AdvancementWinona State University relies on the generosity of donors to support its mission, but it also relies on the tireless work of its development team to inspire generosity and connect passion with possibility.

The advancement team recently added a new director of development, Jeff Bartholomew, to create a team of four directors dedicated to WSU’s philanthropy mission.

Bartholomew graduated from WSU in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology. He has spent most of his career in the non-profit sector, specifically as the executive director for multiple YMCAs in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Before coming back to WSU, he was the Executive Director at the United Way in Winona. Bartholomew said for him a career in philanthropy is about personal happiness, professional challenges, and community impact.

“I have been blessed by the success I have achieved in the field of development and more importantly matching donors interest with their capacity to give,” Bartholomew said. “There is nothing like developing long-term relationships with those that share common vision and can dream.”

Bartholomew said sharing in that vision with WSU will be important to him because of his alumni status.

For the other members of the advancement team, helping WSU continue its vision through working with donors and supporters fuels them as professionals.

Cindy Jokela has worked in university development for over 20 years, including the last nine at WSU. She has a bachelor’s degree in language and literature from Yale University.

For Jokela, it is a privilege to see the impact of philanthropy not only on the recipients who benefit directly, but also on those who give. There is joy and often great meaning for donors when they can help make a life-changing opportunity and education possible for WSU students.

“Those who give to the WSU Foundation can feel confident that their gift has a direct and immediate impact on our students and university,” Jokela said. “Every gift, no matter the size, truly does make a difference.”

Debbie Block’s professional development experience spans 16 years, all at WSU, with the past four years a director of development. Block finds it rewarding playing a role in connecting donors’ passions with meaningful ways to support students.

Block is inspired by alumni and friends who invest in students and the university.

“For me, watching relationships develop between donors and students is special. There are so many heartwarming stories about the connections made and maintained over many years because of philanthropy,” Block said. “I can honestly say that every gift makes a difference. Private support funds a margin of excellence that differentiates WSU and our students. Each of us can positively impact the lives of others by sharing our time, talent, and treasure. It feels good to give back.

Robert Christiano is an alumnus of WSU with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and a master’s degree in counselor education. Christiano served as the graduate assistant in the WSU Communications Office before becoming a director of development in October 2014.

Christiano said philanthropy is vital to the future of WSU. He thinks it is important to create an awareness and culture of giving in the WSU community.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing the direct impact a gift has on our students,” Christiano said. “Each day, I am energized by the generosity and selflessness or our donors. It is so rewarding to partner with them as they choose to support WSU’s mission. We are truly a community of learners who continue to improve our world.”

To find out more about the many ways you can make a difference at WSU, contact the development team at 507-457-5020.

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Samantha Stetzer

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