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From his early years as a director of residence life to his current role in his institution’s senior administration, Stan Nosek has always kept his focus on students. Now as board chair for 2008–09, he plans to help NACUBO stay focused on its mission.

By Jeffrey N. Shields and Jane E. Rooney

Getting to Know Nosek

Family: wife, Julie; one daughter, Karen (just received her undergraduate degree from Sonoma State University, California); two married sons: Kevin (assistant basketball coach at UC Davis) and daughter-in-law, Nicole; and Brian and daughter-in-law Bethany (professors at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville); granddaughter, Haven

Side Interests: hiking, backpacking, motorcycling, horseback riding, being outdoors

Recommended Reading: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan; Managing with Aloha, by Rosa Say

Degrees: master’s degree in student personnel and counseling, SUNY Albany; bachelor’s degree in psychology and mathematics, SUNY College at Oneonta

Nosek arrived at UC Davis as assistant director of residence life and spent several years in student affairs before joining the office of administration. Now his portfolio includes human resources, accounting, safety services, fire and police, campus veterinary services, risk management, and much more.

Beginning August 1, Nosek has added a new national role: chair of the 2008–09 NACUBO Board of Directors. At the same time, the year ahead is a special one on his campus, as UC Davis celebrates its centennial year. Nosek has taken the lead in finding ways “for our staff to celebrate their being significant contributors to the success of this outstanding university.”

In an interview with Business Officer, Nosek talks about new imperatives for business officers and what priorities are shaping the board’s agenda.

How did the early days of your career in student affairs influence your efforts on the business officer side of the house?
No matter what career path I might have taken, the foundation of the experience in student affairs was absolutely a tremendous one. The interpersonal skills, appreciation for diversity, engagement in activities that help people learn from each other—they were all part of what the student affairs experience was for me.

Interestingly, a recent call from a student who was a resident assistant here in 1976 reminded me of the value of that background. At 50 years old, he’s a dentist and has started his own winery; now, he wants to be an astronaut. He wanted someone he worked with here to support his application, because he said the foundation for what he’s done his entire life was his experience as an RA. He said that his work in student affairs—the training he received, the experience of working with people and solving problems, the relationship issues—all helped him in every aspect of his job and the businesses he’s started.

For me, his words resonated and underscored that the student affairs experience really is a life experience. If you choose to incorporate those skills and bring them with you, they serve you very well.

Do you think you might be more student-focused than others in your role? 
Yes, I think that having been directly involved in the concept of student development helps me regularly come back to the questions: “What are we doing this for?” and “How does this relate to a student’s experience here?” Whether it’s how we do the parking program or how we inspect the labs or what experiences we give students working in jobs here, a focal point of my leadership roles has been to keep reminding the folks who serve the campus that the students are the integral part of what we’re doing, and that we always have to keep them in mind when we’re making decisions.

You’ve been interacting with students for how long?
I did my graduate program at the State University of New York at Albany from 1969–70. In 1970, I became a residence hall director at SUNY Cortland and did that for two years. Afterward, I served the Cortland campus as director of residence life for four years, until 1976 when I moved out to Davis.

Davis was a hard place to leave, as it turned out. It was going to be a two- or three-year adventure—just come out here and then go back east. But it’s a beautiful place to live, a very vibrant campus. There were 14,000 students when I came, and now we have just under 31,000, so it’s been growing during those 32 years. As far as my profession, Davis obviously has provided me with many opportunities to try different experiences and to develop a career.

UC Davis at 100

Founded in 1908 as the University Farm, with interdisciplinary roots centered on agriculture

Programs in 2008: More than 100 academic majors and 86 graduate programs

Total enrollment: 30,685 (as of fall 2007)

Instructional faculty: 1,586 full time

Current funds expenditures: $2.5 billion

Endowment: $651 million (as of June 30, 2007)

Centennial celebrations in 2008–09: “Dream Big” Pavilion at the 2008 California State Fair, six-day Fall Festival in October, Picnic Day in April 2009

What were the keys to building this career at UC Davis?
Probably all of us can point to people who have been supportive of us. I think that’s one of the things that got me involved with WACUBO and then eventually NACUBO. It’s the sense of giving something back and supporting people in their skill building and in their professional development and career development. People invested their time or resources in me:
I—and the university—benefited from that.

At the same time, I had a sense of adventure, a willingness to try different things, and in some cases, to experience them through different committees and projects. That provided a sense of risk taking, the chance to put my ideas on the table and to put my stamp on some things.

Let’s talk about the top two or three issues challenging business officers.
Business officers can hardly be defined in a simple way. However, while realizing that we have a breadth of responsibilities, business officers across our membership share some similarities.

