CMU holds open forums to replace VP of finance and administration

Warriner Hall in autumn on the campus of Central Michigan University on Thursday, Sept. 29.

From Nov. 14 to 16, Central Michigan University held three candidate forums to fill the vice president for finance and administrative services position.

Nick Long, who resigned in July after two years at CMU, previously held the position. Mary Moran Hill, associate vice president of financial services, has been filling in for the position since Long's resignation. 

Audience members, both in-person and virtual, were invited to ask questions to the candidates. Recordings of each forum are posted on CMU's website, along with candidate resumes.   

Jeremy Alltop

Alltop introduced himself at Monday’s forum as a CMU alumnus with a career of experience in similar roles in finance and administrative services. He said he held the same position at Northern Kentucky University and Lamar University in Texas.   

Amanda Garrison, a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, asked Alltop how faculty, staff, and students at CMU could affect his work – and vice versa. 

Alltop gave an example of his experience at Lamar University where he and the provost hosted 51 listening sessions for faculty to share concerns directly with them. 

“It was live and real,” said Alltop. “And I think at the end of the day… people at least appreciated the fact that they were heard."

Alltop said he has worked with two different budget models. One of them gives money to departments so they can make decisions on how to spend it. The other, he said, distributes money more directly. Alltop said he recommends a mix between both of these models.

Alltop said he’s interested in this position at CMU because of the size of the school, his alumni status and the "futuristic thinking" of administration. 

“I think the university is at least investing and taking strides toward what the future may look like,” Alltop said. 

Mary Moran Hill 

Hill has been filling in as CMU's interim vice president of finance and administrative services and chief financial advisor. She also serves as a treasurer for the CMU Board of Trustees, treasurer of the CMU Medical Education Partners and as treasurer for the CMU Research Corporation. 

During her undergraduate and masters programs, Hill was a first generation student at CMU. Hill said this is why CMU is "near and dear" to her heart because the university has become a second family to her, which is why she has stayed for the past 36 years. 

"I have spent time trying to make CMU successful, and I believe I can do the same in this role," Hill said. 

Hill said that her leadership style is open, direct and collaborative and she is not hesitant to be direct and talk about problems with people. She said that taking another side or "playing the devils advocate" allows us to make better decisions. 

"I have a lot of people that I have worked with on campus after I have built a rapport with them, and they know pretty well that they can push back on me," Hill said. "They can debate, argue, take another side or disagree with me and I welcome that." 

Hill said that there are three financial issues that should be addressed at CMU:

  • Ensuring finance and administration is providing the best possible service to campus 
  • Efficiently supporting all areas on campus 
  • Working on a new budget model and educating the public about it

"Fixing our budget problems – a high priority – is going to take time, some thought and some planning. One of the things we need to do is strategically figure out what is we want to be, how we are going to differentiate CMU," Hill said. 

An online attendee asked Hill how she is going to have fresh ideas at CMU since she been here for a long period of time and is the only candidate from within the university. Hill said she keeps in touch with many people at other institutions within the state and the nation. She said she is not afraid to call them and bounce new ideas off of them.

"I don't really think that it is a detriment that all my experience has been (at CMU)," Hill said. "I think it really comes down to having an open mind, being willing to listen to other people and other ideas, and figuring out ways to get things done," Hill said. 

Brant Wright

Wright is currently the senior vice president for administration and finance at Piedmont University in Georgia.

Wright said he was impressed with the list of leadership standards while reviewing the job description. He focused on collaboration between staff during the forum. 

"This is a place I'd love to be and I think I can use my talents and work collaboratively with everyone to build teams and make a positive impact on Central,” Wright said.

Wright said shared governance and faculty input will also be important for future decision making.   

He also discussed release time, which is giving faculty time to pursue research and scholarship. He talked about seeing an imbalance of release time in institutions he's worked with. Wright said it's important to have release time, but not too much of it. 

Wright said, to deal with "top-heavy" administrative costs, the number of people in senior leadership positions should stay relative to the needs of a university. 

Wright said his leadership style is open and that he views himself as a resource for his staff. 

“If I'm making a wrong decision or going down a wrong path I need my staff to also feel comfortable to say, 'hey, by the way, there's a better way of doing this,'" he said.