Caleen Norrod Johnson, now director of foundation relations for the UNLV Foundation, says she was drawn back to UNLV because her new position would give her the chance to build a program from the ground up. She previously served as director of development for the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering from 2002-08.
What is your current job?
Now I am responsible for raising funds from large national private foundations for the key priorities for all of UNLV's colleges and other units. I build relationships between our faculty and researchers and these foundations around the country.
What drew you back to UNLV?
I was interested in the opportunity to build another program from scratch, something I've done a number of times. UNLV had never had someone solely dedicated to raising money from foundations, and I was excited to step into that role. I also was thrilled to be working with a lot of the same wonderful people on campus, especially my amazing boss, Nancy Strouse.
What are misconceptions people have about your field?
Many folks look at fundraising as either something incredibly arcane and mysterious, or as something akin to sales. Fundraising is actually about building meaningful and sincere relationships between donors and the causes they support. The trust and partnership that grows on both sides leads to donors wanting to invest in an organization, knowing they can really make an important difference -- which follows from the organization keeping the donors involved and informed about the results of their commitment.
If I weren't able to work in my current field, I would want to be...
A scholar of English literature, an artist, a mathematician, a film critic, a chef, or an astronomer...
One tip for success.
Never schedule more than 80 percent of your day.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Germany -- I'm an Army brat -- and spent some formative years in Honduras, but I've spent more time in Virginia than any place else. I usually tell people I come by "y'all" honestly, and that I'm board-certified to say "all y'all."
Who is your hero and why?
My heroes are my husband, my 11-year-old son, my father, and my late mother -- who are each a constant source of strength, inspiration, and joy for me.
What has been the proudest moment of your life?
The birth of my son, Lewis. Nothing else in my life comes anywhere close to that moment!
Hobbies or pastimes?
I paint when I have the time, which isn't often, and I read constantly. I'm an avid film buff, and I love cooking and travel.