Four months into her position at Yale and three months into a feverish overhaul of the University’s accounting system, Vice President for Finance and Administration Shauna King is quickly learning the complexities of the job.
King, a former top official at PepsiCo, is responsible for a wide swath of areas including finance, student services, information technology and labor relations. Though she lacked virtually any experience with Yale before accepting the position, colleagues say King is adapting well to the challenges — including a sweeping federal investigation into the University’s management of research grants.
King said she has devoted much of her time to revamping accounting practices since the University was subpoenaed by three federal agencies in late June. She has also been meeting with staff, department chairs and union leaders to discuss issues including labor relations and career development.
“I’m trying to meet a lot of people and forge relationships that are going to drive change,” King said. “I started out doing my nice learning curve and orientation, and had to start rolling a little faster when we got a knock on the door from the government.”
But colleagues said King has adapted quickly and brought her own corporate know-how to bear, including her experience with implementing financial systems.
Yale Provost Andrew Hamilton said that once King meets the initial challenge of improving Yale’s research management, he expects her fresh perspective to affect all areas of administration.
“In the short time she has been on board, Shauna King has been an amazingly fast learner,” Hamilton wrote in an e-mail. “Her many years of work in the corporate sector have given her an excellent background for effecting a change and improvement in the way we do business.”
Compared to her predecessors and top-level colleagues, King arrived handicapped by inexperience with University affairs. Of Yale’s six other officers, only Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach took office without having held a previous position or gone to school here. And John Pepper, the widely respected vice president for finance and administration who left the University last December, was a former fellow on the Yale Corporation.
Bob Proto, president of the Local 35 labor union, said he is pleased with the speed with which King has familiarized herself with labor issues despite her initial lack of familiarity with the situation.
“John had a more acute understanding of the inner workings of Yale,” Proto said. “Shauna still has, for the amount of time she’s been here, caught on pretty quick.”
King does have an advantage over her predecessors, though, in that she has made a long-term commitment to the job. Three people have held the position in the last five years, including Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander, who took over for Pepper temporarily while the administration searched for a replacement.
In contrast, King is planning for a decade-long stay.
“I told my team members, ‘I hope you like what you see, because you’re stuck with me for 10 years,’” she said. “That’s my intent — to stop the revolving door in that office.”
King has already settled her family in North Haven, a decision which caught the attention of her staff.
“She and her family have purchased a home in the area and moved in, which I think is an indicator of her commitment to the job,” said Ernst Huff, associate vice president for student financial and administrative services. “I’m very much pleased that she appears to be here for a while to bring some stability to the organization.”
Huff also said King is an approachable leader, a quality she may be finding especially useful in a university environment. Working at an organization so rife with departments, funding sources and decision makers is a change from the corporate world, King said.
“There are a lot of parts to this equation that make it a little more complicated,” she said. “This is a more collaborate environment than the command-and-control environment in most business.”
At PepsiCo, King helped reorganize the company’s operating divisions and streamlined business processes and information technology systems. She is the first woman to hold the vice president for finance and administration post.