Taking Care of Business (and Finance)

Vicki Pennington, Adrian Day and Karen Acree

Staff in the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost support the NC State’s academics, faculty and programming through a variety of roles. The work of finance and business professionals in the office often happens behind the scenes, but makes a university-wide impact.

Vicki Pennington, assistant vice provost for finance and business, and Karen Acree, business officer, are two integral staff members who will be retiring soon. Adrian Day, the new assistant vice provost for finance and planning, steps in to carry on their work.

We spoke with Pennington, Acree and Day about their respective roles within the Provost’s Office, and how they work to create an NC State that sets the bar for excellence in higher education.

Vicki Pennington, Assistant Vice Provost for Finance and Business

Vicki Pennington

How long have you been in your position/at the university?

I have been at NC State for 30 years. I have been in the Provost’s Office since 1996, so 23 years.

What attracted you to NC State?

When I was in college at West Virginia University I worked at their dental school and after I graduated, I managed the budget for the Department of Dental Hygiene. I had a lot of interaction with the dental students although I didn’t work with them directly.  My office was located near the patient registration desk where the students met with their patients. I enjoyed the interaction and constant flow of traffic. It was ever changing. When my family and I moved to Raleigh, we lived close to NC State, so I looked for positions at the university where I could use my business administration degree, existing skill set and work experience. My first position at NC State was a temporary position working with the budgets in the campus planning office. I was hired in that same position permanently after a 6-week period. When a new accounting position opened up in the Office of the General Counsel about 3 years later, I applied and got the position. From there, a position in the Provost’s Office was created and I applied and got that position, and I’ve been in the Provost’s Office ever since.  Although I have worked with several Provosts and my role is significantly different than it was in 1996, I have always enjoyed the work I do. It’s rewarding to see the impact of the financial investments made.

What is your role in the Provost’s Office?

I manage the Provost’s reserves, which includes enrollment funding, tuition funds, F&A, endowment funding and more. The majority of my time is spent working directly with the university’s colleges, academic units and vice provosts in funding commitments that the provost makes in support of the University’s strategic plan priorities. I like to consider myself as “support” to the academic colleges and units. Working well with my counterparts is imperative and it’s always come naturally.  I like to think that each of us is here for the same purpose and it takes a lot of effort on everyone’s part to get the work done.

How do your efforts align with the university’s strategic plan?

My position, along with all of the Provost’s Office, aligns with the university’s strategic plan priorities by working with the provost, colleges and academic units to support them. My job is to ensure that the Provost has accurate data to assist him in making informed financial decisions.  Every decision made is made after evaluating requests, considering competing priorities, and determining whether our financial support furthers the University’s mission. I like being a part of the process.

What has been your favorite part of your job?

The best part of my job has been the relationships that I’ve been able to form with people over 30 years — deans, assistant deans for finance and HR, human resources staff, vice provosts, central offices, etc.  Those relationships also help the Provost’s Office run smoothly — we work well together, coming up with solutions to various challenges, whether it is budget cuts or unfunded initiatives. – we come together as a team and we solve problems.  Our relationship with the Office of Finance and Administration is stronger than it has ever been, and I would like to think that I played a large role in building and maintaining that relationship. When you’re on campus for 30 years, people become like your family. It makes your job a lot easier when you have those kinds of relationships, and I will miss that interaction. I truly have the best job on campus.

What are your plans for retirement?

I have a 2-year old grandson, so I plan to spend more time with him. I plan to volunteer at Rex Hospital in the NICU as a cuddler.  I also want to participate more with my family’s real estate business. In March, my family and I are going to spend a month at Emerald Isle to help me transition into retirement. I’ve been working ever since I was 14 — I took five years off after my son was born, and started working again once he was in kindergarten, so I want to take some time to relax and not feel rushed every day. I want to experiment with several fun hobbies that I have thought about for several years; such as cake decorating, soap making, and sewing.

What is your fondest NC State memory?

