Department Summary & Job Purpose:
Mount Holyoke College (MHC), a highly selective liberal arts college in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley, seeks nominations and applications for the position of Vice President for Finance and Administration (VPFA). Reporting directly to the president, the VPFA serves as a key member of the College’s leadership team, with a broad portfolio overseeing the College’s financial and physical assets as well as its human capital.
Founded in 1837 as the first and oldest of the original Seven Sister colleges, Mount Holyoke established a legacy of preparing students to become ambitious changemakers. Today, as a women’s college that is gender diverse, the institution equips students with the tools to thrive and lead in a global, pluralistic, and changing world.
Mount Holyoke just completed its search for its 20th president, and the community is excited to welcome President-elect and outgoing Dean of Howard University School of Law, Danielle R. Holley. Holley’s charge is multifold: to lead the campus in creating a refreshed, clear, and forward-looking vision; to elevate the school’s profile and visibility; to advance its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; to fortify the student experience; to nurture a campus-wide culture of trust, clarity, and transparency; to steward the College’s financial resources and extend fundraising success; and to guide the renewal of the academic program to ensure close alignment with the College’s vision, identity, and resources. The VPFA will join her cabinet at an exciting time, playing a critical role in fortifying the school’s capacity to achieve its ambitions.
The Role of Vice President of Finance and Administration (VPFA):
Reporting to the President, the VPFA is the steward of Mount Holyoke’s financial well-being and operational excellence. As a partner with the president, the College’s leadership team, and the board, the VPFA has a pivotal role to play in diversifying and expanding the school’s revenue base and ensuring close alignment between resources and strategy.
The new VPFA will inherit a terrific team of leaders to help carry out this work: an associate vice president for finance; associate vice president for facilities management; and associate vice president for auxiliary services. In addition, the associate vice president for human resources and the chief investment officer are dual reports to the VPFA and the president. The College has adopted an annual operating budget for FY23 of $154.7 million; in FY22 it was $146.4 million. Mount Holyoke’s finances are strong, and the administration has consistently delivered balanced budgets in recent years. The endowment, managed by the College’s in-house chief investment officer, sits at just over $1 billion.
The VPFA’s portfolio includes the following operational areas: financial services; facilities management, including environmental health and safety, and auxiliary services; compliance & risk management; and conferences and events. The VPFA shares responsibility with the president for human resources and endowment management.
The College expects to select its new VPFA by May 2023, with the successful candidate assuming the role in the summer of 2023. Mount Holyoke College has retained the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist in this important recruitment.
Core Job Duties and Responsibilities:
Support the president and the College in developing a clear, ambitious, and achievable strategic plan:
- Mount Holyoke is currently setting the stage for its next strategic plan, having completed a comprehensive institutional assessment this academic year. President-elect and outgoing Dean of Howard University School of Law, Danielle R. Holley will lead the creation of a clear and decisive strategic plan in FY24, leading the community in making critical choices and committing to carefully considered and consequential investments. It is anticipated that the priorities that will emerge as essential planks of the next strategic plan will sharpen Mount Holyoke’s identity and distinctiveness in a marketplace that is increasingly competitive for students, faculty, and resources.
- The VPFA will be the President’s closest partner in assessing and enhancing institutional resources and strategically deploying them to advance the College’s vision and ambitions. The interests and aptitudes of the Mount Holyoke community are broad and varied; over time, many new initiatives and programs have been added. At this juncture, further accretion is impractical; culling is inevitable; sustainable priorities must be set and resources aligned. This will be particularly important as the College delivers on several bold commitments it has already made, discussed further below.
- The VPFA must see their work as first building a strategic vision around the College’s resources and second, bringing that vision into being. This work calls for someone who is as creative as they are practical, who will respond first with, “How might we make this possible?” rather than assume bold initiatives are impractical or impossible.