The first one is the responsibility we have for managing rising costs and the affordability of higher education. No matter where we are, we’re all facing that challenge in different ways, whether we’re public or private institutions, community colleges, tribal colleges, or research universities. We all have the concern that some of our potential students may be denied access to higher education due to cost. So, that’s No. 1 on my list.

What else are your peers wrestling with?
Clearly, we have a stewardship responsibility for the safety of those who comprise our campus communities. This campus security/emergency response issue—and the related NACUBO project—is one that all of us are paying significant attention to. We understand that we can’t make our campuses 100 percent problem-free. But, we do know that there’s a lot more we can do to be prepared, to communicate better, and to respond when emergency situations occur. Business officers all around the country are facing this issue. I’m very proud that NACUBO has taken this on and is looking to help us do a better job.

What steps has UC Davis taken that reflect that level of importance?
I’m responsible for the fire department, police department, and emergency management. Four or five years ago, as our emergency manager was retiring, she came in for a debrief and said, “Stan, I just don’t feel like the campus is really supporting this whole concept of emergency management.” She gave the reasons why; I was quite surprised to hear them and disappointed in myself that I was not more aware of her concerns sooner.

I had the sense that, from afar, emergency management was working reasonably well. But the retiring manager said, “All of us at the operational level are paying attention to this, but those at the executive level are not involved, and that’s a real mistake.” Knowing that the manager was leaving, I put a lot of time and energy in looking at that position organizationally, where it should be, what its resources were. As a result, we restructured several existing units into a new organization named Safety Services, included the emergency management program, and made an excellent hire of an experienced professional to manage it.

Over the past three years, we have really grown our emergency management program to the point that EDUCAUSE has come in to do a case study that shows how a campus can turn itself around and focus on these priorities. We broadened our concept of emergency management to address a wide range of possibilities—and not just a Northern California earthquake. We looked at emergencies ranging from a worldwide pandemic to the breaking of the Lake Berryessa dam, which is 15 miles from our campus. UC Davis, like so many others, has made very good progress in improving its planning efforts, but we have so much more yet to do. That’s why I list this as a priority for business officers. Most of us have only just begun to strengthen our emergency management programs, so we’re going to be focusing on this for years to come.

And the third issue for business officers?
Our sustainability initiative. We have a tremendous stewardship responsibility, not only for our resources and the planet, but with regard to our mission of teaching, research, and public service. We need to be leaders in the area of sustainability for our institutions.

On our campus, students really were the ones who brought these issues to the table and motivated us to make this a priority. Now, I think the business officers are the ones who are going to help the campus do better strategic planning, to position our institutions to be better stewards of our resources. I believe both sustainability and campus emergency response are going to be part of our core responsibilities from now on.

Peer Perceptions

Colleagues weighed in on what makes Stan Nosek a strong leader and why he is well prepared to guide the NACUBO Board of Directors.

“Stan’s wit, sense of humor, and collaborative spirit are just a few of the qualities that make him a great leader. The passion he has for serving business officers in higher education and his inclusiveness and thoughtfulness in examining all points of view will certainly be an asset to our members and to the board.”
GAYE MANNING, vice chancellor, finance and administration, Southern Arkansas University Tech, and NACUBO board chair, 2007–08

“Stan has been an inspirational leader for WACUBO for many years and will no doubt be an effective leader for NACUBO. He is known as the ‘singing president’ of WACUBO and will continue to harmonize the many diverse voices on the NACUBO board.”
MIKE UNEBASAMI, associate vice president for administrative affairs, University of Hawaii Community Colleges System

“Stan has a great ability to take ideas and put them into practice. In addition to his great sense of humor, which sometimes involves an impromptu song, Stan is a leader who gets the most out of volunteers. He brings clarity and organization to meetings, and always ensures meaningful action is the outcome.”
SALLY ROUSH, vice president, business affairs, San Diego State University

“Stan was elected by his peers on the board to lead the organization for the next year based on the volunteer work he has done over the last few years. Stan is a good listener with a great sense of humor who has regularly demonstrated his ability to assess complicated issues in a way that focuses on their most important aspects. All of this is complemented by a personal style that engenders trust and confidence. NACUBO will be well served by Stan’s leadership.”
MORGAN OLSEN, executive vice president and treasurer, Purdue University, and NACUBO board chair, 2006–07

If you could accomplish one thing as NACUBO board chair, what would you like that to be?
I see my role as the chair to really facilitate board member participation in support of, and direction to, the NACUBO staff. So the one thing I would like to accomplish is to have all board members feel as though they’ve had the opportunity to be full participants in how we serve the membership, and that the staff at NACUBO feel as though the board has listened to and been supportive of their ideas. I see it as my job to make sure that I get from others what’s on their lists, so that we on the board can help to identify the top priorities for the membership.

