A new face at the helm
The first time Nick Blinco visited Australia, he was a 19-year-old backpacker, funding his travels by picking grapes and oranges, and caring for the elderly in nursing homes.
Now he’s back in a slightly more challenging role – Vice-Principal (Advancement) at the University of Melbourne. The job comes with a wide remit, including overseeing alumni relations as well as philanthropic campaigns at the University.
But British-born Nick is excited by the opportunities it brings and, with his family, is settling into his new life in Melbourne.
Prior to heading down under, Nick was Director of Engagement at the University of Birmingham in England. There he led the team responsible for the Circles of Influence fundraising campaign, which smashed through its 160 million pound ($320m) target earlier this year and had significant impact on the university’s research, students and campus.
For Nick, who loves working with the “unbelievably bright people” found in higher education, the chance to work at Melbourne was too good to pass up.
“The research here is amazing. World-class is over used as a phrase but in many cases here it is empirically true, which is brilliant,” he says.
“In advancement, we are fortunate to be in a position to translate their exciting ideas to people who, through their generosity, can make a massive difference.”
Nick has been heartened by the success of Believe – the Campaign for the University of Melbourne, which continues to progress towards its $500 million target.
“The Believe campaign has been outstandingly successful,” he says.
“That could not have happened without the leadership of [his predecessor] Sue Cunningham, [Vice-Chancellor] Glyn Davis and [Campaign Chairman] Allan Myers, and also the generosity of a lot of people, at all levels.”
But just as important as fundraising are the possibilities for involving alumni in the life of the University.
“Advancement encapsulates more than just fundraising. There is an opportunity now to think about how alumni can get involved in Melbourne in ways that are exciting for them and that can help us to achieve the objectives of Growing Esteem,” he says.
“That might be about influence, it could be about time, it could be about mentoring, internships, advice…there is a whole range of opportunities for people to play a part in the University.”
Away from the office, Nick – a keen surfer – says he and his family are already loving Melbourne. “We are super-committed to this place, not just the University but the city,” he says.
“It was a very deliberate choice to come here and something we thought a great deal about. We’re excited to make the most of it.”