Catalyst for Change
Business Officer investigates the recession’s role as challenger of the status quo and driver of organizational change.
By Kevan Buck
The past fiscal year has brought dramatic economic challenges to every corner of the higher education sector. I have felt the impact both as a university chief business officer and as a member of the NACUBO Board of Directors.
My institution, the University of Tulsa (TU), is a private, four-year university with a sizable endowment-and the accompanying exposure. Alongside earnings declines, we have faced uncertainty about new enrollments. While Fall '09 enrollments are actually up at TU and many other schools, I've spent considerable time drafting “what if” scenarios anticipating volatile enrollment numbers and reduced operating budgets.
As sobering as it's been, this exercise provided a new perspective on potential cost-control strategies and formed the basis for open communication with our trustees, faculty, staff, and the surrounding Tulsa community. We will have less to spend over the next few years, but we have a clearly understood framework and a unified front for dealing with an uncertain future.
NACUBO has responded to our collective challenges by providing numerous resources. A series of member-led teleconferences with key industry experts resulted in a “Financial Downturn Toolkit” that offers worksheets, templates, and links to help institutions find information to address their concerns. New webcasts presented topics ranging from a general explanation of the current economic climate to specific issues such as underwater endowments and alternative investments. Directly responsive to member needs, NACUBO deployed these and other offerings to help business officers answer the many questions from leadership and constituents. NACUBO itself has felt significant financial impact, but administrative staff took early action to limit exposure.
This issue of Business Officer extends the discussion by launching a series of feature articles exploring the economic downturn and its widespread impacts, and highlighting ways chief business officers are reshaping their institutions to fit new circumstances. The following piece on managing the multigenerational workplace leads off upcoming features that will describe such initiatives as community colleges' creative approaches to revenue enhancement, changes to endowment spending policies, and models for repositioning resources.
We trust that these and other articles will enrich your professional dialogue with colleagues and will help inform the vital role you play in your respective organizations.
KEVAN BUCK is executive vice president, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He serves as chair of the NACUBO Board of Directors for 2009-10.
Return to "Sandwiched Generations."