Responsibilities of the Position
Reporting to the senior executive vice president, the vice president of business services (VPBS) is responsible for the strategic direction and operational oversight of the University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn’s) auxiliary enterprises and service centers. The division of business services includes Penn’s student housing, dining and conference services, parking, commuter benefits, transportation, mail operations, university bookstore and identification center, child-care center, home mortgage program, and the Morris Arboretum and Gardens. In addition, the position oversees the operation of two university-owned hotels. The vice president manages an annual budget of over $150 million and provides leadership for 450 regular university staff and over 500 seasonal and contracted employees.
Additional responsibilities include:
- Provide leadership for strategy, operations, finances, and service delivery of all units within the division.
- Develop, review, and monitor strategic, annual, and capital planning initiatives and operating budgets.
- Serve as a university officer and a member of the senior executive vice president’s leadership team.
- Evaluate and benchmark business performance, costs, and services regularly to ensure they support and enhance the academic, research, and civic missions of the university.
- Seek and incorporate feedback from stakeholders, including university leadership, students, faculty, staff, community leaders, and others, as appropriate to inform and improve service offerings.
- Oversee constituent-facing systems, including CampusExpress and Transact ID.
- Work collaboratively with the provost’s office, college house system, and academic services to foster a safe, effective, and supportive living-learning environment and student-focused service approach to processes and procedures.
- Partner across the institution to advance the university’s strategic plan and inclusivity, climate action, and sustainability goals.
- Maintain awareness of best-in-class business strategies; implement best practices aligned with the university’s strategic goals and initiatives.
- Provide timely and accurate interpretation and implementation of divisional and university financial and human resource policies, practices, and procedures, including compliance with external regulations and implementation and monitoring of effective internal controls.
- Provide accurate data to inform decision-making and planning.
- Provide stewardship for logo licensing and adherence to Penn’s manufacturer’s code of conduct and related requirements.
- Oversee negotiations and actively manage contractual relationships with third-party service providers (currently Barnes & Noble, Bon Appetit, and WeDriveU).
Qualifications and Characteristics of the Successful Candidate
A master’s degree in business administration or a related field and at least seven years of progressively responsible senior leadership experience in higher education business or auxiliary services, or a position of comparable complexity in academia, government, the non-profit sector, or the private sector, are required. The ideal candidate will possess a record of recruiting, developing, and managing diverse and talented staff through effective leadership and expert mentoring; demonstrated ability in navigating complex, decentralized organizations and achieving business results across a diverse portfolio; demonstrated business, finance, and operations experience and previous responsibility for advancing large capital projects; and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all its forms.
Additionally, Penn stakeholders consistently identified the following attributes to be essential characteristics of the ideal candidate:
- Possesses high ethical standards.
- Demonstrates tact and diplomacy to work across the university.
- Exercises critical thinking, flexibility, and efficiency in challenging situations.
- Exhibits excellent interpersonal and conflict-resolution skills.
- Brings a strategic approach, is visionary, and is future-focused.
- Is a gifted communicator with an aptitude for verbal and written communication, public presentation, and relationship development.
- Provides effective management of diverse human resource needs; ability to identify, develop, and provide workforce training opportunities for staff at all levels.
- Possesses intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn.
- Maintains a collaborative approach to teamwork, organization, administration, and problem-solving.
- Demonstrates thorough knowledge of financial strategies and finance-related performance metrics.
- Brings humility coupled with confidence and an ability to be decisive.
History of the Position
Marie Witt has served as vice president of business services since 2006. Witt will retire from Penn at the end of the current academic year after 41 years of service to the university.
Opportunities and Challenges of the Role
Penn is a diverse, decentralized community that places a high value on collaboration and communication. The university is committed to building strong, healthy, and mutually supportive relationships as a foundation of the campus culture. The vice president’s purview will impact a significant number of students, faculty, administration, departments, and community members, so it will be critical for the successful candidate to build solid relationships that foster ongoing, positive interactions. These connections are essential to support business services’ role in assessing the needs of stakeholders, providing exceptional customer service for the campus community, and ensuring that Penn is on the leading edge of services, facilities, and operations management.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial to the Penn community, and the VPBS must be a champion and advocate for these principles at all levels of the organization. The campus community comprises students and employees who represent a variety of backgrounds, including different language communities. This is particularly true for campus operations, as it is one of the largest and most diverse employee groups on campus. A demonstrated insight into the needs and concerns of these communities is vital.
