Until he met Barbara Bennett at work, Gregory E. DuBois was a confirmed bachelor. Two years ago, after knowing her for five years and dating for two, DuBois finally decided to pop the question. His plan: to propose on New Year’s Eve at a fancy restaurant.
“I made reservations for the 10 p.m. seating,” he recalls. “I was going to get down on one knee after dinner, but at the last minute I chickened out. I finally proposed at 12:15 a.m., after we left the restaurant. That’s how we started our new year.”
Both husband and wife continue to work at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He is the assistant vice president of finance and planning, office of the vice president and chief financial officer. She works on the academic side as the associate director of finance in the office of teaching and technology.
You started as an accountant in 1986. Thirty years later, you’re still at the University of Florida. To what do you owe your remarkable tenure?
The University of Florida is a big place and has provided me with a lot of opportunities to grow and seek new challenges. When I started my career, we had less than 35,000 students. Now, we’ve plateaued at 52,000 students. The university has a $2.5 billion budget, which includes more than $700 million in research. The health enterprise consists of another $2.5 billion, which includes our teaching hospital.
Since you assumed your current position in 2014, what improvements to the budget process have you recommended?
We implemented, in 2011, responsibility center management. Our first iteration of the RCM model was fairly complex in how it allocated resources, which frustrated our deans because their budget of cers couldn’t replicate for themselves the math behind the allocation of state appropriations and tuition revenues. They wanted to be able to forecast their budgets themselves. They felt like the budget was a little bit of a surprise every year, even though their budgets didn’t change dramatically.
The complexity was largely caused by the weighting system around our levels of courses—undergraduate levels 1, 2, 3, and 4; and graduate levels 1, 2, and 3.
We used a fairly complex algorithm that looked at credit hours each year and allocated both state appropriations and tuition revenues back to colleges based on the weighted credit hour. Although they understood the purpose, the deans said, “Hey, we would rather get our collected tuition unweighted. If my college generates $1 million in tuition, just give me that.”
How did you respond to that request?
We agreed. For the state appropriation, we went to a general fund supplement model. In the rst year, to hold the colleges harmless, we fixed the general fund supplement to give the colleges the same budget that they had the prior year. The premise and promise is that the general fund supplement, year over year, won’t change, unless the university receives new revenue and we allocate that revenue to a college’s general fund supplement. We increase the general fund supplements as the result of central decisions around raises and a few other things.
Colleges can now track their own tuition revenue and know, year over year, what their general fund supplement will be. They can also plan in advance so that they can gure out their base budget. This improvement made the bud- gets simpler, more transparent, and afforded up-front planning time for colleges.
Haven’t you also been involved in some re-engineering efforts?
We constantly look at our business processes, policies, and practices to take out the waste and make them easier for the departments. Last year, we focused on travel policies to make them less burdensome for departments and end-users.
For example, we were requiring people to create travel authorizations for all trips—even those that were complimentary. People had to go into the system and document that they were taking a free trip and estimate the costs. Then, to offset the travel authorization, they had to create an expense report and later come back in and delete it. We saw that as a needless process.
We also were nickel-and-diming people when they made mistakes on their expense reports. Suppose, for example, someone claimed an extra breakfast because they miscalculated the days of travel and were reimbursed an extra $5 or $10 for an honest error. We would catch that in our audits, notify the department, and request reimbursement. We changed that policy because we believed that the university was spending too much time and money collecting a nominal amount for honest mistakes.
Of course, we still do audits, and if we find large errors, we will pursue them.
During your long tenure, you served three years as director of business relations for enterprise systems in information technology, as well as 12 years as the director of transportation and parking services. Do you ever miss your role as a department head?
I do. What I miss most is the daily interaction with staff. At this level, I don’t interact with staff on a daily basis, but I do get to participate in the policymaking and decision making that
is needed to run a successful university. It’s a trade-off.
[I now manage] about 10 staff. Earlier in my career, I managed more than 100 people.
What’s the most important professional lesson that you have learned?
To respect the values of shared governance and university citizenship.
For example, when we are making decisions about issues and challenges, we think about what is best for the university— we don’t think about what’s best for our unit, our team members, or us individually. For me, learning what it means to be a good university citizen—what it means to have shared governance, collaboration, and participation in decision making—has been an invaluable lesson.
What is your biggest success?
When I was the director of transportation and parking, in the mid-to-late ’90s, Florida required universities to create their first master plans and negotiate what was called campus development agreements with their host communities. During the university’s planning process and negotiation of a campus development agreement, it became apparent that the university needed to improve and increase mass transit for students.
I worked with the city to create fare-free student access to our bus system. At that time, we were transporting 600,000 mass transit
passengers annually. After the students voted for a transportation fee to fund improvements, we hoped to grow that number to 10 million passengers a year. We’ve now exceeded that number and contribute more than $13 million annually to the regional transit system.
I feel good about my role in providing and building a great service for students.
What challenges have you overcome in your life?
Getting a college degree. I come from a military family. My father was career Navy, and I was the youngest of four children. No one in my family had ever gone to college. My parents weren’t in a position to help me financially, so I lived at home and went to a community college my first two years. I put myself through college, eventually getting a graduate degree in accounting and my CPA.
These days, how do you unwind from the pressures of the job?
Barbara and I try to stay fit. We exercise together, including practicing CrossFit. I have gotten her into golf, and she’s taken a liking to it, so we often walk nine holes together. She enjoys fishing, and since we live about an hour from the Gulf, we’ll put our kayaks in the water and go fishing on nice days.
How would you describe yourself?
Loyal. I believe that there is great value in being loyal to your institution and employer. I like to think of myself as somebody who cares about the university, the work that we do, and the people I work with.
MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Va., covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.