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Meet Lisa Rulney, new CFO of the UA

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Courtesy Lisa Rulney | The Daily Wildcat Lisa Rulney is the new chief financial officer for the University of Arizona. She previously served as the interim CFO for five months.

The University of Arizona has a new chief financial officer. Lisa Rulney, who worked as the interim CFO for five months, was hired as CFO in early April of 2019.

Rulney explained the facilities she is responsible for do not just include what are usually thought of a CFO. 

“The Business Affairs encompasses units that you might think of right away like Financial Services, Office of Budget and Planning, Internal Audit,” Rulney said. “I think those are things that people often think of when they hear chief financial officer, but you probably don’t think immediately of Parking and Transportation [Services], Real Estate Administration, Bookstore, Student Union, Facilities Management. It’s a very broad portfolio.”

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Rulney said the heart of her responsibilities as a CFO come down to service.

“The responsibilities are/include there are 3,000 employees in Business Affairs,” Rulney said. “So, coordinating with the leadership team to ensure that we collaborate across all the units that report to the division and that we provide service to the rest of campus. This really is a service organization.”

Diza Sauers, professor of practice and director of the Business Communication Program in the Eller College of Management, explained the role of CFO has a wide scope of responsibility at the UA.

“It’s overseeing a whole branch of not only financial aspects, but also operational aspects of the university,” Sauers said.

One of Rulney’s biggest hopes for what she can achieve in the position of CFO is to implement Pillar Five of the UA’s Strategic Plan, Institutional Excellence and meet the goals that have been set in them in the next five years, she said.

“It’s bringing best in-class service to campus for business process review,” Rulney said. “But also in Pillar Five is living our core values, so creating a culture that ensures that we live our values for our employees and our students.”

Rulney said one of the biggest challenges of being CFO has been budget cuts.

“Those budget cuts really limited the ability that administration has to respond to changes in the market, and we have shrunk our administrative personnel,” said Rulney. “So we have this very broad portfolio that needs to support the entire campus, and we are very lean.”

Rulney has a long history with the UA, where she has worked since 2001. She said her first job on campus was as an accountant for Arizona Research Laboratories, where she worked for eight years. She held many different positions there and left as the assistant director of finance and administration.

Rulney was then hired as the assistant dean of finance and administration at the College of Education. 

After two years of working at the College of Education, during the peak of the procession where the department was faced with large budget-cuts, Rulney said she moved to be the assistant dean of finance and administration for the College of Engineering. 

Rulney said that after her time in the College of Engineering, she moved to the Financial Services Office for a year as the associate vice president, became the interim CFO and then was hired as the current CFO.

Rulney said her daughter and son both graduated from the UA. Her son was a double major in neuroscience and molecular and cellular biology and her daughter was a business administration major. Rulney herself also graduated from the UA with a Master's in business.

Sauers said she believes this a well-earned promotion for Rulney and she has worked hard to make the UA a better place.

“It’s probably a fairly rewarding career step for Lisa. She has spent a good deal of her time making the entire campus a better place,” Sauers said.

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Rulney said she loves the UA and that she has greatly enjoyed working as a CFO of a university rather than in the private sector.

“I really love working for a mission-focused institution,” said Rulney. “I think that I have a strong desire to live a life that influences people and to make an impact, and I can do that in a way here at UofA that I couldn’t working for a for-profit organization.”


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