I was excited to attend the SACUBO conference in San Antonio, Texas. As a local, we don’t spend much time downtown so when I jumped on the River Taxi to head to the opening reception, I was reminded how much I love my city.
Upon arriving at The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, we were greeted by a fellow Texan host (see picture below) and for the rest of the night, I felt like I had stepped into a taxidermist's dream. I was sorry to hear that I missed out on the line dancing but I was captivated by the Texas Ranger Museum which featured a re-creation of San Antonio at the turn of the century, with an old saloon, a jail cell, and more.
The following two days were filled with outstanding General Session speakers, best practice sessions, and many opportunities to network. The theme was “Facing the Future–Together” suggesting that “together we can face the uncertainty we are experiencing as business officers and steer institutions in the right direction.”
I attended many great sessions, including our partner session, How to Use Benchmarking Data to Support Financial Sustainability & Inform Budgeting Decisions, presented by the University of Alabama. Adam Tate, Executive Director of Finance, shared how UA created a culture of data around campus, as well as the ways in which they’re using labor spend and benchmarking data to answer strategic questions in critical areas:
- How do our pay rates, specifically within public safety and IT, compare to peers and contribute to our ability to recruit and retain our staff?
- How can we hire more strategically and understand which units are over or understaffed?
- What are our peers doing and how can we use their insights to inform our plans and share best practices?
It was a standing-room only session which suggested to me that this is an important topic on leaders' minds. In case you missed it, here’s a case study from Auburn University - Growth in Economic Uncertainty, which shares how another partner institution was able to use benchmarking data to inform decision making.
Another great session that I attended was, Data Analytics: Where Do We Go Next?. Jimmy Barnes from Clemson University and Russ Hannah from Arkansas State University referenced a resource that I found valuable and wanted to share: Analytics Can Save Higher Education. Really. A Joint Statement on Analytics from AIR, EDUCAUSE, and NACUBO. While these groups released this statement in 2019, it’s as valuable and true today as it was then, demonstrating there is still progress to be made on our analytics journeys.
SACUBO’s mission is to contribute to superior higher education financial and administrative services by providing relevant professional development, thought leadership, and issue advocacy. At the 2022 Annual Conference, they delivered on that mission. We were challenged to embrace uncertainty and think innovatively. I walked away feeling inspired and motivated to “be the change I want to see in the world” and with renewed self-awareness, “What I am unaware of controls me. What I become aware of, I can change!”