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Back Story

Following in His Father’s Footsteps

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In the McDonald family, financial acumen may be a genetic trait.

Case in point: “I always wanted to be an accountant,” admits William McDonald, controller, Labouré College, Milton, Mass. “My dad was a successful accountant, and I followed in his footsteps. It runs in the family.”

When McDonald joined Labouré in June 2014, the century-old college had 750 students pursuing associate or bachelor degrees in nursing-related fields. 

McDonald currently supervises a staff of four. To move up the ladder, he believes finance professionals “have to be conscientious, detail-oriented, and also be good leaders.”

A traveler in his spare time to Cape Cod, Mass., Florida, and New York, McDonald also enjoys cooking, especially Italian cuisine, and entertaining family and friends. 

How does working at a college for nursing students differ from responsibilities in your previous positions?

This is a brick-and-mortar college where I see students on a daily basis. For the past six-and-a-half years, I worked at the New England College of Business, which was 100 percent online. We operated out of office space in downtown Boston. We did not have a campus, and we never saw students. I missed the campus atmosphere.

What is the advantage of an online education?

Flexibility. Students can do their coursework anytime and anywhere they want. That means they can work full time and be able to hop on their computer and not be bothered with commuting time. 

My personal opinion is that online education is often more rigorous than the traditional education offered at a brick-and-mortar college.

Really. Why?

Students have more work, more reading, and more projects. If you’re unprepared in a lecture of 40 students and the instructor doesn’t call on you to answer questions, you lucked out. In the online environment, you are forced to participate. 

You have specific deadlines for posting your work. In most online classes, you’re obligated to respond to three other students’ work within a certain time frame. That’s a requirement. 

What sorts of disadvantages do you observe?

You have to be disciplined to log in and do your work.  

What about the ease in which someone other than the student can take a test?

The instructors know. A lot of online classes are moving to virtual, where the instructors can see the students on the other end.

Should institutions be offering more online classes?

Online classes afford people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to college the ability to get an education. I think institutions should be moving toward the hybrid model, which combines the online and the classroom experience.

What mistakes are institutions making in their internal controls?

Some subordinates breach internal controls because they don’t know they exist; and people who are in the position to enforce internal controls don’t do it. For example, not taking deposits to the bank in a timely manner could result in missing cash. I use that as an example, because I know of instances where it has happened.

What’s the hardest management decision you’ve ever had to make?

Terminating employees, particularly when it is through no fault of their own, but due to financial constraints within the organization. It’s easier to let someone go who is out of line or isn’t doing the job.

And your biggest career success?

I was affiliated with a startup school, Lincoln Technical Institute. When I came on board, it had 45 students. When I left, it had 750. Being part of the team that grew that school was a great accomplishment.  

MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Va., covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

Credit: Cheryl Keane