As far as serving as chair of the board, I believe my role is to help the organization stay focused on the mission, which is finding more and better ways to serve the membership.

What would you like members to know about the work that the board does?
I think they should know that board members are putting our energies into projects and initiatives that we believe are of the highest priority for our membership. And that we have an engaged and committed board with one purpose in mind: serving the members.

When I first began to attend board meetings just about two years ago, I was very impressed with the quality of NACUBO leadership and board participation. I quickly came to believe that the NACUBO organization could have a significant impact on higher education. Our board members also feel that; I hear it from them regularly. They’re proud to be part of this board.

The board recently approved three new ad hoc committees that will be in place during your leadership year: one on community colleges, one on NACUBO’s communications strategy, and one on identification of future trends. Why are these committees important?
The annual establishment of ad hoc committees is a great concept because we’re focusing on getting results quickly in areas we believe to be important to our membership. The fact that we’ve identified community college engagement is right on the money. That’s also what we’ve been talking about at the regional level. We are clearly partners with each other in so many ways that the more we can share information with and get information from community colleges, the better off higher education is going to be. So, I think this was a great one to select.

The communications strategy really points to making sure that we’re doing a good job as business officers of championing higher education and the value that we bring to society. We have to assume ownership, as business managers, in helping to get the word out.

On future trends, it makes a lot of sense for us to be thinking and planning strategically. Something we’ve been dealing with at the regional level, and I know we’ve talked about it at NACUBO, is expanding our definition of business offices—athletic business offices, academic business offices, and departmental business offices. How do we attract those campus colleagues to participate in the regional associations and NACUBO? Many of them don’t have their own professional organizations, and I believe there’s so much value they can get out of what we have to offer—and we can gain a lot from their participation as well.

Getting back to your institution, what are the specific goals of the UC System?
Part of our mission as a state system has been to make higher education accessible to students in all areas of our state and from all the diverse backgrounds that define California. We seek to have a student body throughout California higher education that represents the diversity of our state, and we have much more work to do to reach this goal.

For example, over the past 25 years, I’ve participated in an outreach program that invites campus employees to volunteer during the fall to visit several high schools and/or community colleges to talk about UC Davis as well as the value of higher education in general. Those of us who are on this team supplement the campus admissions staff and go to different schools with the message that higher education has tremendous value to individuals and society. We discuss what UC Davis is about, what the California community college system is about, and we share the many reasons why students might consider going to a community college before coming to UC Davis. We explain how it all fits together and emphasize that there are many paths and a lot of support to help students achieve the value that higher education has to offer.

Collaboration is another central theme that the University of California is trying to promote among our campuses. We are seeking ways to identify as much administrative efficiency as possible by sharing best practices, leveraging resources, and benefiting by our purchasing power.

In your career, has there been a professional leadership mistake you’ve made, and if so, what did you learn from it? 
When needing to make some difficult budget decisions a number of years ago, I eliminated a leadership position believing, at that time, that that one leadership position could be sacrificed to save three front-line service delivery positions. As it turned out, I relearned the value of leadership. In this case, without strong leadership helping direct the way, our service delivery actually suffered. That one decision helped remind me not to take leadership lightly. Having the right people in the right positions can make a big difference to an organization.

About what are you the most passionate?
My family. Doing things with my wife, Julie; having good communication; and certainly finding ways to be supportive of my three adult kids and help them to continue to be successful and enjoy their own journeys.

In the job, it’s passion about supporting staff. And that means that they get the appropriate recognition for the contributions they make, that they have accurate position descriptions and are paid appropriately, and that they know what they’re being asked to do. It means that we provide them with professional development support and help them grow in their jobs. It means that we commit to give them the right tools and support needed to be successful.

So, my passion is unleashing the potential and productivity that all of our staff can bring to the workplace. That’s what I try to pass along to my organization, as well.

What motto do you live by?
I heard a phrase years ago, and it struck me: “It is our responsibilities we should take seriously, not ourselves.” We have our mission, vision, and values, but we also have this motto that we try to live by as a service organization. It’s been something that has helped me focus on what I’m doing here. Again, it goes back to what we talked about earlier: We’re here to serve the mission, and that’s where our energy should be. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I’m trying to get out of this. It’s what I’m trying to give toward it.

By reminding ourselves of this message, we think in the end we’ll serve the campus mission better. And, in life, I’ll be an easier person to live with, as well.

JEFFREY N. SHIELDS is senior vice president, constituent and member services, and chief planning officer at NACUBO, and JANE E. ROONEY, Fairfax, Virginia, covers higher education business topics for Business Officer.