On Oct. 14, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi named Dave Lawlor as the chief financial officer and the vice chancellor of Finance and Resource Management. Lawlor officially joined UC Davis Nov. 3.
Prior to coming to UC Davis, Lawlor held a senior finance post for the past seven years at George Washington University, a private institution with over 25,000 students on three campuses. In addition to his time at George Washington University, Lawlor also has extensive experience working in the private financial sector; he was the chief financial officer and chief operating officer with PCTEL Maryland and spent seven years with Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies in the telecommunications sector.
“I spent most of my career in banking and telecommunications; going into the academic sector wasn’t actually on my radar screen as a career choice to begin with,” Lawlor said. “However, in 2007 I got a call from someone who was doing a search for George Washington University and he proceeded to explain to me some of the challenges that the university was dealing with at the time….It presented some very intriguing opportunities and challenges. That, and being able to have an impact on tens of thousands of students over a career, really piqued my interest.”
Because of the similarities in size between the two universities, Lawlor’s time at George Washington University has given him the tools necessary to deal with the complex nuances that come with a large campus like UC Davis, according to Katehi.
“Universities are incredibly complex entities, especially large research universities like UC Davis,” Katehi said. “Every day roughly 60,000 people come to a UC Davis campus or facility to learn or work … All told, our annual revenues reach $4 billion. [Lawlor] is coming from a similar institution in George Washington University, so he understands how we operate and has the experience to step right in and get to work in this crucial role.”
One of Lawlor’s notable endeavors during his time at George Washington University was chairing the Innovation Task Force. Through this task force, Lawlor could identify savings and new revenue sources that generated and freed up over $27 million annually for academic programs.
“[Lawlor’s combination of both skill and experience] are exactly the type of results and leadership we need to keep UC Davis strong now and for generations to come,” Katehi said.
In addition to the tools he will carry over from his Innovation Task Force, Lawlor plans to combat the financial challenges of the university by focusing on three main components.
“First off, we have an obligation to be wise stewards of all of our assets – operating assets, finance and capital – and we need to be relentless in ensuring that we use every dollar in a very wise way,” Lawlor said.
“The second is [that] we have a responsibility to make sure that the value from a UC degree continues to be enhanced; enhancing the undergraduate degrees [and] the graduate degrees is a function of recruiting and retaining the best faculty [and] creating the best research environment possible out there….So we have a responsibility with limited resources to make sure that we put those dollars to work in the best way possible. The third is centered on general affordability and predictability. I think we have an obligation there that families and students can plan for their educational experience — we need to continue to be committed to affordability, while at the same time recognizing that those quality experiences cost money.”
One of the greatest financial challenges the UC system is currently facing is the nationwide decrease in funding for public higher education. Through innovative efforts such as the 2020 Initiative, the university hopes to build a solid financial foundation that can accomplish all the goals of the university without being too reliant on public funding.
“Understanding what the financial profile is for UC Davis at a macro level is critical; we need to understand the sources of revenue. And tuition and fees are important ones, but they’re not the only ones,” Lawlor said. “We need to look at alternative ways to bring income to the university — public private deals and some of the capital projects that we have down the line is one source; growing research, and the indirect cost recoveries that come from that, are also really important things to focus on.”
The impact of the cuts is not only noticed at the administrative level; students feel the effects from the reduction in student funding on a day-to-day basis. Daniel Riesgo, president of the Finance and Investment Club at UC Davis, thinks that Lawlor’s experience will be integral in changing the fiscal culture at UC Davis.
“They’re cutting classes, class sizes are getting bigger,” Riesgo said. “What [Lawlor] has done at George Washington University is [that] he managed to restructure and reinvigorate the system at the university. Right now, that’s the way UC Davis has been combatting the decreases in funding. That’s why I believe that it would be beneficial to find other ways to get cash flow, and for [him] to incorporate what he did at George Washington University here.”