- In a fiercely competitive higher education landscape, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to compare or define one’s institution in contrast with—or in emulation of—its peers. At times, Mount Holyoke has fallen into this trap. The College is poised to break free from this tendency, and the VPFA must play an important role in that shift. The VPFA will work to empower the Mount Holyoke community as it pushes itself beyond the limitations of a comparison mindset and defines its distinctions independently.
Improve internal management systems and processes:
- Mount Holyoke has recently undertaken a comprehensive process to identify and plan for a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that will streamline a variety of business processes across the College. The chosen ERP solution, Workday, will tighten integration among business functions. It will be implemented in the coming weeks and months, with human resources, payroll, and finance up first. The next VPFA, in close collaboration with the chief information officer, will oversee Workday’s launch, addressing inevitable challenges as they arise, and seizing the opportunity to undo old habits, codify and encourage best practices, better harness the horsepower of Mount Holyoke’s staff, and deliver a more positive college experience for students, staff, and faculty. Workday is an essential tool in a broad commitment to move away from the quaint, inefficient, and duplicative and embrace an approach to conducting the College’s business that is radically simplified, transparent, and driven by strategy. A whole-scale rethinking of the current budgeting process – where many resource decisions are in effect made at the departmental level – is on the table. Change management is a key piece of this VPFA’s work. It will be important for the VPFA to have a deep appreciation for how an institution’s people engage with the multiple systems at play around them.
Oversee major upgrades in the physical plant:
- Mount Holyoke has committed to several major projects that will require close attention from this VPFA. Large capital requirements include approximately $120 million of deferred maintenance in the historic and exquisite, but aging, campus.
- In 2018, the Board of Trustees endorsed the goal of making the campus carbon-neutral by the College’s bicentennial in 2037. The resulting Energy Master Plan involves a massive transition of the campus to geothermal energy for heating and cooling. It has become clear that the total cost of achieving this important ambition is dramatically higher than originally estimated, currently slated at $157 million over an eight-year planning and construction term. A preliminary funding strategy has been developed, with a mix of tax credits, energy and operations and maintenance savings, gifts and grants, internal reserves, and debt comprising the total. The VPFA serves on the executive committee for this project alongside the president, AVP for finance, and the AVP for facilities management, who is taking point for the project leadership team. The VPFA must work closely with the project team and the board to ensure the success of this endeavor.
- In addition, the overall physical plant must continue to be examined for inefficiencies and redundancies. In ten years, Mount Holyoke should have an overall more efficient system of buildings and physical assets.
Revitalize the College’s human capital:
- As on campuses across the nation and beyond, people in the Mount Holyoke community continue to feel the strain of a prolonged public health emergency. Outstanding human resources practices and policies are crucial to the College’s ability to support the success and well-being of the people who make the College run. Providing expert and compassionate guidance in this area will be an important priority for the new VPFA.
- The “Great Resignation” that swept the nation over the last two years did not spare Mount Holyoke. Every division of the College is working hard to fill vacancies and retain existing staff, with significant progress made so far this academic year. To better understand the College’s competitive position as an employer, the Office of Human Resources has undertaken a comprehensive compensation study that is expected to be completed in the spring of this year. The results of the study will not only inform the salary structure for new employees but will help determine what adjustments in compensation are needed to retain and appropriately compensate employees, and guide budget planning in the future.
- As another tool to address hiring and retention needs, the College’s Flexible and Adaptive Work program is being further refined, with the potential for hiring certain employees who reside and work out of state, as well as increasing the College’s flexibility regarding staff work location and hybrid arrangements.
Establish a culture of trust and transparency around the College’s finances and operations:
- Shared governance is highly valued at Mount Holyoke. The VPFA works closely with three committees of the Board of Trustees: the Finance Committee, the Audit/Risk Committee, and the Investment Committee. In addition, the Faculty Planning & Budget Committee is an important and valued stakeholder in the College’s financial operations and partner in the budgeting process.
