The John Cooper School welcomes new Chief Advancement Officer, eagerly anticipates new year

By: Sean K. Thompson
| Published 12/15/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX – Christen Wilson, the newly appointed Chief Advancement Officer for The John Cooper School, is excited to be a part of the local institution’s ever-growing presence in The Woodlands. Brought on board only recently, she hit the ground running to maintain the fundraising and community engagement levels the school – which has been ranked as the Number One Private School in The Woodlands by Niche – has enjoyed.

Christen Wilson has high hopes and high expectations for the top-ranked school’s future

Recently, she sat down with Woodlands Online to discuss her role and what John Cooper and The Woodlands mean to her.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a Chief Advancement Officer?

As the CAO at Cooper, I’m responsible for all the fundraising and engagement that happens here at the school, with the idea that all the work that we’re doing within the advancement office is to drive resources to the school and to help us have the money to achieve our strategic vision for Cooper for the future.

How did you decide to enter this field? What inspired you?

Like many people who are in the world of fundraising, I actually fell into this role. I worked in technology consulting in the late ‘90s and early 2000s as Y2K was happening; in the bust that happened immediately after, I lost my job. So I started to look for other opportunities that would put the skills that I had developed to work. I was able to talk my way into a job in a fundraising role in an all-boy’s prep school in suburban Philadelphia, where I served both independent schools and higher education institutions there before my family and I moved down to Austin in 2015.

Immediately prior to coming to Cooper, I was a fundraising consultant serving clients in both independent schools and higher ed settings here in the United States and also in Canada. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to come to Cooper and serve the community and to help drive philanthropy here at the school. The rest is history; 22 years later, here I am, using the skills I developed over the years to the benefit of John Cooper.

What is it about The John Cooper School that inspired you to take the position?

I’m really excited to be a part of this community at this moment in time; I think that with the school being 35 years old, we’re at a tipping point right now. We’re maturing as an institution – we’ve made it out of our toddler years – and really have a great vision for the future of the school with the opportunity to grow and secure our place as an important member of The Woodlands community.

It was [JCS Head of School] Dr. Popp, his enthusiasm for the school, and his passion for philanthropy that is what really attracted me here to Cooper. He’s passionate about education, and he’s passionate about creating an environment here for the students to be curious to learn and seek wisdom, and that’s what we want for all students here. We want all children across the US and beyond to build and develop.

I felt that I can have a really big impact here and grow our advancement program to really deepen the culture of philanthropy, the way that people give back to Cooper both through the work that they do as well as giving the resources that they’re able to.

Both The John Cooper School and The Woodlands are undergoing massive growth. How does that affect the school and your efforts?

JCS has grown substantially in the number of students served in our lifetime. It’s one of the biggest schools in the United States – as well as being one of the youngest schools – so I think that in many ways our growth as an institution has met the same pace as The Woodlands. But that means that we need to continue to make sure that the quality education that we’re providing meets the demands, interests, and passions of the families here, and particularly for those who are looking for something different than the alternative of the public school system.

I think what’s unique here at Cooper is that every student has the opportunity to become whatever it is they want to become, that the opportunities are endless. It’s not just the learning that’s happening in the classroom; it’s also the opportunity to be both an athlete and starring in a play, or being part of the entrepreneurship club and being a great ceramic artist. Even though we do serve a large number of students, we’re still small in comparison to many schools here in The Woodlands.

Wilson encourages people who are interested in enrolling their children, or who wish to be a part of the school’s fundraising efforts, to contact her office for an appointment, tour, or discussion. Additionally, the school’s Career Fair is coming up on January 20, 2024.

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