New development director Ralph Phillips joins CABNR
Years ago, Ralph Phillips was a whitewater guide on the rivers in southern Oregon. Not only did he have to expertly navigate his own raft, but also he had to coach other rafters in their own boats to safely make it through some tough sections of the Rogue River.
Did that job prepare him for his current role as the new development director for CABNR?
"In a way I guess it did," Phillips admitted. "It helped develop leadership skills and there were a lot of situations where it helped hone my communication skills. You had to be very clear in your directions, and sometimes time was of the essence."
Phillips will be filling a role that has been vacant for about three years. He comes to the job with over 25 years of experience with alumni relations and development, most of it in higher education.
Philips said he and his wife, Darcy, are both Westerners. She grew up in Colorado and he has spent most of his life in the intermountain West. They had been considering moving to Reno for some time when the CABNR development job opened up.
"The mission of CABNR really resonated with me," Phillips said. "There is a wealth of compelling research going on here that I find very interesting - drought-tolerant crops being developed during a period of climate change, work with cancer-fighting agents in natural products. My personal ethos goes hand-in-hand with what faculty are working on here."
Phillips is finding the public is also intrigued by the work CABNR researchers are doing.
"Most people I've talked to since starting the job have also been fascinated to hear about the breadth of research we are doing," he said. "They had no idea such compelling, basic and applied research was going on here that can really benefit society."
Although CABNR and UNR have gone through an "era of retrenchment" brought on by the recent recession, Phillips feels the college and the university are on the threshold of important changes.
"I think it will be an exciting time for the college," he said. "We've begun a national search for a permanent dean. We have many stakeholders, and they include alumni but also industry leaders, ranchers and government officials who have an interest in the cutting edge research we're doing."
Prior to joining CABNR, Phillips was the associate director of philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina and previously in Arizona; interim vice president of development at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation; and worked in fund development at various higher education institutions including the University of Utah, Colorado College, and Prescott College. He has a bachelor's degree in organizational communication from Ohio University and a master's degree in student affairs in higher education from Colorado State University.