Lasell University is seeking a disciplined and experienced financial professional with a proven record of providing creative, innovative, and forward-thinking strategies to be its Vice President for Finance and Administration (VP). As the University’s chief business strategist and financial officer, the VP serves as a vital partner to the President, charged with the achievement of strategies and objectives that enhance the University’s valuation and brand in the long term while maintaining its long and successful focus on an accessible, inclusive, and diverse student-centered mission. Required to respond with discipline, nimbleness, and agility to an ever-changing higher education marketplace, the VP works to test the University’s business model and challenge the status quo when needed. The VP serves as chief financial officer for the University and Lasell Village.
The VP reports directly to the President and works in close collaboration with the other Senior Management Team members in the advancement of university goals. The VP shares the responsibility to create a diverse and inclusive environment in which every person feels a sense of belonging and has an equal opportunity to succeed. The VP oversees facilities management, campus police, food services, environmental services, information technology, the business office, and human resources. The VP serves on the Board of Directors of the Boston Consortium for Higher Education and coordinates Lasell’s activities and interactions with the Consortium.
About Lasell University
An innovative educational institution for 170 years, Lasell is an independent coeducational university emphasizing the integration of professional and liberal arts programs leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees and an increasing number and variety of certificate and continuing and adult education programs. The 54-acre campus is situated in Newton, Massachusetts, eight miles from downtown Boston. Its location at the heart of the Route 128 high-tech corridor is a powerful symbol of Lasell’s “connected learning” philosophy, which engages students in the work of their field of study through service learning, internships, project-based classroom experiences, and opportunities for global learning. As a result, Lasell students graduate with a degree and a robust resume, and consistently report graduate school and job placement rates of about 96% (in non-COVID years).
Lasell’s educational commitment to blending theory and practice was embraced at its founding in 1851 as the first two-year university for women and has remained central to its mission through the transition to four-year education in 1988 and coeducation in 1998. Graduate programs, introduced in 2003, provide new opportunities for incorporating the University’s distinctive connected learning model. Lasell has been teaching online and hybrid courses since 2005. In 2000, Lasell Village, a vibrant living and learning retirement community sponsored by the University, was opened (see below). And in 2008, Lasell began a Green Campus Initiative with a goal of 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Today, Lasell serves about 1400 undergraduate and about 700 graduate students from across the US and around the world.
A commitment to teaching excellence and academic innovation has been at the heart of Lasell from its beginning. The school is widely recognized for helping students make the connection between classroom lessons and real life through the integration of challenging coursework with practical experience in an environment that fosters lifelong intellectual exploration, active citizenship, and social responsibility. In the last 10 years, with an expanding and diverse student body, Lasell set enrollment and fundraising records and developed four ambitious strategic plans, three of which have been successfully fulfilled. The newest plan will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for review in June.
The University has become a leader in the effort to develop lower cost models for independent universities, experimenting with ways to deliver a high quality private higher education at prices 30-50% lower than current tuition rates. Lasell founded the Lower Cost Models for Independent Colleges Consortium (LCMC), a collaboration that has grown to 93 colleges since its founding in 2017. Lasell offers an alternative way for undergraduate students to attend through its unique “Lasell Works” program, which, for students who opt into the program, features declining tuition rates each year a student returns to the University. Lasell University is also a member of edHealth, a consortium of higher education institutions in the New England area that is harnessing the power in numbers to successfully offer quality healthcare at lower costs. The University was recently elected as the 20th member of the Boston Consortium for Higher Education (www.boston-consortium.org).
Lasell Village, an award-winning senior housing community, approaches retirement in a whole new way – with an emphasis on active, intellectually enriched living. The Village combines the security of a continuing care retirement community with the cultural, social, and recreational opportunities of lifelong learning. Designed on the scale of a small New England neighborhood, Lasell Village is located on a beautifully landscaped 13-acre site on the campus of Lasell University. At the Village center is the clock-towered Town Hall building, surrounded by 15 residential buildings all connected by enclosed walkways. The Town Hall provides a full range of amenities from personal banking to sophisticated dining, while each residential building includes at least one common space dedicated to continued learning and physical fitness.
