Gatepost Interview: Jake Hepler, associate director of resource development

Nadira Wicaksana / THE GATEPOST

What is your professional and educational background?

I got my bachelor’s from the University of Rhode Island. I graduated in 2013. I studied psychology there. I like people, so that was why I chose psychology – just learning about different people and why certain thought processes and things happen. It was a good start for me. My first job out of college was working for South Middlesex Opportunity Council [SMOC] as an employment specialist, helping people from Advocates, Inc., which is a mental health organization helping the people they serve, their clients, find employment. After that, I worked for a state program for a year and a half doing similar-type work, except the demographic was at-risk young adults who were ages 17 through 24. The focus was more on having them attend higher education programs, having them get job training skills, or receive some kind of credentials – be it a trade or something else like that. After that, I wanted to go back to get my MBA from Northeastern, and I asked the executive director at South Middlesex Opportunity Council to give me a letter of recommendation, and he thought it was a stupid idea for me to get an MBA. So, he offered me the position of executive assistant there, and up until September of this year, I was doing that job for the past two and a half years. And now, I work here at Framingham State.

How did you find out about this job?

I recently graduated from Leadership MetroWest Academy, which is a kind of program to help strengthen the community through leaders of different organizations and agencies – be it nonprofit, for-profit, and small businesses as well. One of my academy mates was actually in this role prior to myself, and so is my coworker, Rachel [Keir]. My academy mate, Pat, recommended me for the job. He thought that I’d be really good at working with alumni and doing the fundraising work. So, I ended up applying, and a couple of months later, I got the job!

What is some background on your current role at FSU?

I am the associate director of resource development/development officer. We use those titles interchangeably. We focus on doing frontline fundraising for the University, be it for scholarship funds or other things. We also engage alumni to participate in events, collaborate in the community with students – kind of just make things run around here.

What is your favorite part about the job so far?

I love people, so I love interacting with them and hearing about their stories, figuring out ways to get them to come back to the University and engage and collaborate. I really like collaborating – really developing those relationships, so that’s been great for me. I’m really passionate about the University. It’s such a great college – it’s super affordable. Their commitment to diversity and inclusion is fantastic. We have a great team here in Development, too, so that’s made my life so much easier. Everyone’s been super supportive of me because I don’t have a traditional fundraising background – I don’t have a fundraising background at all. Everyone’s been super patient, super helpful to me, supporting me to kind of hone in on what I should be focusing on. It’s great to get a feel for the life of this kind of campus. It’s small. I went to the University of Rhode Island – I think we had about 20,000 undergrads. We’re one-fourth of that here, so it’s great to see the tight-knit community here at Framingham State.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?

I’m really trying to educate myself on fundraising right now. That’s been a lot of fun because it’s something I didn’t know too much about, but I’d done similar-type work in my previous role. So, it’s been interesting to see how I can transfer my skills and apply them here. In my previous role, it was developing a community strategic plan for SMOC that we gave back to the greater community and kind of enhanced Framingham and provided services and made sure services were accessible to the Framingham area. We established a hunger network with food service providers for low-income individuals in Framingham and brought them all to the table for the first time – it’s never been done before. We kind of assess where there’s a need for services and make sure that we increase access to food where there’s a need. It was really great to bring all those different people together and have them work on one goal. And I was also able to organize a free soccer clinic for 125 kids in SMOC’s Head Start and childcare program. I got that fully sponsored, so that was really cool. We were able to provide them with a full-on soccer camp with two soccer players from Italy. They came over and helped me as the head counselor. It was a really cool experience – I had an amazing time.

What are some things you like to do in your free time?

I’m a big basketball player. I love hanging out with my friends. I live in Boston – going around, exploring Boston is great, too. I also like the outdoors, being active, cooking, and going to restaurants with my girlfriend. I think I’m pretty normal.

What advice would you give to FSU students?

Just enjoy your time here. College is fantastic. Learn as much as you can. Be as active as you can. It’s so cliché, but just do things that you wouldn’t normally do – get out of your comfort zone and enjoy it.

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