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Music City Master Class

October 2015


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From transformational economic models to collaboration in the Cloud, from heightening student expectations to rethinking space allocation, the NACUBO 2015 Annual Meeting content sped up the turntable—and timetable—of the tempo of change.

The following NACUBO staff members and consultants contributed photos, comments, and articles for this report: Deborah Cumbo, Jeanne Cure, Bill Dillon, Kellee Edmonds, Sally Grans Korsh, Whitney Harnisch, Karla Hignite, Katy Hopkins, Nancy Mann Jackson, Earla Jones, Carole Schweitzer, Khesia Taylor, Maryann Terrana, and Preeti Vasishtha.

Photographs by Rodney Choice, Choice Photography

We need look no further than the impetus behind NACUBO’s Economic Models Project to see that our conference theme, The Tempo of Change, is right on target,” noted John Walda, NACUBO president and CEO, at the opening general session of the NACUBO 2015 Annual Meeting, in Nashville. “Focus groups that we’ve conducted over the past months,” he explained, “have surfaced the broad themes of the need for courageous leadership, the strategic allocation of resources, and an effective communication framework to promote the value of a college degree to both the individual and society.”

The issues facing higher education are moving at an ever-faster pace, said Walda, “and the content of this year’s annual meeting is designed to share tools, talent, and new takes that you can practice at your own institutions.”

Walda went on to describe some of the tools that NACUBO had already provided as enhanced member benefits, including complimentary access to two premiere online resources: Federal Auditing and Information Services and the Federal Accounting and Reporting Manual. The latter includes emerging issues updates and bimonthly coverage of accounting trends to keep members up to speed.

With total registration of 2,689 attendees and exhibitors, the meeting was a close rival to last year’s Seattle event, which drew 2,730. Of this year’s total, 1,702 were full-conference registrants, 371 were attending their first annual meeting, and 18 represented 11 other countries. All seemed eager for the motivational advice and practical examples in the programming to come. 

Walda then turned his remarks to the importance of data.  “A grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” he explained, “will allow NACUBO to join in the work being done to build institutional capacity for student completion. Data we gather will also help us understand strategic finance and why it’s such an important institutional capacity. With net tuition having doubled as a revenue source during the past 25 years, and nearly 89 percent of first-time freshmen receiving some form of institutional aid, the need for structural and organizational change is obvious.”

Commenting on the role of the chief business officer during these volatile times, Ronald L. Rhames, president of Midlands Technical College and outgoing board chair of NACUBO, said, “We are part of something that goes beyond one individual institution. We are a group of far-flung individuals who are committed to providing opportunities to young—and not so young—students. We hope this meeting will provide more tools for us all to do that.” 

Rhames also thanked volunteers who had participated in this year’s community service project to help refurbish Bailey STEM Magnet Middle Prep School in Nashville. “Thank you for making a difference in our host city.”

Following are selected highlights of the sights and sounds of the NACUBO 2015 Annual Meeting in Nashville.