Barry J. Collins
Associate Dean, UVA School of Medicine, Executive Director, UVA Medical Alumni Association and Medical School Foundation
University of Virginia School of Medicine
We caught up with 2021 GIA Distinguished Service Award recipient Barry Collins to discover more about him, what he’s up to, and what we can learn from him.
Briefly describe your current role.
As Associate Dean and Executive Director, I provide oversight and strategic direction for two volunteer boards: the UVA Medical Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Medical School Foundation Board of Trustees. I manage an exceptional team that is responsible for all aspects of alumni relations for the School of Medicine, hosting over 60 events for students, house staff, faculty, and alumni each fiscal year. In addition to alumni relations, I am responsible for coordinating the design of the Annual Giving and Reunion Giving programs for the school. Additionally on the philanthropic side of the organization, I oversee a portfolio of nearly 400 restricted and unrestricted gift accounts, which accounts for $115+ million in assets that benefit the School of Medicine.
Briefly describe your career journey and what led you to institutional advancement in academic medicine.
I started my career in the food and beverage industry. In my prior role, I managed a $3.5 million multi-unit food-service operation at the University of Virginia with 115 direct reports and was responsible for all financial aspects including budgeting, forecasting, cost analysis, inventory, and goal setting. Serendipitously, I received a call from a colleague about a position at the UVA Medical Alumni Association and Medical School Foundation that she thought I may be interested in applying. I was always passionate about event planning and execution while simultaneously having a fondness for accounting and finance, two skill sets that don’t often align together. This position, for me, was the best of both worlds. I applied and was fortunate to secure the position in what I tell everyone that I was “at the right place at the right time.”
What achievement in your current job are you proud of?
I am really proud of our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, which starts with our leadership. We have a diverse Board of Directors for our Medical Alumni Association, which enables us to effectively plan and execute a communication, engagement, and fundraising strategy that is appropriately aligned with our diverse constituency. I am specifically proud of our programs for women in medicine; our engagement with Black medical alumni; and our Student National Medical Association (SNMA), Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), and qMD, our LGBTQ+ student interest group. I strongly feel that we are a better organization because of our focus on diversity. I cannot express, adequately, how well our team embraces this.
What success have you achieved with limited resources?
Realignment of our staff structure has been one of the biggest successes that stayed within our budget constraints. We eliminated two positions: Gift Accounting Coordinator and Associate Director for Accounting and Finance. Both positions were outsourced to the university, which resulted in substantial overhead cost savings and enabled us to expand the number of FTEs on our constituent relations team, which is the heart of our organization.
What is a challenge that you/your unit/your institution is facing and how are you addressing it?
As a state institution, only three percent of the School of Medicine’s operating budget is supported from state appropriations. Financially supporting our academic operations is a challenge, and the institution looks heavily to our advancement operations to provide support.
What was a mistake you made and how did you learn from it?
The list of mistakes is long; however, I learned from each one. It has made me better at what I do. Will the mistakes stop? No, keep learning!
What innovation or trend in the field inspires or motivates you?
I am really inspired by the technological trends in our industry. Although I do not see it ever replacing our traditional face-to-face engagement and fundraising strategies, I do see technology playing a major role in advancing our mission and allowing us to reach a broader audience within our constituency.
What is the best career advice you were given and how have you used it?
When I first started my position in 2003, I wanted to make so many changes so quickly. Naturally, I had resistance from our team. One of our board officers told me that my work was “an evolution, not a revolution.” I heeded that advice and learned to pace change differently, which resulted in much greater long-term success for the organization.
What advice do you have for other institutional advancement professionals in academic medicine?
Two pieces of advice: 1) Work for an institution that has a mission you are passionate about and stays true to the mission. 2) Create a work culture that is caring and compassionate and empowers your employees. We need to create work environments that allow employees to grow personally and professionally.
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