Joyce Lopes of Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park wins one of North Bay Business Journal's CFO awards.
Professional background: Higher education
Education: MBA and CPA
What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?
It is important to take a balanced approach to managing an institutions’ resources, particularly in difficult economic times. Budgets must be built balancing the needs of today’s student with the needs of tomorrow’s student. Reserves should be built in good times and used during difficult times to maintain smooth day-to-day operations. The budget should reflect the organization’s goals and priorities. I believe education is a people-driven industry and employees are our most important resource. Available revenues should be used to staff educational programs to ensure we are providing the community with necessary academic resources.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?
When I started in this industry, we were a very manually-run operation. Today, we have automated our processes in so many ways. This has helped us to work smarter, but we need to continue to remember that the work we do requires connecting one-on-one with our students to ensure they can thrive in the pursuit of their academic careers.
Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past.
Under the leadership of our new president, Dr. Sakaki, we are ‘Dancing with Change’. The fires this past October in Sonoma and Napa counties have left us with additional challenges to support our campus and community. What I have learned is this is a resilient campus and county. Together we can do amazing things with limited resources. I am proud to be part of this team.
What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?
Show up every day ready to give your best. Be present, be transparent, and be approachable. The work we do is so important. We have the opportunity to help people realize their academic and career dreams. It is rewarding work that is worth putting in the extra effort to ensure each student has the best experience possible.
What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment?
Stay informed; be aware of the trends in the economy and in your industry. And build a strong team of people to help support your campus.
How do you think your business will change in the next five years?
Over the next five years, higher education in California will need to educate an additional 1 million people to drive the economic engine that is California. And the population we are educating is becoming more diverse with more first generation students. We will need to be ready to meet that demand to provide the services on campus to assure access and affordability so each and every student has the opportunity to not just survive but thrive during their academic career.
What is your most memorable business experience?
My most memorable business experiences were the times when I could help students directly; during move-in weekend, running an Emergency Operations Center, or serving at a banquet. Those are the moments that are memorable.
Vice President, Administration & Finance
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park 94928
707 664 2310