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Julie Bates had passed the law school entrance test and was admitted to the University of Arkansas at William H. Bowen Law School in Little Rock. But Alma’s native had a feeling that there was more to her future than the law.
So she took the advice of her advisor at Arkansas Tech University and enrolled in a master’s program at AU Little Rock, which sent her down an entirely different path – one that has her. driving to a position in the State Legislature, then to staff and budget roles. in the State Department of Finance and Administration, and finally in the State Department of Higher Education, where she worked in the area of ââinstitutional finance.
This laid the foundation for a fulfilling career as CFO for the growing system at Arkansas State University. Since 2011, it has improved the system’s reserves and liquidity, bringing it in line with Moody’s median of A1-rated public universities. And she helped merge two community colleges into the system – ASU Mid-South in West Memphis and ASU Three Rivers in Malvern – and now adds a four-year institution, Henderson State University of Arkadelphia.
Bates considers the ongoing merger with Henderson, which includes efforts to clean up his struggling balance sheet, “probably the biggest challenge I will face in my career.” But she said she enjoyed working with CFOs on ASU campuses, including Jonesboro, Beebe, Mountain Home and Queretaro, Mexico. As CFO, she said, she loves her role in helping to ensure the affordability of universities “for students who also face financial hardship, but want to make their dreams come true.”
Bates said being a CFO is different today. “You have to be much more strategic,” she said. “I thinkâ¦ if someone took care of it, I would say your job isn’t just keeping the books.” Your job is to help your CEO and board, or anyone you work for, achieve their strategic goals.