WASHINGTON SPIRIT — Spring 2004
   

 

Overseeing the Fiscal Landscape

Barbara A. Feiner, Vice Chancellor for Finance

by Betsy Rogers

As vice chancellor for finance at Washington University, Barbara A. Feiner manages an expansive portfolio with a daunting array of responsibilities.

Under her purview fall investment management; the controller's office with virtually all accounting; sponsored projects or research accounting; treasury management, encompassing banking relationships, cash and debt management, and insurance; and financial planning, coordinating the activities for undergraduate enrollment and tuition planning, and managing the capital budget for campus construction projects.

Adding to the complexities is the University's decentralized governance: Its eight schools receive all the tuition revenue from their students and manage their own budgets, from which they contribute to the Central Fiscal Unit (CFU) and the overall structures that keep the University humming.

The key to staying on top of these responsibilities, Feiner says, is a top-notch team. "I have great people at the top of each of those areas and throughout our operation," she observes. Her staff numbers more than 130.

Feiner brings to the post a business degree, 13 years' management experience at Edison Brothers Stores Inc., and the unfettered enthusiasm of a committed alumna. In fact, her involvement from the time she earned her M.B.A. in 1983 gave her a good working knowledge of the University and helped her as she joined the finance team here in 1996.

Feiner earned a bachelor's degree in education at Saint Louis University and taught for nine years before returning to business school at Washington University. She became involved in alumni activities first on the business school's Alumni Executive Committee and then on the Alumni Board of Governors, eventually becoming executive vice chair and then chair. In those posts, she served as alumni representative to the Board of Trustees at a watershed moment.

It was the summer of 1995. The University's schools had completed their Project 21 strategic plans, and the trustees had stitched them together and launched the Campaign for Washington University. Now, eight years later, the effort has raised more than $1.4 billion and is funding, or promises to fund, most Project 21 initiatives.

The Campaign is a major tool in Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton's quest to "accelerate the University's ascent"—a vision Feiner embraces wholeheartedly.

"I really am on the same page with the chancellor and others in senior administration and the Board in accelerating the ascent," Feiner says. "Sometimes in my position I have to walk a fine line. We can't do everything we want to do. Especially as keepers of the central contingency funds, we watch the monies for capital projects and new initiatives very closely. But I am absolutely committed to the University's missions of teaching, research, and patient care.

"While we're behind the scenes, we hope that we're doing what we can to help everyone who's really out on the front lines," she adds. "This is a great institution to be affiliated with, and I get a lot of satisfaction from the things that we do to make that happen."

Making it happen takes many forms. Beyond the week-in-week-out responsibilities, Feiner's team is carrying out a trustees' initiative to invest $40 million of the endowment in St. Louis venture capital funds to support local biotechnology development. "This is a huge effort to help young science-based companies in St. Louis," Feiner explains. "We expect the investments to make money over time. We also hope they will do a lot for advancing science in the St. Louis area."

Along these same lines, she says, the University is the major partner, along with Saint Louis University, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, in a new biotechnology corridor to extend from Grand Avenue to Kingshighway Boulevard. With funding from the partners and other sources, the consortium is working to attract and retain life science companies in an environment where these enterprises can thrive through proximity to world-renowned research institutions. The consortium expects to see construction of its first building within 18 months and, by the fifth year, the creation of 4,000 jobs.

Within the University, Feiner takes satisfaction in the CFU's disciplined budget process. "It really helps us determine the best use of limited funds," she says. "The CFU is a pretty tight ship." Feiner's team has worked hard to ensure that the University has the best possible internal controls governing overall financial management and research compliance. At the nuts-and-bolts level, Feiner's office has assisted in a key software upgrade in the new PeopleSoft Human Resources Payroll System, and the team is working on various other research and administrative systems upgrades.

Though Feiner joined the administration as director of investment management, she rose quickly to become chief financial officer in 1998, then vice chancellor and CFO in 1999. In all these positions, she has treasured the collaborative spirit and the sense of community she finds at the University. "There's a lot of coordination and cooperation all across the University," she notes. "We decide a lot of things based on consensus; we know that we're all in this together."

Betsy Rogers is a free-lance writer based in Belleville, Illinois.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peer Review

"I first met Barb when I was director of development for the Olin School of Business. In her role as leader of the Alumni Board of Governors, she was outstanding, demonstrating her deep commitment to the board and to the University. When the Campaign for Washington University was initated, we asked Barb to be a co-chair of the staff component with John Schael. Once again, she provided excellent leadership. The University is very fortunate to have Barb in a leadership position in the administration; she has contributed to the progress of the University over many years and in multiple ways."

—David T. Blasingame, A.B. '69, M.B.A. '71, Vice Chancellor for Alumni and Development Programs


"Barb consistently keeps her focus on the University's greater good. She has strong opinions about aspects of our operations, but she readily considers input from those who might have competing interests. The University's decentralized system presents many challenges. While we approach issues with a thorough knowledge of our own operations, we can sometimes have a narrow view. One of Barb's greatest attributes is her ability to see the broader view—to see how the various pieces fit together to form the comprehensive University picture."

—Ann B. Prenatt, Vice Chancellor for Human Resources


"Barb is an extraordinary person, and she has played an important role in the University's ascent. In our financial management she is absolutely committed to quality and accountablility. She has generated a team spirit in her area that continues to improve every year. She collaborates effectively with people all across the University. And, no matter how good she is and how hard she works, she continues to grow in her job. She's a real superstar."

—Richard A. Roloff, B.S. '51, Executive Vice Chancellor


"I first met Barb in her leadership capacity as chair of the Alumni Board of Governors. She is a very distinguished alumna now serving in an extremely important leadership role as vice chancellor for finance. Her work affects the entire University, and she has proven to be effective in working with a wide range of people and programs. As a University officer she carries important responsibilities that have been executed with great dedication, creativity, and sensitivity. She is a great and enthusiastic contributor to advancing the mission of the University."

—Mark S. Wrighton, Chancellor