.
“We acted like prospects and donors,” he said, to help their Pakistani counterparts learn how to use some of their advice.
Among the things Lackie and Parks recommended to LUMS was creating a more strategic communication program. This included telling more stories about the successful students and alumni from LUMS, not just stories about students’ financial needs.
In an experience many mentors will understand, Lackie and Parks say they returned from Pakistan with some lessons learned for themselves.
“You always learn more than the people you’re teaching learn,” Lackie said, adding that she was surprised it was so true in this situation.
Their work caused them to look back at their own practices objectively, with a more critical eye. They agree their work in Pakistan allowed them to “grow exponentially professionally.” It also has provided the opportunity for them to hone their team working and communication skills, which has benefited their work at UAFS.
Parks said candidly that as they shared best practices they realized they were doing about 75 percent of them at UAFS, but for that other 25 percent, “we need to find a way to bring that to bear here.”
Lackie and Parks will share their experiences at CASE Summit 2017. CASE’s philosophy is to learn from peers in a volunteer-driven model. “The whole idea (of the trip) was sharing with colleagues beyond our borders,” Lackie said.
When it came to traveling in Pakistan, Parks said, the lesson he learned will stay with him forever. “I realized it wasn’t different from any other urban area,” he said. The majority of the people are extraordinarily philanthropic, welcoming and sincerely committed to doing good things, and if the perception we have of Pakistan is different, that’s only because the people who behave otherwise get all the attention.