Life at Lasell Village reflects the interests and imagination of Village residents. A focus on living and learning is the defining characteristic of Lasell Village, and one that makes it unique among retirement communities. Although it is one of a growing number of university-affiliated retirement communities, it is the first to feature a formal, individualized, and required continuing education program for residents. The presiding philosophy of education at Lasell Village is that learning is not a chore or task, or even a specified activity. Rather, it is a way of being – an approach to life in which residents pursue interests and new experiences that enrich their lives. While residents are required to attend 450 hours of educational coursework per year, they do so eagerly.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Lasell University
Lasell University has made a community-wide commitment to acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences in its multiple perspectives, identities, social positions, and cultural lenses. They affirm that Lasell’s mission of social responsibility and effective, engaged learning requires a commitment to an inclusive campus in which all members of the Lasell community can thrive. The University needs and asks for the active contributions of every community member to achieve this goal.
Lasell’s undergraduate student population is 64% female and 36% male and hails from 23 states and 10 countries. Graduate students join Lasell from 26 states and 16 countries. The Lasell student body is increasingly diverse; 28.5% of undergraduates and 18.4% of graduate students identify as members of racially minoritized groups. International students make up 3.3% of undergraduates and 7.2% of the university’s graduate students; prior to the pandemic, the percentage of international students was typically 6% and 10% respectively.
Lasell is committed to fostering an intellectually enriching and inclusive educational environment. It is dedicated to enhancing employees’ intercultural competence in fulfilling their roles and interacting with students and employees who are broadly diverse regarding various aspects of identity, such as race, ethnicity, ability status, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, nationality, and religion.
Lasell seeks faculty (20% identify as BIPOC) and staff (18% identify as BIPOC) who appreciate the value diversity brings to a campus community and are eager to foster an inclusive environment. Employees who represent the various aspects of diversity of our student body are key contributors to the strategic vision.
Michael Alexander became the ninth president of Lasell University on July 1, 2007, following successful corporate careers, first in media and entertainment and then in technology, deferring an early desire to enter higher education leadership.
During his tenure, Alexander has overseen substantial campus-wide growth, including a more than an 80% increase in total enrollment, a doubling of full-time faculty, and an almost 90% increase in annual giving. In June 2018, Lasell completed a three-year capital campaign which raised more than $15 million for new programs, endowment, and part of the cost for the recently completed Science and Technology Center. It was the second capital campaign completed in Alexander’s time at the University, which has also included overseeing the construction of five new buildings and the renovation of many others. The University has just begun the silent phase of a new campaign that will focus on increasing the size of the endowment in order to provide ongoing income to support operations and strengthen the financial foundation of the University. As of April 2021, the endowment was approximately $54 million.
Previously, Alexander’s roles in higher education included Assistant Dean of Freshmen for Harvard College while pursuing his doctoral work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Executive Assistant to the President of Barnard College, later taking on responsibility for the financial and administrative affairs of the College.
He received an A.B. from Harvard College, an M.A from Ohio State University, and completed all coursework toward an Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In addition, Alexander has been involved with a number of organizations and institutions over the years, including the Boards of Trustees of Antioch University, Bloomfield College, the Foundation for Minority Interests in Media, and the National Urban League.
Alexander resides in Dunne House on the campus of Lasell, with his wife Mary Barbara, an actress. Their daughter, Maggie, lives in Florida.
As Chief Financial Officer of Lasell University and Lasell Village, this position is responsible for ensuring the financial integrity of the University and Lasell Village and advising the President on all matters of fiscal security and accountability, financial planning, and stewardship of University resources. This position provides leadership, direction, strategic planning, and coordination for the Business and Finance Department, Department of Facilities and Sustainable Management, Public Safety, the Department of Information Technology, and Human Resources (all of which support the academic and administrative departments of the University). This position provides appropriate support to the Business Office of Lasell Village. Areas of responsibility may change based on the experience and qualifications of the person hired. The VP will oversee a divisional budget of $21 million, an enterprise-wide budget of $90 million, a Lasell Village budget of $21 million, and a staff of 57.
As a member of the President’s Senior Management Team, the VP will advise the President to support the development of ongoing, long-term strategic planning, as well as the executive functions of the institution. The VP is responsible for the assessment and development of the University’s financial strategy, business model, and performance measures that balance strict financial discipline with higher return initiatives that drive innovation and growth.
Further, the VP will provide leadership in the identification, market testing, implementation, and continual performance assessment of initiatives for new revenue generation including programs, products, events, services, and the development of associated business plans. The VP must have the awareness of where the market and competition are heading and have the ability to engage in analytical thinking, problem-solving, and planning.
To effectively foster an entrepreneurial spirit and a culture of collaboration and innovation within the University, particularly in the generation of new revenue, the VP must be a transparent communicator with the ability to build creative teams that are open to taking risks. The VP will facilitate shared governance and faculty, staff, and student engagement in the development of financial goals and budget development.
