Five Questions with Richard Horbachewski

Richard Horbachewski VIU Chief Advancement Officer, Associate Vice-President Community Parternships

Richard Horbachewski is VIU's Associate Vice-President, Community Partnerships, Chief Advancement Officer, and Executive Director of the VIU Foundation.

November 10, 2021 - 2:15pm

In September, Vancouver Island University (VIU) welcomed Richard Horbachewski as the new Associate Vice-President, Community Partnerships. He joined VIU from the Calgary Health Foundation and had previously supported advancement at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). In addition to advancement, he oversees alumni, community partnerships, Milner Gardens & Woodland and serves as VIU’s Chief Advancement Officer as well as the Executive Director of the VIU Foundation. He brings more than 15 years of experience in philanthropy with him and is already energizing the institution with a school full of creative ideas. The Communications team recently asked Richard our Five Questions. 

1. Can you share a bit of your philosophy around advancement? What are some of the core aspects of institutional advancement?

The Advancement Office plays a critical role in alumni engagement, fundraising, and donor relations. These core aspects are essential in achieving our institutional goals by supporting the institutional Strategic Plan, People, Place, Potential. 

Institutional Advancement is a very big term. The team is responsible for many aspects of supporting the Strategic Plan. Working alongside our dedicated volunteers on the VIU Foundation, the Advancement team cultivates meaningful relationships with prospective donors to determine where there might be an intersection between a donor’s passion, values, and interests and philanthropic opportunities on campus. The team will then offer an opportunity for the donor to make a meaningful impact. Finally, saying ‘thank you.’  Far too often, I hear stories from donors where institutions have fallen short on saying thank you in a meaningful way.

At the heart of every great advancement program are our alumni. Alumni represent the product and value of a VIU education. Currently, VIU tracks over 42,000 alumni worldwide. That is only a fraction of all the individuals who have walked on our campus. They all have stories. We want to hear their stories. We want to connect them with our students. We want them to be ambassadors of the VIU student experience. I believe the alumni journey with an institution does not begin at convocation, rather, it is when a prospective student receives their letter of acceptance. That letter, when placed on the ground, serves as a stepping stone to an excellent education. When placed on a wall, it becomes a window to the future. That letter also serves as an invitation to become a member of a lifelong association committed to celebrating success and serving as support when needed.

2. What do you see as unique about what VIU can offer to its donors? What excites you about what you have learned so far?

I have been fortunate to work with some incredible philanthropists in my career. So when I read this question, I was reminded about a philanthropist I had the honour of knowing. When asked about the importance of contributing to an institution, he said, “It’s something I call passionate engagement. It’s not only about giving money but getting involved in our community. Passionate involvement comes with the sense of making a difference, however small.”

This quote came from a Heavy-Duty mechanic who made a $15,000,000 gift to his alma mater.

VIU has a comprehensive spectrum of programs and a dedicated team. At VIU we can cultivate relationships with prospective donors who want to make an impact on trades programs, undergraduate programs, or graduate research. This diversity of programming positions the institution well in engaging philanthropists who wish to directly impact students and their success.

I am excited to join an Advancement team that is incredibly dedicated to the success of VIU programs, students, and research. VIU’s commitment to our Indigenous communities, and student success excites me. There are many gems like Deep Bay Marine Field Station and Milner Gardens that we can share with prospective donors who can have a tremendous impact.

3. What role do you envision for alumni at VIU? Why are they so important to an institution’s success?

As I mentioned earlier, alumni are the heart of every great institution. They are proof that a VIU education can lead to a rewarding career, doing something students are passionate about and it can lead to great success that enables giving back to others. 

If the name of the institution was VIU, or Malaspina, or the Dominion Provincial Youth Training Centre, they are all alumni of this extraordinary institution and they helped make VIU what it is today. The Advancement office and the university are proud of our alumni. We have an opportunity to celebrate their success and tell their story. 

My hope for our alumni is they take pride in their VIU, Malaspina or Dominion Provincial Youth Training Centre days. With a renewed focus on alumni engagement, I see significant growth opportunities.

4. What personal talents/experience do you feel will help you in growing this foundational part of VIU?

I have been in this industry for 15 years. I bring a diverse background, having worked for arts organizations, healthcare organizations, and other post-secondary institutions. I have had experiences in those organizations I have learned from and hope to bring to VIU. However, VIU is unique, as is every organization. I will rely on the team to help make the required changes to advance the institution’s Strategic Plan.

Success in Advancement is not born on the shoulders of one person. It takes an institutional commitment to want to be better than we are. It takes a team committed to engaging and offering an opportunity to donors to make change happen. Finally, it takes philanthropy to make the meaningful impact that will result in life-changing student experiences. 

I am reminded of the words of one of my mentors. He always asked, “How is this decision going to impact our students?” This question always resonated with me. It has grounded me when evaluating projects and working with donors.

5. What do you do when you’re not working? Do you mind sharing a bit about your non-work life?   

TBH (I can use this now that it is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary) when I am in Nanaimo, I dedicate much of my time to VIU. I am extremely excited and fortunate to be new to Nanaimo. I enjoy riding my motorcycle around the island and getting lost along the oceanside when the weather allows it. I hope to take advantage of the incredible hikes around Nanaimo and hope to take up fishing. 

I have a wife and two teenage boys who live in Calgary. I regularly visit them and look forward to planning their move to the island when the timing is right.



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