Kevin Weinman became Amherst’s Chief Financial Officer in 2013, overseeing the college’s financial planning, investments and Covid response. Weinman recently announced that he will be departing in early September to serve as president of Marist College.
Q: What kinds of responsibilities did you have as the Chief Financial and Administrative Officer?
A: I oversee the financial function of the college, which includes a number of things — financial planning and budgeting; the investment and use of the endowment; all of our accounting transactions; our financial transactions, like payroll and accounts payable; student accounts; and billing. Those are sort of the direct things that I've overseen, but I also worked very closely with Biddy, on a whole range of strategic and other administrative work here at the college — most recently, [that has been] a lot of the Covid-related planning and execution of our safety protocols.
Q: Can you elaborate on how your work was affected by the pandemic?
A: Like all the other functions of the college, my entire group had to figure out how to work from home and execute the business of the college remotely. So we've had virtually nobody on campus since the pandemic hit in March of 2020. And the group has been really amazing at adapting to having meetings by Zoom and executing work remotely. We're also in the midst of a major system migration to Workday, and we decided not to pause the project.So whereas we used to have people meeting together in large conference rooms to get the work of the system migration done, everybody was doing that work individually and by Zoom meetings from home, and we're able to keep that project moving forward, despite the challenges of having to work remotely.
Q: What kinds of added responsibilities were brought on by the pandemic?
A: We had to figure out how to teach and keep students safe in the middle of a pandemic, so coordinating all of the testing, just securing tests through the Broad [Institute] program, and then organizing a testing center — that was probably the biggest challenge that we had two summers ago, when we didn't know how it was we were going to administer Covid tests. And so [Director of Emergency Management] Matt Hart, in particular, has done an amazing job establishing and running the testing center, but we spent a lot of time figuring out how best to do that, how many tests per week, how can we get test results back as quickly as possible. That's really where most of the challenges were last summer, trying to envision how to bring students back and keep them safe.
Q: Looking back now at when you first started, what was it like stepping into a CFO role that was brand new to Amherst?
A: It was more of a shift. We had a treasurer prior to my arrival. Biddy was looking for strategic contributions from the finance area, so the title changed to Chief Financial Officer. I was brought in to help modernize our financial planning processes, to think more creatively about how it is that we use the endowments, both to meet the needs of the college today, but also to preserve it for the long term, so it was really a shift in emphasis of the work of the finance team. I was able to make several really terrific hires of people who brought in a lot of expertise in this space, and the team has definitely improved over time. I'm really excited about leaving Amherst with an incredibly strong finance team that has a lot of great experience and great knowledge. Amherst is in very good hands going forward.
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of the job overall?
A: Amherst is a well-resourced institution, but its ambitions and its ideas outrun its resources. So, trying to meet the demand for resources to make Amherst better, but in a way that preserves our financial strength for the long term. Every year, the budget process starts with many more needs and ideas than we can fund, even with a large endowment. And so, achieving that balance is a particular challenge, because there's sort of an expectation around the community that we have ample resources to do everything that we want to do, and, unfortunately, that's just not the case.
Q: What would you say is your proudest accomplishment at Amherst?
A: I would say a little bit of what we've been talking about — modernizing the way that we use our resources. So I've helped us build inclusive and transparent budget processes. We've slowed the rate of expense growth by using money more efficiently, but we've still made major major investments in things such as financial aid. We built the Science Center, which was a very expensive project that I know is beloved by the entire community. I’m very proud of that. And we've grown support staff in a lot of really key functions supporting students, like the Counseling Center, career exploration, academic support areas like the Writing Center and the quantitative center. I know there's always demand for more resources, even in areas where we've made significant investments, but we've been able to use our resources to grow these services to students over time — again, all in a way that we're still in a very strong financial position. We've managed to do all this and still preserve our financial health.
Q: You also completed a doctorate degree in history while serving as the CFAO. What was that experience like?
A: I began work towards a Ph.D. in history prior to arriving here, when I was at Dartmouth. When I got here in 2013, I had finished all of my coursework, I just needed to complete my dissertation. It took me four years — I finished it in 2017. [It was] very, very challenging balancing the demands of the job that I have here with the significant amount of time and effort that writing a dissertation takes. My progress was slow, but I got there and finished the degree in 2017. It's a degree from the University of New Hampshire. Just getting through the dissertation was quite a challenge, balancing not only the demands of work, but also home life — I've got two kids, [so it took] a lot of late nights after everybody was asleep, heading off to the office and doing some more writing on the dissertation. I finally got there and defended the dissertation in April of 2017.
Q: Looking forward, then, what are you excited about in serving as the president of Marist College?
A: It's an amazing place. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as its president. I’ve been asked this question a lot lately. My first goal is just to do a lot of listening and learning. Marist is different in a lot of ways from Amherst. And the goal of any new president is to understand the perspectives of Marist students, its faculty, its alumni and staff, so I’ll be spending a lot of time listening and learning. From there, we'll do a strategic planning exercise — they have five year cycles for their strategic plan and their current strategic plan will be coming to a close in 2023. So I'll be taking a lot of what I learned from those early conversations and establishing a collaborative strategic planning process and helping the institution come up with the next iteration of its strategic plan. So again, it's a very different place than Amherst — there's 5,000 undergraduate students, there's 1,000 graduate students, they have seven different schools, a core focus on the liberal arts, but very strong pre-professional and professional programs in things such as business and communications and so forth. They've got a branch campus in Florence, Italy, which is a really unique thing. So there's a lot for me to get my arms around and to learn in my early months and year or two.
Q: What kinds of lessons from your experience at Amherst do you think will apply in your new pursuits?
A: For 1,800 students, Amherst is a very complex place. A lot of credit goes to Biddy — Biddy is an amazing president, I've learned a lot working for her over the years. Shared governance is so important here — the voice of the faculty in key decision-making and serving on committees, students as well, alumni are very passionate and very involved, and the Board of Trustees is really terrific here at Amherst as well. So I've really learned how to incorporate the different perspectives and views of everyone in thinking about what the right strategies are financially here at Amherst going forward. And now I'll have a chance to do that as a president. Understanding the importance of outreach and listening to different perspectives before decisions are made — that's probably the most important thing that I've learned here at Amherst.
Q: What do you think you will miss the most about Amherst?
A: Everything. I'm not leaving anything that I want to leave. I'm excited to lead Marist but I'm very sad to leave behind the relationships, really, with people on the senior team, at the board level, faculty and staff. It's been a tough last five weeks or so since the announcement was made, saying a lot of goodbyes. People have been very gracious in their words about the work that I've done here, and I've really appreciated that. It's a hard place to leave. I know a lot of students feel the same way when they graduate. It's hard to leave a place where you've built such strong relationships. I’ve worked so well with everyone throughout our community, and I'm going to miss that.