The VP for Finance and Administration will have the opportunity to provide purpose, discipline, and clarity as the University launches, assesses, and grows new strategic initiatives. The ideal candidate will help Lasell University to be explicit about what they choose to do, choose not to do, how they do it, and why.
The VP will work collegially with a wide variety of constituencies, including but not limited to students, faculty, staff, senior officers, collaborators at other institutions, contractors, external businesses, Lasell Village residents, and the Board of Trustees. The VP will employ strong written, oral, and interpersonal skills in order to effectively support the Board of Trustees, including the Board’s Finance, Investment, Governance, and Audit Committees and the Investment Committee of Lasell Village, and to communicate important financial matters pertaining to the whole Lasell community and to individual departments.
In the near- to mid-term specific deliverables for the VP include:
- Continuing the implementation of the long-range financial planning tool, Synario, to streamline and provide more insight into financial decision-making.
- Provide training and development to Lasell employees on financial planning.
- Evaluation of outside vendor relationships and partnerships, especially in the areas of procurement and banking; and
- Participation in the 2022 NECHE reaccreditation process.
The successful candidate will have earned a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; and a graduate degree in a relevant field is preferred. The VP will have demonstrated significant and progressively responsible leadership over the financial administrative area, preferably in a college or university setting. Excellent analytical ability is vital. The VP must be able to evaluate the University’s financial needs and select appropriate investments and business strategies that will meet established financial goals. Experience in partnering with an executive team and a high level of written and oral communication skills are essential to effectively collaborate with colleagues and interact with clients or organizational management. The candidate should also have effective project management abilities in order to successfully oversee multiple business initiatives. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Managerial Accountant (CMA) certification is preferred.
In addition, the VP should have the following experiences and attributes:
- Financial analysis and planning, budgeting, accounting, internal compliance, risk management, facilities, public safety, human resources, and information technology.
- Accurate and timely estimates of the financial condition of the University and the Village in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
- Financial and tax reporting at all governmental levels.
- Liaison with the City of Newton on financial, tax, zoning, construction, and approval matters.
- Maintenance of the financial planning model.
- Development of effective business practices including implementation of new financial and business information systems.
- Management of the system of internal controls and financial operations.
- Compliance with University, state and federal policies, regulations, and laws.
- Oversight of external audits for Lasell University and Lasell Village.
- Supervision of all phases of construction projects.
- Collective bargaining /union negotiations and contracts.
- Oversight of the University’s participation in collaborations with other organizations, including edHealth (a medical insurance consortium) and the Boston Consortium for Higher Education.
- Auxiliary enterprises including food service, environmental services and bookstore.
- Oversight of the investments of the University’s endowment funds and the reserve funds of Lasell Village.
- Negotiation and oversight of debt instruments for the University and Lasell Village.
- Liaison to the Finance Committee and Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.
- Management of rental programs/rental of facilities.
- Negotiation of contracts on behalf of the University, such as food service, insurance, and legal services.
- Anticipation of financial and operational risks and opportunities prior to their arrival, when it is possible to avert looming problems or take advantage of opportunities.
- Improvement of the efficiency and effectiveness of operations, including attention to controlling costs.
- Experience in developing, evaluating, and prioritizing innovative revenue-generating ideas and subsequently developing and implementing business plans that bring ideas to fruition.
- Robust knowledge and understanding of current issues facing higher education, including the importance of leveraging technology.
- Experience contributing to and implementing a strategic plan.
- Experience articulating a vision, building an effective team, and listening to and engaging diverse constituencies in working toward shared goals.
- Experience making detail-oriented, informed decisions and communicating decisions in a transparent manner.
- Experience working with a diverse range of faculty, staff, and students, and contributing to a climate of inclusivity.
- Experience developing new and creative ways to continue to attract, support, and retain high-quality, diverse employees.
- Demonstrated commitment to shared governance.
- Exemplary interpersonal skills including the ability to listen, communicate, and collaborate effectively with the University’s multiple constituencies, including faculty, students, staff, alumnae, donors, and professional organizations.
- Experience interacting with a Board of Trustees to ensure the University’s overall success.
- An entrepreneurial, innovative leadership style; and
- A sense of humor.
Tom Phillips and Charlotte Harris of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.
The Lasell community appreciates diverse, global perspectives and recognizes that students, faculty, and staff from a range of backgrounds make our campus greater. We are committed to providing our community with the academic resources and professional development needed to foster an inclusive environment.
Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.
For more information about Koya Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.