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Largest staff division unveils plan to better serve Rice community

Bryan Mendoza / Thresher

By Prasi Desai     3/19/24 9:38pm

The Division of Operations, Finance and Support, formerly known as Finance and Administration, released a five-year strategic plan to enhance “operational excellence,” customer experiences and inclusivity. 

OF&S supports initiatives including finance, campus safety, infrastructure and sustainability. The division supervises 1,018 staff members and over 20 different offices including the Rice University Police Department, Human Resources, the Office of Information Technology and the Disability Resource Center.

Michelle Thackray, the associate vice president for operational excellence and engagement, co-chaired the steering committee of the strategic plan. She said the plan emphasized anticipating the needs of campus community members and creating a better user experience.

“We’re actively working to enhance the processes and the ways that we’re interacting with data just to make things more streamlined,” Thackray said.

According to Thackray, the steering committee incorporated feedback from 50 individuals among administration, new university hires, faculty and students when developing the plan. Feedback from students provided important insight regarding student needs, she said. 

“[The students] did make it very clear that being brought into conversations that we’re having on a regular basis about things that impact them and them having a seat at the table is of vital importance,” Thackray said.

The plan affects every department overseen by OF&S. According to Kelly Fox, the executive vice president for operations, finance and support, the rebranding and plan better reflects the purpose and goal of all the departments under OF&S. 

“We are here to enable and support this overall mission and vision of the university,” Fox said. “We are the backbone.”

Under the steering committee, there were numerous working groups that collected feedback from Rice community members to refine goals for the strategic plan. 

Leah Hester, the assistant director of financial and research systems in the controller’s office, said her experience on the customer experience working group was collaborative. 

“Our team got really close,” Hester said. “Something that our group was really passionate about was creating meaningful human connections because we believe that’s just one fundamental element that makes Rice great.”

The plan is a step in the right direction for OF&S, according to Hester. 

“I think our plan is aligning with the university’s needs and our promise to the greater campus community,” Hester said. 

Fox said OF&S will continue to evolve in the future to better meet the needs of students and the strategic plan will help the department in this endeavor over the next five years.

“The manner in which we’re going to engage and think about our work is absolutely informed by the strategic plan,” Fox said.

According to Thackray, feedback from the campus community regarding ways to change or improve the strategic plan are welcomed. 

“Even though the planning process is complete, we’re always going to be looking for ways to improve,” Thackray said.

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