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Anne Murphy

Alumni Spotlight: Anne Murphy

Alumni of the College of Applied Health Sciences have myriad career options thanks to the tremendous diversity of programs. We periodically will put the spotlight on an alum to find out what they're doing now, what experiences they had and what AHS means to them. This week, we talk to Anne Murphy, who got her bachelor of science in 1996 and her master's degree in 2002 in what was then known as Leisure Studies and is now known as RST. She is now senior director of development at the College of Engineering at Oregon State University.

Q: Why did you pick AHS?

A: I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and had the opportunity to visit the Illinois campus several times during K-8. To be honest, I grew up with the impression that all universities were just like Illinois! The Georgian architecture, the Quad, the academic rigor—all of that. I spent my first three years of college as a student-athlete at another university and when I decided to transfer, the first and only place I looked was UIUC. I followed the advice of advisors in AHS and applied my existing credits toward a degree in Leisure Studies (now RST).

Q. Which professors had the most impact on you?

A: Dr. (Kimberly) Shinew was one of my first professors at UIUC. She impressed me as an intellectual and human. Her leadership in the Department and academic field was clear. Dr. (Lynn) Barnett-Morris also had a positive impact. I took a course in programming for people with disabilities—I don’t remember my professor’s name but I can see her face—and I learned a lot about working with people with different backgrounds and abilities. That has served me well. An especially meaningful assignment was to spend a day using a wheelchair. I felt invisible for the first time in my life. Knowing what that’s like has helped me be more inclusive in my approach to working with people. Dr. (Bruce) Wicks arranged an amazing “field trip” to the Kentucky Derby and I met the leadership team who planned this amazing event. That made an impression on my leadership skills. Importantly, throughout my time in the Department I knew that my professors and the administrators expected all of us to go out into the world and lead. Learning and growing while surrounded by people who had high expectations of me helped me become an asset in my industry and community.

Q: What course did you most enjoy?

A: I don’t remember taking a course I didn’t enjoy. My graduate work was especially interesting. Statistics was super-challenging but I am so glad I took it. My professor granted me a good grade, mostly for being “most improved” I think. 😊

Q: Did you enter AHS knowing your career path, or did AHS help you decide?

A: I would be a leader in the non-profit sector, but that was as far as I’d gotten. The internship I had while in RST helped me discover my talents and passion for higher education advancement. Mentors and champions along the way inspired me to seek bigger and bigger opportunities in my educational and career path.

Q: Did your AHS experience lead to your current job? Career? Community?

A: Yes. What I learned about how people self-identify through what they do in their unpaid time has been a critical component to my successful leadership in higher education fundraising. I’m working with people who are striving to self-actualize through giving and volunteering. I learned how important it is to understand why people do what they do for play, for leisure, and for recreation rather than what they do for work/career. This has been a huge advantage in my work with donors and their families. My coursework in research design, mega-events, programming for people with disabilities, and marketing have contributed to my career as well. When I was at Illinois, I had the impression that it was expected of me and my classmates that we would go out into the world and lead. I took that to heart. When I arrived in Champaign-Urbana, I didn’t feel particularly remarkable. When I departed, I knew that my future was bright and I’d go on to make a difference in the world.

I did my thesis with Dr. Wicks on philanthropy and public parks. It was about why people would want to contribute to a cause that’s ostensibly funded through taxes, and parks at that. I haven’t thought of my thesis in years. In February I was approached to chair a committee to raise funds for a major park renewal in my community and I said yes right away. I couldn’t quite figure out why it resonated with me, and then I remembered my thesis. It comes full circle.

Q: What is your current job?

A: I lead a unit of fundraisers who attract $25 million a year in philanthropic support for students, faculty, facilities, and programs. Serving on the leadership team of the College of Engineering and the OSU Foundation, I contribute to the strategic plans for both organizations. I love my job. It’s rare that someone in my industry begins their career in development—usually they fall into it down the road. I was fortunate to have an internship at Illinois that set me on this path!

Q: What was your favorite on-campus experience?

There was a particularly unique highlight from my experience in ALS that I’ll share. Due to a terminal illness in my family I was not planning to attend convocation. But my boss in the development office and the Dean of the College, Mike Ellis, decided that they would make it possible for me to have a ceremony nonetheless. They called my dad, brother, best friend, and boyfriend and invited them to campus. When Huff Hall was fully set up for the AHS graduation ceremony, they invited me into the gym, cued the graduation music, helped me get into full regalia (which they were also wearing!!), and proceeded to have a graduation ceremony just for me. The valedictorian practiced her speech, Mike made remarks, and he gave me a diploma. Afterward we had a little party in the Dean’s office. How amazing is that?

Q: What does AHS mean to you?

This is a thought-provoking question. I feel like I’m still learning what it meant to me. Even as I’ve been answering these questions, it’s becoming clear that the experiences in RST had an even bigger impact on my life than I’d estimated.

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