Joe Neary has always been a cheerleader for Carolina — especially when he was an undergraduate student and was a four-year letterman on the cheerleading squad. Today, Joe’s cheerleading brings even more tangible results in the form of donations as he cheers for the success and prosperity of the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC).
Joe comes to the CEC after serving as a director of development for the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School, where he raised over $3.7 million in support of university and college priorities.
When I started at Carolina, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I got involved on campus, and through professors, a few wonderful mentors, and fellow resident assistants, I began to realize higher education student affairs was what I was passionate about.
- Joe Neary
Life at the CEC is slightly different than it is in the College of Arts and Sciences, but overall the goal remains the same—work hand-in-hand with the dean and faculty of the college to develop strategies to achieve the college’s needs. Neary will take the dean’s vision for the college and build the right team to secure the financial resources necessary to make the vision come to life. It should be easy to align Neary’s goals with the dean’s goals; development work is about cultivating the long-term relationships that start when students first step on campus and keeping students and graduates involved with the college in the long run, and the dean understands and supports this important work.
“Working with someone who understands my vision and goals for the college’s future is key to prospering and making the college better as a whole,” Hossein Haj-Hariri, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, says. “We are excited about building a bright future for the college, and Joe will be instrumental in helping us get there by leading our development program.”
Neary began calling Carolina home in 1998 when he moved into Bates House his freshman year. During his time as an undergraduate at Carolina Neary was a four-year letter winner in Cheerleading, a student employee at the MyCarolina Alumni Association, and spent three summers as an orientation leader. He spent his senior year as a resident assistant in the Towers, the same location as the current day Honors College, and discovered his path in higher education.
“When I started at Carolina, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I got involved on campus, and through professors, a few wonderful mentors, and fellow resident assistants, I began to realize higher education student affairs was what I was passionate about,” Neary says. “Looking at my résumé at the time, everything I did pointed to my future career in higher education; working in university advancement would come later.”
After receiving a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in higher education from Carolina, Neary returned to Philadelphia to be with family and began working at the University of Pennsylvania as a development officer in the athletic department. He worked his way up to major gifts officer, the position where he was responsible for alumni donations and gifts of up to $500,000. After getting a start with his career, he was motivated to move back home to Carolina and begin earning his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, which he just completed. Now he's putting his education to work in order to better student life at the college.
Getting alumni and donors more involved with Carolina today is one of most important goals for Neary and Haj-Hariri. Right now, less than 15 percent of all engineering alumni donate to the college. Financial support makes the difference between doing the bare minimum for the students to graduate and giving students the most opportunities possible for their enrichment and readiness to enter the workforce or graduate school. This can range from support for building or upgrading lab space that will help recruit and retain world class faculty and students, to building endowed scholarship funds, to creating a new and innovative “Maker Space” where students from all disciplines have an open space to engage in experiential activities with technology and machines alongside their peers.
Alumni support isn’t all financial; support is recruiting new students to the college and talking about the university in professional circles. It’s providing a strong support and networking system that new graduates can use to begin on their personal and professional roads to success. Recruiting students and helping to build scholarship funds that they can use inspires excellent students to want to enroll in the college so that they can call Carolina home like so many graduates before them.