Brad Mortensen, inaugurated as Weber State’s president Tuesday, left big shoes to fill in his former role as Weber State’s vice president of university advancement when he began his work as president of the university last January.
Betsy Mennell loves the West, so pursuing Mortensen’s former position at Weber State made perfect sense.
She was previously the associate vice president of principal gifts and special projects at Regis University, a small, private Catholic institution in Denver.
Mennell had also worked at Northern Arizona University as the school’s vice president for development and alumni engagement and president of the NAU Foundation.
Weber State’s Board of Trustees ratified the selection of Mennell as the new vice president of university advancement in May 2019, and Mennell began work at Weber State in August.
“I have always loved the Mountain West,” Mennell said in June, “so every one of those moves is very intentional.”
Mennell enjoyed her 18 years at NAU, which is similar to Weber State — a large state institution with multiple campuses in a mountain town, she said. That was part of the draw to the university.
She was also attracted to the recreation opportunities here in northern Utah. When it comes to outdoor activities, she said she likes to do “pretty much everything.” She goes trail running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and she’s done some downhill skiing. Whatever the season, she makes the best of it, she said.
In addition, Mennell wanted to get back to living in a smaller town than Denver, but she said she needed to find the right type of institution.
“Pretty much every university, you go on campus, they talk about student success, right? ‘Oh, student success is really important to us,’ and then they put 600 people in an auditorium. I have a hard time understanding how that works,” Mennell said.
When Mennell visited Weber State, she asked students and people around the community, many who were graduates, about their experience with the school. She said they gave rave reviews.
“Seriously, does anyone say anything negative about this place?” Mennell said, describing her reaction. “Everybody was so positive about it, and it was so cool to see that ... you can tell that (student success) really does drive what everybody does there, and it’s so sincere and so heartfelt.”
Mennell also likes that the university grants a range of credentials, from certificates to associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
“So often, universities and community colleges end up being at odds with each other, which just hurts higher education,” Mennell said. “What happens when the community colleges are separate is that the institutions end up fighting over the same pool of (public) money ... instead of partnering.”
During the interview process at Weber State, she was as impressed by her potential colleagues as she was by student feedback about the school.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the people because everyone I met was just fantastic,” Mennell said. “When I did my interview, the first thing I did my first night there was go to dinner with the vice presidents, and I walked out of there, and I was like ‘Wow, I feel like I just had dinner with friends ... these are people who I want to spend time with,’ and you just don’t get that everywhere.”
She said job interviews are usually a nerve-wracking experience, but at Weber State, she had fun — while also seeing that the people she met with were dedicated to the school’s mission.
In her new role, Mennell will oversee advancement services, alumni relations, development, economic development, government relations, marketing and communications and university events.
Though her position will cover a range of responsibilities, at its core, the role is focused on developing relationships.
“I like having the opportunity to work with external communities to help universities and students succeed,” Mennell said.
Whether working in development or government relations, “the concept of what you’re doing is acquiring resources for the university,” Mennell continued. “You’re getting to know the right people who are the decision-makers, and you’re making the case for the institution.”
Mennell is originally from Los Angeles and went to high school in Minnesota.
She received a bachelor’s in English literature and political science at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, the sister college of Notre Dame and still an all women’s institution. She earned a master’s in human services at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and a doctoral degree in educational administration from The University of Texas at Austin.