Rebecca Ehrlichman Blume’s life has been greatly shaped by the University of Washington. It is where she received her master’s in Public Administration, met her now-husband and is the place she has worked for the past decade.
But the University hasn’t just played an important role in her past; it also inspires in her a strong sense of hope for the future.
Blume is the new vice chancellor for Advancement at UW Bothell. In this role, she provides leadership and strategic guidance in support of the goals and mission of UW Bothell and oversees the central Philanthropy & Donor Relations, Alumni Engagement, Marketing & Communications, and Ceremonies & Special Events teams.
“To invest my time and my skills in UW Bothell to help make it the best that it can be is a real honor,” Blume said, “because that’s what the University has done for me.”
A well-known gem
Blume was drawn to the UW Bothell campus in particular because of its students. “The population we serve is different than what you might see at other universities,” Blume said. “We serve students who may have lived in the Bothell area their entire lives as well as students who are from other cities, states and countries.
“And our students differ in more than just geographic backgrounds. As a group the student body is known for diversity in terms of financial means, race, religion, culture, orientation, gender and more,” Blume said. “That’s something that makes this community so special.”
Many UW Bothell students, she noted, will be the first in their families to pursue a four-year college degree. “Higher education wasn’t necessarily a part of their family story, so working at an institution that helps students write those brave new chapters is inspiring,” she said.
Blume believes that Advancement can help enhance the University’s reputation, increase community connections and partnerships — and ultimately assist in making UW Bothell a place where every single student has the opportunity to succeed.
“In some ways, UW Bothell is still a hidden gem,” she said, “but enough with being hidden! Our faculty, our students and our staff — all that we’re doing here — should be a well-known gem, in the region and beyond.
“In fact,” Blume added, “I think UW Bothell should be a national model on how to do this, this being a place that prioritizes a student-centered and equity-centered education.”
Advancement advances UW Bothell
Making more people aware of UW Bothell and all it has to offer is one of the Advancement team’s primary goals.
“It is common to think of advancement as being synonymous with fundraising, but in fact it is much more,” Blume said. “Advancement is an umbrella term for a variety of functions and activities that, all together, help to move a university or campus forward.”
These functions and activities, she said, are largely centered on the following goals:
- Promoting opportunities for engagement: “This is about figuring out how the greater community can come in and be a part of UW Bothell, and also, how our students can go out and be part of the community,” Blume said.
“There are opportunities for engagement, for example, no matter a student’s major or future plans. Through community projects and research opportunities, we start preparing even first-year students for careers and leadership after they graduate.”
- Advancing the University’s reputation: “This involves thinking about what our brand is and how we go about promoting it,” Blume said. “It’s about answering the powerful question, ‘What makes UW Bothell different than other universities?’
For Blume, one of these differentiators is the University’s student-centered approach. “I think UW Bothell approaches higher-education in a particularly special way,” she said. “What stands out to me most is that the University centers the student — all of our students — with every decision we make.”
- Inspiring philanthropic investments in our mission: Blume has a depth of experience in this area. She started her career raising funds for local human-service nonprofit organizations before joining the UW as assistant dean for Advancement at the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance in Seattle. There, she led the school’s $50 million campaign focused on increasing student access through scholarships and a $25 million remodel of the school’s historic 1902 building.
“Fundraising isn’t all that makes up advancement,” Blume said, “but it is an important part because it provides critical resources for students as well as for faculty, staff, academic programs and campus-wide initiatives.”
Short-term and long-term audacious goals
Blume will be setting goals to share with UW Bothell’s deans and leaders across campus about what she believes the Advancement team is best prepared to deliver in the year ahead. “Our goal is to help carry forward the visions — whether they are short-term projects or long-term dreams — of our deans, leaders, and chancellor.”
As she also thinks about long-term plans, she is imagining what may be possible in five to 10 years … or more. “UW Bothell is known for being a really good value for students as many of our students graduate without debt,” Blume said. “What would it take for all of our students to graduate without debt?
“It’s a big, hairy, audacious goal that should make us tremble a little, not knowing exactly how it might be possible. But those are also the kinds of goals that can be motivating when we consider the immense impact they could make.”
As a team leader, Blume said that impact is at the heart of her work, and she strives every day to make a positive difference. Hanging on her desk lamp, she has a notecard with handwritten script that reads: Be honest, explain why, listen and trust before you expect trust in return.
“When I was accepting this job, I was speaking with a friend and explaining that I wanted to be really intentional about this special opportunity to create a fresh start as a leader and that I wanted advice on how to do it right,” Blume recalled. “She reassured me I already had everything I need — and to just remember those four tenets.
“I hung those words on my desk so I see them at the start and end of each day, reminding me of the way I want to show up for others and how I want to do the work,” she said. “I am so grateful to be in this position, at this University, with this amazing team of people.
“I grew up in the Puget Sound region and seeing this place transform over the last 30 years has been incredible. I cannot wait to help shape our community for the next 30 years and beyond.”