Northern Illinois University (NIU) seeks a collaborative, strategic and forward-thinking vice president for Administration and Finance and chief financial officer (VPAF/CFO) to join its leadership team and help steer the future of this innovative and student-centered R2 doctoral university. The VPAF/CFO will report to NIU President Lisa Freeman (appointed in 2018) and together will work in partnership with the executive vice president and provost, and NIU’s senior leadership team to support the university’s aspiration to be an engine for progress, creativity and social mobility, and empowering students, faculty and staff to make a difference in our globally connected world.
The VPAF/CFO will oversee the Division of Administration and Finance, comprised of NIU’s major business operations and financial operations – including facilities, information technology and enterprise risk management – and is responsible for ensuring NIU’s continued status as a fiscally sound, efficiently managed and mission-centric institution. The VPAF/CFO will work collaboratively with senior leaders to achieve the university’s strategic goals, which include strengthening NIU’s role and position as an impactful and engaged public university. Key priorities will be optimizing NIU’s financial planning and budget formulation process; improving institutional analysis and reporting of relevant financial data; streamlining internal communications to better engage and empower budget and operations managers across the university; and strengthening the infrastructure and availability of financial and physical resources to support teaching and learning, research, sponsored programs, innovative partnerships and other institutional priorities.
The VPAF/CFO must be an experienced administrator with proven leadership skills, including at least 10 years of financial and administrative leadership in higher education, to inform timely, data-driven decision making and planning. The VPAF/CFO must possess a keen sense of the various challenges facing higher education, especially those specific to a public research university of NIU’s size and complexity, and be able to grow and advance the campus’ financial literacy and understanding of resource allocation and impact. A demonstrated commitment to embracing and fostering diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as a deep respect for shared governance are essential. The VPAF/CFO will also possess the interpersonal and communication skills required to lead change, implement efficient and effective policies across a large and diverse institution, and work collaboratively to promote a culture of collegiality and innovation.
The new VPAF/CFO will be empowered to make meaningful and lasting transformations at NIU, guided by detailed analysis and strategic revision of existing policies and procedures, as well as creativity, innovation and responsiveness to the dynamics of our times. The VPAF/CFO will place will instill a commitment to service and stewardship; ethics and integrity; equity and inclusion; and curiosity and creativity in all that they and their team do. They will champion NIU’s mission, vision and values and create a positive working, learning and living environment to be able to do the same.
Role of the Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer
The VPAF/CFO reports directly to the president and is a strategic collaborator and contributor to the executive senior roundtable. The VPAF/CFO works closely with the president, executive vice president/provost and other university constituents to develop and implement plans that are academically responsive, fiscally responsible and reflective of NIU’s mission, vision, values and strategic priorities. As leader of the Division of Administration and Finance, the VPAF/CFO plays a central role in the management and oversight of a broad set of administrative functions (detailed below under Responsibilities and Duties).
Essential Duties and Responsibilities
Expectations for Leadership
The following, in no order of priority, are some of the immediate opportunities that our new VPAF/CFO will address in this role.
Planning for a Financially Sustainable Future
The next VPAF/CFO will ensure long-term financial sustainability at NIU through proactive, multiyear planning that balances the need for fiscal stability with the university’s high expectations and aspirations for its students, faculty and staff, both now and in the future. Following our successful 2021 bond refinancing, NIU plans to launch a new capital campaign that will solicit a combination of investment and traditional philanthropy, positioning the university to achieve a structurally sound budget by 2024. This new campaign will bring exciting fundraising potential to all parts of the institution and create numerous opportunities for revenue-generating projects and partnerships. Already, NIU is increasingly sought as a partner, and the university was recently named an Amazon "Career Choice" partner in Northern Illinois. The VPAF/CFO must excel at creating and strengthening such relationships, supporting the advancement of the capital campaign and ensuring that there is a clear, campuswide understanding of how to contribute to a smooth and sustainable rollout. While compliance continues to be important, the new VPAF/CFO will find greater flexibility and opportunity to strategically plan ahead and work collaboratively as a university community. For more details on this goal, please visit the President’s website.
Foster Trust Across Division Lines by Communicating Effectively with Varied Audiences
The new VPAF/CFO will serve as a university model for collaboration and open communication about institutional finances, creating greater transparency in the budget building process across the units of the university. In leading the Division of Administration and Finance, the VPAF/CFO will leverage the deep expertise of the finance, facilities and accounting teams, as well as the Office of Institutional Research to strengthen and support forecasting and data analysis capabilities. The new leader will work with partners across the institution to set and meet goals, and hold individual departments accountable for execution and budget management. The VPAF/CFO will invest time in building connections and communicating regularly – formally and informally – in ways that are clear, comprehensible and capable of creating successful change. The VPAF/CFO will further be an advocate for best practices that promote innovative ideas, inclusive decision-making and mutual respect, all in support of the university’s established environment of trust and belonging.