The next VPBS will find an outstanding staff and leadership team who are committed to providing the best service possible to the students and the campus. The leadership team is committed to helping the new VPBS be successful as they understand the nuances of the campus and the needs of the stakeholders. The VPBS should be willing to listen carefully to staff to understand their perspectives, discern their strengths, fully comprehend their jobs, and appropriately engage and empower them to work to their full potential.
The VPBS provides leadership for a diverse portfolio of services that rely heavily on front-line workers, some whom are represented by a union, and interact extensively with a wide variety of campus stakeholders. A significant proportion of the university’s hourly staff report within this portfolio and they often have significantly different needs, issues, and expectations than the professional staff.
Business services is often asked to perform many functions on short notice. The VPBS must be flexible and exhibit the patience and perseverance to work through whatever might be requested. The team operates with the philosophy that the campus should feel like home to students. It is with this care and awareness that they carry out their work. The staff genuinely enjoy their work and each other, which is evident in the pride they take in their facilities and services.
Measures of Success
The items listed below will define the new vice president’s success throughout the first year of employment:
- The VPBS should possess a leadership style that is both visionary and strategic while remaining flexible to opportunities presented to business services.
- The VPBS will have established strong working relationships and partnerships with peers, direct reports, students, and key institutional colleagues.
- A culture of shared responsibility and accountability among all direct reports and respective staff groups is supported.
- Staff expectations are communicated and performance is carefully assessed, with delineated opportunities for growth and continual improvement identified, monitored, and measured.
- The VPBS will be seen as an effective leader and will have ideas about how to enhance the organization. Staff members will trust and support the vision for the future.
Overview of Business Services
The division of business services is committed to creating a hospitable and customer-friendly campus environment through the delivery of innovative services such as procurement, campus stores, specialized services, hospitality, and campus and community life.
Mission, Vision, and Values
The University of Pennsylvania, the largest private employer in Philadelphia, is a global leader in education, research, and innovation. This historic Ivy League school consistently ranks among the top universities in the world. Penn has 12 highly-regarded schools that provide opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education, all influenced by Penn’s distinctive interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and learning. As an employer, Penn has been ranked nationally on many occasions with the most recent award from Forbes who named Penn one of America’s Best Employers By State in 2021. Penn offers a unique working environment within the city of Philadelphia. The university is situated on a beautiful urban campus, with easy access to a range of educational, cultural, and recreational activities. With its historical significance and landmarks, lively cultural offerings, and wide variety of atmospheres, Philadelphia is the perfect place to call home for work and play.
The Student Body (2022-2023 data)
Total enrollment: 23,374
Across 12 Schools, more than 25,000 students, and more than 4,000 faculty members, the University of Pennsylvania is a wide-ranging, ever-changing community that draws its strength from a multitude of races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, historical traditions, ages, religions, disabilities, veteran status, interests, perspectives, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Diversity and Inclusion at Penn
Elizabeth “Liz” Magill, President
Elizabeth “Liz” Magill became the University of Pennsylvania’s ninth president on July 1, 2022. A legal scholar and inspiring leader, Magill joined Penn after serving as executive vice president and provost at the University of Virginia and, prior to that, as the Richard E. Lang professor and dean of the Stanford Law School. Magill’s leadership at UVA and Stanford brought transformative changes to both institutions.
A scholar of administrative and constitutional law, Magill serves at Penn as a trustees university professor and professor of law at Penn Carey Law and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Law Institute. She has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, held a fellowship in the Law and Public Affairs Program at Princeton University, and was the Thomas Jefferson visiting professor at Downing College, Cambridge University. Her articles have been published in leading law reviews, and she has won several awards for her scholarly contributions.
In Philadelphia, where Penn is the largest private employer, Magill serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the Board of Directors for the Schuylkill River Development Corporation.
The University of Pennsylvania offers a comprehensive compensation and benefits package, including healthcare, dental, vision, and life insurance.
Application and Nomination
Review of applications will begin December 8, 2023, and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Mark Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email email@example.com.
The anticipated hiring range is $340,000-$380,000 annually, commensurate with education and experience.
Visit the University of Pennsylvania website at www.upenn.edu
Penn adheres to a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected class.