- Every member of the campus community cares deeply about the College’s capacity to thrive, and there is sincere curiosity about how the school’s resource structure works. At present, there is not a strong culture of trust and transparency with regard to the College’s finances. The VPFA must work to de-mystify the financial picture. Clarity is key, as is community education. If successful, the VPFA will initiate a regular practice of two-way communication between their office and the rest of the institution. The VPFA must demonstrate a fundamental orientation to collaboration in their work. This leader will invest significant time and energy to earn and sustain the confidence of the College community. The right VPFA will be excited for the opportunity to speak across constituencies, translating the complexity of finances into lay terms and finding creative ways to show, not just tell. They will establish a reputation for both exceptional listening and exceptional teaching.
- The VPFA, with the guidance and support of the president, will ensure that trustees are fully informed and properly consulted on all significant financial and operational matters and that the board can fulfill its fiduciary and governance responsibilities without being mired in detail. The VPFA will be expected not only to inform and consult the board but also to advocate effectively for priority investments.
Effectively empower and manage a strong team:
- The team of three direct reports and two dual reports whom the VPFA oversees is exceptionally strong, each bringing notable expertise but also a fresh perspective to the challenges and opportunities ahead of Mount Holyoke. The incoming VPFA must support this team at the proper elevation, enabling the group to do its best work as a group and in their individual domains. The successful candidate will ensure every leader within their portfolio is properly leveraged and has support in addressing the challenges they face.
While no one candidate will embody them all, the successful candidate will possess many of these professional qualifications and personal qualities and values:
● Alignment with the mission and values of Mount Holyoke College;
● Ten or more years of progressively responsible financial leadership experience, preferably in higher education or an institution of similar scope, and complexity;
● Sophisticated understanding of investments, experience with advanced techniques and tools for scenario planning and analysis, and in assessing and overseeing enterprise risks;
● Excellent financial and operational skills; mastery of today’s detail as well as the capacity to change altitude, keeping the focus on long-range priorities and aspirations;
● A clear-eyed and creative strategic mind; success in aligning resources and priorities, when resources are limited and opportunities are boundless;
● Experience building, deploying, developing, and retaining a team of talented leaders;
● A naturally consultative disposition, balanced with the discipline of decisiveness;
● Superb communication skills. The aptitude to listen, discern, and illuminate. A talent for explaining the arcane to the uninitiated, with no trace of condescension;
● Enthusiasm for connecting personally and maintaining open, accessible lines of communication across the College community;
● A core commitment to anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion;
● An understanding of and sincere appreciation for the College’s identity as a women’s college that is gender diverse;
● Maturity, emotional intelligence, and fortitude;
● Unimpeachable integrity and ethics;
● Understanding of the higher education landscape and the challenges facing small private residential liberal arts institutions;
● Experience working with a board of trustees or other institutional governing bodies
Mount Holyoke College is committed to providing a safe and secure environment, supported by qualified employees that will allow all of its students, faculty, staff, and those associated with them to successfully carry out the mission of the college. As a condition of employment, the College will conduct appropriate background checks for all new hires. Mount Holyoke has designated the Office of Human Resources as the office responsible for ensuring that background checks (CORI, SORI, Credit History, & Driver Credential) are completed and utilized in the hiring process and Five College Office of Compliance and Risk Management as the office responsible for facilitating background checks as articulated in this policy.
Special Instructions for Applicants:
Mount Holyoke College has retained the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist in this search. Inquiries, nominations, and applications can be sent electronically, in confidence, to the following:
Lisa Savereid, Partner
Chloe Kanas, Managing Associate
Gigi Mensah, Associate
Christina Errico, Senior Search Coordinator
Visit Isaacson, Miller executive search firm here Vice President, Finance & Administration, Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke College is a women’s college that is gender diverse. The College is committed to providing equal access and opportunity in employment and education to all employees and students. In compliance with state and federal law, Mount Holyoke College does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, genetic information, sex, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, ancestry, veteran or military status, or any other legally protected status under federal, state or local law. The College does not discriminate on the basis of gender in the recruitment and admission of students to its graduate program.
Mount Holyoke College is an Equal Opportunity Employer.