Commitment to the University’s Values of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Belonging
The new VPAF/CFO will champion best practices of inclusive excellence, including cultivating equity; building an inclusive community; and promoting education, awareness and action to further support and grow NIU’s diverse campus. To be successful, the new VPAF/CFO should be equipped with experience building inclusive teams and recognizing diversity, equity and inclusion as core values that must lie at the heart of the public mission of higher education. In collaboration with university leadership, the VPAF/CFO will play an important role in strategic planning and policy formation, and implementation to support diversity, equity, inclusion and access for all students. By aligning financial and personnel resources with policy, governance, decision-making and HR guidelines, the university’s commitment to equity and inclusion will foster a sense of belonging that attracts and retains community members who represent the diverse identities and backgrounds of the student body.
Analysis of Data and Implementation of Operational Efficiencies
NIU is a data-rich organization where the VPAF/CFO will have the opportunity to outline a disciplined plan for analysis and information sharing – a plan that will have the power to shape discussions and better inform decisions. The VPAF/CFO will ensure accounting systems are functioning in the most efficient ways possible to support budget and planning, and that teams are being guided and motivated to strategically maximize the benefits of existing systems. The new VPAF/CFO will review current efforts and devise new opportunities to enhance the university’s infrastructure, such as linking (currently separate) data systems for student building and residence halls, creating new partnerships, and influencing and informing new strategic enrollment management plans. As NIU works to refinance the institution’s auxiliary operation, the VPAF/CFO will also have the opportunity to consider how the university will continue to work with the state to leverage the appropriate amount of resources available.
Collaboration and Innovation Through Shared Governance and Shared Leadership
The VPAF/CFO will nurture a strong and collaborative partnership with the president, Cabinet campus leadership, and shared governance groups to guide the institution’s finances, business affairs and asset management. Through integrative cross-functional leadership, the VPAF/CFO will develop and maintain a broad awareness of university operations and performance to make informed and insightful determinations about where resources should be allocated to drive the greatest value. The new VPAF/CFO will also devise incentives to further promote, deepen and sustain an environment of collaboration.
Responsibilities and Duties
Develop and Enact a Fiscally Responsible and Academically Responsive Budget that Supports NIU’s Strategic Priorities
· Oversee the preparation of the internal university budget as well as the annual appropriations requests to the state of Illinois and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
· Consult and collaborate with senior leadership to ensure adequate resources are available for NIU’s research, teaching and engagement mission.
· Work with leadership to support development and review of unit plans and goals assuring effective and strategic management of financial resources.
· Ensure resources are appropriately allocated to support recruitment, retention and success of staff, faculty and students.
· Provide oversight of capital projects and planning in alignment with NIU’s priorities, planning processes, and state and federal guidelines for procurement and contracting.
· Develop, implement and oversee the financial operating system of the university.
· Serve as the treasurer of the board of trustees and as university liaison to the board of trustees’ Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee, presenting information as needed to support the board’s execution of its fiduciary responsibility.
Support Efforts to Develop a Transparent, Inclusive University Budget Planning Process, and Increase Data-informed Decision-making
· Collaborate with the president, executive vice president and provost, senior university leaders, and key stakeholders to develop and implement a transparent, iterative multiyear financial planning and annual strategic budget formulation process.
· Develop broad communication methods and channels to ensure continuing opportunities for feedback from campus leadership and shared governance groups.
· Assist the president, the executive vice president and provost, and other administrators in gathering and analyzing data relevant to the fiscal operations of the university.
· Provide resources and education that enable campus constituents to effectively use and deploy data and financial information for budgetary decision-making.
Lead, Challenge and Inspire the Administration and Finance Team
· Hire, develop, mentor and retain staff, and support relevant professional development and career advancement opportunities for team members.
· Foster a customer-centric approach in reporting units with an understanding that the Division of Administration and Finance plays a critical role in supporting the success of other units.
· Amplify ongoing efforts to streamline and automate processes and reporting capabilities.
· Be accountable for compliance with professional accounting standards, rules, regulations and laws, as well as relevant state and federal policies and procedures.
· Manage the university’s enterprise risk management, including risk assessment and the procurement of adequate insurance for the institution.
· Supervise the external audit of annual financial statements and other state and federal financial compliance audits.
Other duties as assigned by the president.