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The Rising Star Award recognizes an emerging leader in higher education finance and business whose record reflects ongoing and exceptional growth in contribution to the profession and increased levels of leadership, responsibility, and sphere of impact.

To nominate a colleague complete the online nomination form by March 26, 2024.  Online Nomination Form

View the award criteria and nomination requirements.

Previous Recipients


Katie Walker, University of Virginia

Katie Walker, executive director for financial planning and analysis at the University of Virginia (UVA), received the 2023 Rising Star Award in recognition of her high potential to succeed as an executive and business officer in higher education. As a leader on UVA’s finance team, Walker partners with internal and external stakeholders to provide objective, accurate, and timely information, analyses, and decision-support tools. Walker also is an active participant in NACUBO, serving on the Planning, Budgeting, and Analytics Forum Planning Committee and is a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program.


Nichol Luoma, Arizona State University 

Nichol Luoma, vice president of university business services at Arizona State University, received the 2022 Rising Star Award. Luoma has led the progress of her university’s sustainability operations and practices, including reaching its goal of carbon neutrality in its scope I and II greenhouse emissions. She has also overseen initiatives including an employee health office, the improvement of the materials management operation to ensure more efficient deliveries across four campuses, and a critical resources management process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Irene Crasto-Bolin, New York Medical College 

Irene Crasto-Bolin, controller at New York Medical College, received the 2022 Rising Star Award. She is the youngest controller in her institution’s history and is credited as a key finance leader for the school’s $120 million operating budget.


Lisa A. Frace - Arizona State University

Lisa A. Frace, the associate vice president for planning and budget and chief budgeting officer at Arizona State University, has led her office for 12 years and has been a key leader on major strategic projects including the acquisition of the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Sara F. Thorndike - University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Sara F. Thorndike, associate vice chancellor for finance and controller at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, joined the institution in 2014 and has already redesigned the annual budget process and established a financial analytics department, among other initiatives.


Jeffrey M. Ratje - University of Arizona


Jennifer Chambers - Portland State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Melody S. Bianchetto - The University of Virginia
Jean Vock - University of Arizona, Eller College of Management


Danillo Castillo - Florida International University
Tom Richards - University of Missouri System


MaryKaye Bailey - College of Southern Nevada
Lynn Rehn - University of Maryland, Balitmore County


Mark McGurk - University of Arizona


Russ Hannah - Arkansas State University
James Matteo - University of Virginia

This award is supported in part by a generous sponsorship from Huron Consulting.

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Kimberlee Berry, CAE

Director, Membership Engagement