Profiles of individuals in roles that support the work of the chief business officer—and who represent the majority of the Business Officer reading audience.
By Margo Vanover Porter
Juggling the roles of university controller, volunteer for various organizations, wife to a university professor turned business owner, and mother to a 14-year-old daughter keeps Pratima N. Gandhi on the run.
"It's a challenge," she admits, "but here's what I've learned about myself: If I really want to do it all, I find the time. I have to organize and prioritize, and my husband provides wonderful support."
Now supervising more than 30 people, Gandhi joined Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, almost two decades ago as the chief accountant. She became assistant controller in 1995 and was promoted to controller two years later.
"Bradley is a wonderful university where I have had the chance to grow," she explains. "Usually the controller just handles the financial aspects, but I've been involved in many areas of responsibility. For instance, I'm responsible for the student ID card system and other opportunities that are not quite accounting but yet related to accounting. I'm very grateful."
What issues do you think pose the greatest challenges to Bradley University?
As an institution optimizes its learning and delivery opportunities, it experiences growing demands that must be balanced with limited resources.
Has enrollment dropped?
We have normal fluctuations, although the economy can influence enrollment. We've been able to balance our budget every year I've been associated with Bradley.
What makes your campus unique?
The Bradley experience sits on three pillars—academic excellence, student involvement and leadership, and experiential learning—which provide our students with a wonderful experience inside and outside the classroom. And we give individual attention to our students and parents—we show we care.
What issues are facing your profession right now?
From the university perspective—enrollment planning, goals related to budget expectations, and moving to a more automated environment are just a couple of items.
Governmental issues such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Red Flag Rules, ERISA, PCI (Payment Card Industry), and transparency by the IRS are also challenging. They require restructuring and implementing new procedures to ensure adequate compliance.
Do you ever feel like you're being pulled in different directions?
Absolutely, but I'm not unique in feeling that way. I believe that many, if not most, engaged individuals feel that there are just not enough hours in the day.
What's the solution?
Prioritize. Organize. I have a great team of people who work very hard together. When you know you have to get it done, you do.
What skills do you find yourself using that you never thought you'd need?
Communication and my systems skills. Being a good financial professional also entails being a very good communicator to educate our constituents to the changing governmental regs, as well as understanding and managing information systems.
What drew you to the higher education environment?
In 1986, while my husband was completing his Ph.D. at Virginia Polytechnic University, I started working in the treasury management department at the university. I grew to love the environment. When we moved to Illinois, I joined a not-for-profit organization that provided services for mentally disabled individuals. I found that rewarding, but when the position at Bradley opened up, I saw the opportunity to go back to the university atmosphere.
None. The accounting profession has been extremely rewarding for me. There's never a dull moment, there are always new challenges and opportunities-I've never regretted my career choice.
MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Virginia, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.