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Business Officer Magazine

Business Intel

A roundup of short news articles and useful resources for business officers

Demographics' Role in Leadership

How can institutions prepare for the projected wave of chief business officer retirements? What will the next generation of CBOs look like? And, more importantly, what impact will the transition exert on underrepresented groups who aspire to the CBO position? The Minority Issues Forum, held in July at the NACUBO 2012 Annual Meeting, in the D.C. area, addressed these questions and related issues.

The session, "The Changing Face of the Chief Business Officer," took the form of a panel discussion facilitated by three NACUBO board members—Ronald Rhames, senior vice president and chief financial officer, Midlands Technical College, Columbia, South Carolina; Dawn Rhodes, vice chancellor for finance and administration, Indiana University–Purdue University, Indianapolis; and Cynthia Teniente-Matson, vice president for administration, California State University, Fresno.

The panel turned to NACUBO's 2010 Profile of Higher Education Chief Business and Financial Officers for insight, with NACUBO staff providing an overview of the profile's results. A discussion about today's CBO demographics and future career prospects paid special attention to CBOs of color. Following are highlights of the session.

Profile Particulars

Of the 974 college and university chief business officers who participated in the 2010 national profile, 11 percent identified themselves as persons of color, which the study categorized as Black, Hispanic, or Other (Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, two or more races, and other).

Further, the study found that CBOs of color were evenly distributed across all types of institutions. On average, they were 2 years younger than white, non-Hispanic CBOs (52 years old versus 54 years old), and have spent only 4 years in their current position, as compared to white CBOs who averaged 6.7 years.

In addition, as Figure 1 illustrates, more than two thirds of CBOs of color have been in their current position for fewer than 5 years, while that number for their white counterparts is below 50 percent. Meanwhile, more than one fourth of white CBOs have been in their position for 10 years or more, compared to only 15 percent of CBOs of color reporting similar tenure.


By the numbers

Education Versus Certification

The profile results revealed significant differences in professional training reflected in the two groups (see Figure 2). CBOs of color were more likely to have obtained an MBA (58 percent compared with 48 percent of white CBOs), while white CBOs were more likely to earn the CPA designation (39 percent compared to 28 percent for CBOs of color).

Given the younger average age of CBOs of color, it is possible that those in this group feel compelled to add the MBA as a means of credentialing themselves. However, this speculation is supported only anecdotally.

CBOs' Next Career Moves

Presenters discussed two important survey findings regarding the career outlook for CBOs of color. First, white CBOs were significantly more likely than others to say that they plan on retiring from their current positions (42 percent compared to only 24 percent of CBOs of color). This result suggests that a substantial shift in the demographics of higher education CBOs may occur within the next decade. That is, CBOs of color may eventually represent a much greater share of the college and university CBO population. 

The pipeline to the CBO position contains no real differences between the paths taken by white CBOs and CBOs of color. Both groups have spent time inside and outside of higher education, and have hailed from a variety of finance positions within universities. However, the most common prior position of current CBOs was that of chief business officer at another institution. The dominance of lateral movement between higher education institutions suggests that some barriers to entry for prospective new CBOs from lower-level positions may be in place. If that is the case, increasing the number of persons of color who hold the chief business officer position will take a more conscious effort.

Preparing and Positioning

Suggestions discussed in the Minority Issues Forum for overcoming the hurdles included better mentorship opportunities and increased activities to raise awareness, This would require colleges and universities to create stronger mentoring networks to assist prospective new CBOs of color in preparing for the challenges of the chief business officer position. Profile participants report that exposure to mentors who currently hold CBO positions is key to supporting business office staff who aspire to the top position.

Additionally, facilitating increased awareness—especially of those in hiring positions—of the current trends and disparities in racial and ethnic representation among CBOs was widely seen as an appropriate way to clear the current barriers.

Fast Fact

"A typical smart phone has more computing power than Apollo 11 when it landed on the moon. In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water; for millions, this is the first phone they've ever had."

"Your Life is Fully Mobile," by Nancy Gibbs, Time magazine, Aug. 16,2012

Panelist Ronald Rhames, of Midlands Technical Institute, summed up the sentiment of the forum: "I believe CBOs of color have an obligation to be leaders in helping to ensure that other people of color—who have the interest and potential—understand what it takes to succeed as a CBO. It starts with being an advocate within your own institution, with your professional peers and associations. CBOs of color should make it personal by serving as mentors for those on their staff, making sure they have access to professional development that will help them be competitive for future CBO openings within higher education."

Further Defining the Profile

Beginning in January 2013, NACUBO will update the CBO Profile with a survey to be sent to all current chief business officers at U.S. member and nonmember colleges and universities. This study will pay particular attention to issues pertaining to diversity in the business office and the core competencies required to be a successful CBO. Based on a recommendation made at the Minority Issues Forum, NACUBO will also explore the ways in which the experiences of CBOs of color at minority-serving institutions differ from those of their counterparts at predominately white institutions.

NACUBO encourages member participation in January's survey, and, as always, welcomes member feedback and ideas.

SUBMITTED BY James Ward, research analyst, NACUBO

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Coming Together Over Charitable Giving

We've done a lot at Georgetown University [Washington, D.C.] lately with regard to how the business office relates to development," said JoAnn Grainger, associate vice president, advancement services, in a session at the NACUBO 2012 Annual Meeting. Along with Carolyn Knickerbocker, director of main campus stewardship, and Wayne Mircoff, director of financial and accounting systems, Grainger took part in presenting "Finance and Advancement: Developing a Common Understanding." The three agreed that there is a definite need to find a balance between the operational and marketing aspects of institutional development. In addition, the ability to account for and report gifts in a way that accommodates the differing needs of the advancement and business offices is critical.

Obstacles to Seamless Systems

One particularly difficult issue for Georgetown has been the fact that accounting for various types of gifts has taken place across four different systems. Mircoff was pleased to report that systems integration is under way and "by next year, we'll be integrating several other systems." Grainger was quick to point out that this would not eliminate all the challenges that arise between the advancement and business offices. These include, among others, (1) differing general ledger and advancement systems, (2) different conventions for recording and tracking certain activities, (3) managing concurrent campaigns—still collecting from a prior campaign while tracking a new one, and (4) differing ways of accounting for conditional pledges.

Transparency and Trust

Fortunately, one of the outcomes of the systems integration project has been the ability to better track each fiscal year's activities, explained Mircoff. "A huge positive step was the ability to see the relationship between committed dollars and uncommitted cash on gifts during a particular fiscal year."

During one of Georgetown's early fundraising campaigns, reconciliations between advancement systems and financial systems had resulted in a difference of $80 million. "Such differences always arise for the reasons we mentioned earlier," explained Mircoff, "but this large number led to some concern on the part of the board. By working with the business office to clarify the reasons for the discrepancies—and figuring out ways to make appropriate adjustments to our reporting—we've achieved a transparency that has allowed us to gain the trust of the board that our numbers are accurate."

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Flashback ... 28 Years Ago

In a December 1984 Business Officer article about higher education's need to refocus attention on its primary mission of quality undergraduate education and liberal learning...

The report, Involvement in Learning: Realizing the Potential of American Higher Education, places undergraduate education squarely on the stage of the national debate. If we do not include higher education in our current national efforts of reform, we will have a tragic paradox on our hands in a few years: Students will be prepared for our colleges, but our colleges will not be prepared for our students."

KENNETH P. MORTIMER, vice provost, Pennsylvania State University

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