Business manager and staff help ECE stay plugged in

Author: Joseph Fowler
A university needs many things to run smoothly. Faculty and students are easy examples but what most people don’t think about is the people who handle the funds that keep everything in motion.

ECE StaffThe various financial support staff members are the ones who handle payrolls, travel funds, reimbursements, scholarships, etc. Whether they are consciously aware of it or not, all staff, faculty and students are affected and uplifted by the hard work and dedication of financial and business service staff members.

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been gifted with an exceptional financial and business staff. For a team to be successful they need a strong leader and Suzanne Bennett qualifies as one of those leaders. As the Business Manager of ECE, Bennett is responsible for reporting on various fund types of the school, which include general funds, gift funds and research funds. She leads a staff of eight people, “Our number one priority is payroll and number two is to keep on top of the accounts to make sure that purchases are made in a timely manner and reimbursements and funds are in the appropriate place and are available when needed,” said Bennett.

To be more efficient, Bennett has different members of staff concentrate on different areas. Five staff members focus on account management while three concentrate on payroll. Managing the payroll is a large and complex effort, with 80 faculty members and over 600 graduate students on it. “It’s vital for us to stay on top of because of its complexities. One graduate student may be working on multiple projects and receiving payment from the different accounts.” The scope of it can be challenging given the size of ECE and the varied project periods.

Another challenge for the financial support staff is the reality of tighter budgets. “Our general fund budget for next year will be less then this year.” Bennett also said that there were no raises but no positions within ECE were cutback either. The staff is working on the large spending categories to see what can be reduced. Removing unnecessary phone lines has saved the school about $12,000 and by reusing older university furniture they have saved roughly $100,000 in the furnishing budget. “It’s the little finds, identifying the pots of money that can be tucked into.” The business staff holds weekly meetings to discuss and devise new plans for saving money and work with the faculty on keeping things in order.

The Business Office also has daily (even hourly) interaction with the academic staff. They work with the office on changes to the payroll, to purchase supplies and equipment, to make travel arrangements, for reimbursements on receipts and to verify expense reports. The academic staff also meet with the business office to fill out PAR (personal activity reports) in which the faculty certify their research efforts.

Bennett grew up in Lafayette and attended Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, where she received a degree in accounting. She was hired by Purdue two years ago. Before moving over to ECE she worked as a business manager in the Office of the Provost. She enjoys the challenge of understanding different perspectives in her daily work, “It’s very diverse, no day is the same.”

Bennett has high praise for her staff, which she calls “the best staff I’ve ever worked with. They work well together and pull for one another. “I’m lucky they’re all so smart!” she jokes.