Financial Resources Enhancement Initiative


To support the ongoing transformation of Penn State’s budgeting and fiscal management operations, a Financial Resources Enhancement Initiative (FREI) launched in February 2022 with the goal, to not only amplify new capabilities and processes made possible by the SIMBA implementation, but also to align current and future financial staff members’ skills and responsibilities with new technology and innovations. The initiative will explore new ways to support strategic priorities, control costs and enhance revenue in order to provide an affordable and accessible education for Penn State students. During the exploration process, Penn State will analyze ways to optimize its financial organization, create opportunities for staff development, and learn from financial staff members about their opinions, suggestions and feedback on current operations and future plans.

The analysis -- led by consultant Ernst & Young (EY) and with joint oversight from the University Budget Office, the Office of the Corporate Controller, and Human Resources -- will proceed through the spring 2022 semester. Recommendations are expected to be shared with Penn State leadership in late spring. Following a review, broad findings will be shared with the University community shortly after. Going through this exercise does not mean the University has determined to move forward with any specific options. 


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is there an audit of all financial staff members at Penn State?
    Penn State is engaging in a Financial Resources Enhancement Initiative (FREI) as part of University-wide efforts to continuously examine ways to more effectively steward its financial resources and keep them focused on mission-critical priorities. As part of this study, Penn State will take a look at how its financial organization, processes and skillsets align with new technological capabilities and process innovations enabled, for example, by the launch of SIMBA, the University-wide business and financial system. A consultant has been hired to review the current financial structure at Penn State and to develop recommendations for potential improvements.  
  2. What are the goals of this analysis?
    This analysis will aim to understand and optimize the University’s financial organization, roles and responsibilities, and skills and competencies. It also will examine opportunities for future hiring, training, and development for current and future staff members in financial roles and/or with financial responsibilities across all campuses. This is another step in an ongoing initiative to create a more streamlined operation and more budget transparency.   
  3. Why are you studying our roles?
    An exploratory analysis of the financial organization and landscape will help the University better understand whether and where resources and financial talent are being organized and marshaled in the most effective and efficient ways possible. The analysis also will help align individuals’ skills and experiences with our new technological capabilities, processes, and structure. For example, through this process we will seek to understand if there are training opportunities to support our new strategic budget approach; ways to better balance workloads for individuals; and if there are redundant responsibilities. 
  4. What roles are being studied? Will I be impacted?
    Along with looking at processes and policies, the scope of this study includes a review of the University’s broader financial organization comprised of staff members in financial roles and/or with financial responsibilities, including those in administrative support roles, across all campuses, excluding Penn State Health and Penn College. This spring semester (2022), financial staff members will be asked to participate in an anonymous survey and focus groups to provide feedback on current operations and suggestions for future plans. This is a multi-year effort, and our first step is to gather information and develop recommendations. We will work to minimize any potential effect on our staff members, who are our single greatest resource and integral, valued members of our community.  
  5. Does this mean there will be centralization and/or layoffs?

    We know the question of how this will impact you is on your mind. While it is possible that some jobs could be impacted, it is premature to speculate, as this is an exploratory analysis that is part of broader initiatives. This analysis is the next step in a variety of budgeting and financial efforts that have been underway for the past few years with a goal to help modernize outdated technological systems and processes, create efficiencies and new revenue streams, and position the University to keep a Penn State education affordable. To support these various efforts, we must also make sure that we have the right structure and organization in place, provide the right training for our employees, and have consistent hiring requirements and practices.

  6. How will staff members, organizations and leaders participate in the analysis?
    All identified financial staff members and those with financial responsibilities will receive an anonymous survey and be asked to provide feedback for a current state analysis, as well as their recommendations for a future state. In addition, mixed focus groups will be engaged in dialogue to discuss current processes, barriers and opportunities. Groups will include individuals from various roles to represent the breadth and depth of the enterprise.   
  7. Is this happening because of the pandemic?
    No, this is work that has been ongoing. For the past few years, Penn State has led a variety of budgeting and financial efforts — such as the Strategic Budget Approach Initiative and the SIMBA implementation — with a goal to help modernize systems and processes and position Penn State for the future. In a time of disruptive change in higher education — compounded by the financial impacts of the pandemic — it is increasingly imperative for Penn State to perform its due diligence to seek new and innovative ways that allow us to remain responsible stewards of University resources. The ultimate goal is to focus on our core mission and enable students to have access to an affordable world-class education.
  8. What initiated this effort?
    This evolved as the next area of focus in the financial transformation of the University, which has been ongoing. FREI builds upon the work done through the Strategic Budget Approach Initiative and the SIMBA implementation, which highlighted that Penn State must continue to examine its financial structure, processes, and staffing and skills necessary to effectively manage the University’s resources. This effort supports broad University goals to examine how services and resources support Penn State’s mission and to explore new ways to sustain strategic priorities, control costs and enhance revenue in order to provide an affordable and accessible education for students.
  9. Who is leading this effort?
    Ernst & Young (EY) was hired as a consultant to lead the analysis, in conjunction with a Penn State task force sponsored by Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Sara Thorndike, and Interim Vice President for Human Resources Jennifer Wilkes. The task force is comprised of financial, budget and human resources leaders from across the University.



Penn State initiative examining financial organization engages consultant (Feburary 2022) - Read More

Project Sponsors, Leads, and Support

Executive Sponsors: ​

Nicholas Jones, Executive Vice President ​and Provost

Sara Thorndike, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer​

Jennifer Wilkes, Interim Vice President for Human Resources ​

Core Project Leads: ​

Angela Church, Senior Director of Human Resources for Administrative Units ​

Kim Fisher, Assistant Controller, University Financial Officers​

Christy Helms, Senior Director of Talent Management ​

Mary Lou Ortiz, Associate Vice President for Budget and University Budget Officer​

Virginia Teachey, Associate Vice President for Finance ​

Contact Administrative Support: ​

Jeremy Bean, Senior Change Consultant, Finance & Business ​

Lindsey Droz, Director of Operations, University Budget Office ​