Columbia names new CFO

Michelle Gates, senior associate vice president of financial affairs at Emerson College, was named Columbia’s Chief Financial Officer June 4, bringing the school’s three-year search for a permanent CFO to a close.

Gates’ appointment fills one of two open positions in the college’s upper-level administration, the other vacant position being vice president of Development. Gates will assume her duties July 14, and will replace Richard Dowsek, the current interim CFO who acted as chair of the search committee.

Gates has been at Emerson College since January 2012 and was director of Budget and Planning at New York University in Abu Dhabi from 2010–2012. She has also served as the director of University Budget Operations at Northern Arizona University from 2005–2010. Prior to that, Gates was director of finance for the city of Roseburg, Oregon and also acted as a budget and financial analyst at the University of Oregon. She earned an MBA from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Portland State University.

The college has been attempting to permanently fill the CFO position since the termination of Michael DeSalle in 2011. Since DeSalle’s departure, the college has had a series of interim CFOs, punctuated by the appointment of Ken Gotsch in May 2012. However, Gotsch left the college after only a year necessitating the appointment of two interim CFOs before Gates was selected.

President Kwang-Wu Kim said Gates has extensive experience with complex higher education financial systems in a June 4 press release.

“Her ability to navigate that complexity and build systems which help provide budget transparency and strategic analysis will be a tremendous benefit to Columbia College Chicago,” Kim said. “The balance of her financial acumen, commitment to shared governance, and her resonance with the college’s distinctive mission makes her a tremendous addition to my leadership team.”

In the same press release Dowsek said that Gates has a combination of skills and experience that fits well into what the position needs.

“Her knowledge and experience in higher education planning, change management and business process improvement is extremely well suited to support Columbia College Chicago during this era of institutional change,” Dowsek said. 

As reported by The Chronicle April 21, Columbia’s budgetary status appears to be improving. Dowsek recently said the college’s $3.5 million deficit has been reduced to $1.5 million this fiscal year, despite falling enrollment and rising tuition.