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Appointment of Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Allison Dawson head shot
Allison Dawson. Courtesy photo

Dear Emerson community members,

I hope you are having a great summer. My first two months at Emerson have been both exciting and inspiring. Thank you so much for the warm welcome from so many Emersonians!

Among my major priorities are strengthening and expanding our fundraising and alumni relations. To that end, I’m pleased to share that we have successfully recruited our next Vice President for Institutional Advancement to lead this critical work. This summer, we conducted a national search guided by an excellent search committee and strong support from the Lindauer executive search firm. We had a robust pool of candidates from around the country, conducted several rounds of interviews, and have now selected our next Vice President.

Emerson’s next Vice President for Institutional Advancement will be Allison Dawson. She will be joining us on September 5th from The University of Texas at Austin, where she served as the Chief Development Officer for the Moody College of Communication. I worked closely with her in that role at UT Austin, and I’m extremely pleased that she applied for our position and emerged as the strongest applicant in our competitive search. 

Allison has more than sixteen years of experience in private and public higher education leadership fundraising and advancement roles in which she has designed, launched, and executed multimillion-dollar fundraising campaigns. She previously served as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Austin College in Sherman, Texas, the oldest private liberal arts college in Texas still operating under its original charter, where she managed a team of twenty-five professionals. Since 2019, she has served as chief development and alumni engagement officer for the Moody College of Communication at UT Austin, where she successfully launched and completed Moody’s $165 million campaign, which to date has raised just over $172 million and is on track to reach $200 million.

During her tenure at UT, Allison increased the development team staff to focus on key growth areas, including family giving, stewardship, and operations. Her work contributed to the college’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging, to ensure that these college values informed volunteer engagement and board-building. In the last year, she led an effort to establish three new scholarships for underrepresented students, including one in partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery Access to support students studying in Los Angeles. She also raised several million in targeted undergraduate and graduate scholarships to increase diversity in communication and the arts.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to Vice President David Howse for overseeing the Institutional Advancement office while also maintaining his roles as Vice President of the Office of the Arts and Executive Director of ArtsEmerson. I’m grateful for his leadership and service.

Finally, I sincerely thank the VPIA Search Committee members for their excellent work. Special thanks to the committee co-chairs, Vice President Anne Shaughnessy and Board of Trustee Secretary Robert Miller.

I am confident that our new Vice President Allison Dawson will be an impactful addition to our college’s leadership team and significantly enhance Emerson’s fundraising and engagement efforts. Please join me in welcoming Allison and her family to Boston and the Emerson community.


Jay M. Bernhardt


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