There are so many great memories. When I started out here, I had a job, and never dreamed I would be here for 30 years. Now I have a career, and I love it. I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built and the work I have done.  It has been a good ride and NC State has been good to me. I have worked with great people and supervisors. I’ve learned a lot from each of them. My current supervisor is a big picture kind of person, and he is so supportive at a personal and professional level. It really makes an impact when you come to work every day.

As I look back at the end of my 30 year career, I only wish I had spent more time exploring campus.  I relate it to hosting a party. I have been so busy ensuring that the party went well and everyone enjoyed themselves that I forgot to enjoy the party.  So, enjoy the party! It’s over before you know it.

Karen Acree, Business Officer

Karen AcreeHow long have you been in your position/at the university?

I came to NC State in 1988, to work in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ dean’s office. In 1990, I came to the Provost’s Office, and that’s when I began working with Vicki Pennington. I was classified as an administrative secretary V, then an executive assistant. I was responsible for managing graduate records back when they were only hard copies. The majority of my time here, I have been a business officer.

What is your role in the Provost’s Office?

I manage the internal budgets for the Provost’s Office, the Office of Faculty Development, Faculty Senate and dean searches. I have to review bills and make sure that everything is in sync.

How do your efforts align with the university’s strategic plan?

I conduct audits and help make sure that we are in compliance budget-wise. This is a behind-the-scenes kind of job, but it helps ensure that we are doing the best job possible for the university. 

What has been your favorite part of your job?

I have enjoyed that I get to engage in a wide variety of endeavors, get to work with many different people, and be proactive in solving problems.

What are your plans for retirement?

I have a grandbaby who is now two months old — I would like to help out more with that. My mom is getting older and I want to help my family care for her. I really want to spend more time with my family overall.

What is your fondest NC State memory?

It is hard to narrow it down to one memory. I have always liked working within the university because I have been able to see things, experience life from different perspectives. I started my career single, got married, had children, and everything has gone by so fast. This has been a good job to have, having a family. Also, it is great to be around students, to always have that youth around. 

Richard Branson said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” I think that’s a great way to talk about my time here. I’ve learned a lot, and have received great training during my career, but I have wanted to stay here because NC State is a great place to work.

Adrian Day, Assistant Vice Provost for Finance and Planning

What is your role in the Provost’s Office?

In addition to taking over many of Vicki’s duties, I will have a greater role with enrollment funding and management. I will also be involved more with startup commitments on campus.

What did you do before you joined the Provost’s Office?

Prior to my current position, I was the senior director of research and fiscal affairs in NC State’s Office of Research and Innovation. There, I managed the research office’s strategic research fund, where we invested in interdisciplinary research, faculty startups and other various research initiatives. I also provided support to university centers and institutes, directing financial funding, logistical and administrative support. The office also functioned as an incubator to help get startups up and running.

How do your efforts align with the university’s strategic plan?

Two of the strategic plan goals are to invest in faculty and infrastructure and to support interdisciplinary scholarship. We work toward those goals by helping attract and retain the country’s best faculty. The startup packages help ensure the faculty come to NC state, and the retention packages help them continue their work. We also provide support for cluster hires and interdisciplinary scholarship. All of these efforts help the provost be a good steward of resources designed to achieve strategic goals.

What attracted you to NC State?

I worked at two private universities prior to coming to NC State in May 2015. I enjoyed those experiences, but I wanted to be in a larger institution, particularly a land-grant university that was on the cutting edge of research and activities that are really enhancing the human experience. NC State was and is doing a lot of work to better society in general and I wanted to be a part of that. I’m originally from the area, and I wanted to move back home, and NC State was my top choice among places to work.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

I am looking forward to having a higher-level view of the university and how it operates. I enjoy solving large, complex problems at an institutional level, and in this role I can use my skill set to work with campus leadership to address issues facing the university. I can help improve operations and enhance student success. I’m looking forward to building relationships with deans, associate deans for finance and administration and creating a strong network of colleagues. I am a networker and relationship builder, so this position will help me grow that network.

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