New Tufts Executive Vice President Named

Mike Howard, head of finance and administration at Smith College, started his career in engineering and business
Mike Howard sitting in his office
“I’m looking forward getting to know people and learning about Tufts from them,” said Mike Howard. “And I want to get to know all the campuses and to see how they operate.” Photo: Jim Gipe / Pivotmedia
May 7, 2019

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Mike Howard, executive vice president for finance and administration at Smith College, will be the new executive vice president of Tufts University, overseeing finance and administration. He starts in his new position on July 1.

At Smith College, Howard led the development of several financial sustainability initiatives, while simultaneously enhancing and diversifying the college’s revenues and improving operational efficiency. He also led efforts to improve information technology, build Smith’s response to climate change, and increase the college’s commitment to impact investing for its endowment.

Prior to working at Smith, he was vice president of finance at MIT, managing an operating budget of more than $3 billion. Before coming to work in higher education, he was senior vice president at Fidelity Investments and Pyramis Global Advisors and held senior positions at Deloitte Consulting. Howard has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from MIT and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“Mike has demonstrated outstanding financial and administrative leadership in both higher education and the private sector,” said President Anthony Monaco. “At both Smith and MIT, he has shown himself to be a collaborative partner with academic leaders and a forward-looking financial and administrative leader with a deep commitment to teaching and research.”

Howard replaces outgoing executive vice president Patricia Campbell, who is retiring after having served in the position since 2007.

Tufts Now recently spoke with Howard about his career path and what he hopes to accomplish at Tufts.

Tufts Now: Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey? What led you to Tufts?

Mike Howard: I’ve spent most of my career in the corporate sector—first as an engineer, then as a management consultant, and then working in financial services. That gave me a breadth of experience that has served me well since transitioning into higher education. My first higher education role was in finance at MIT, and most recently I’ve been the executive vice president at Smith College.

I couldn’t be more excited to be coming to Tufts. Its vision of a world-class, student-centered research university is compelling. I feel very fortunate to be joining a community that has achieved so much in recent years and has such great aspirations for the future.

When you were weighing the opportunity here, was there a moment that you just knew Tufts would be the right place for you?

It was more like a series of moments. During my visit, I had the chance to meet with many people from across the university. I came away from every conversation very impressed by the level of commitment and dedication—and the unity of purpose—I heard. I knew Tufts was an organization and a culture where I could do my best work.

What accomplishments at Smith are you most proud of?

Let me mention a few things. We were ahead of many of our peers in identifying the need to change our financial model, and I led the development of several financial sustainability initiatives. Over the last few years we’ve enhanced and diversified our revenues and improved our operational efficiency. This allowed us to make important strategic investments in our academic programming and student experience.

I’m also proud of my role in modernizing Smith’s IT infrastructure. We just recently converted our HR processes over to Workday, a new cloud-based enterprise solution. This has transformed the way core HR services, such as recruiting and payroll, were delivered to our community—Smith will be converting all its financial processes to Workday in July. This new platform has the flexibility to meet the college’s evolving needs over the coming decades.

As one more example, I had the opportunity to lead a college-wide working group to develop Smith’s response to climate change. Working with faculty, staff, students, and the alumnae community, our group developed an integrated plan that includes goals to achieve carbon-neutrality on campus by 2030, introduce new curricular and co-curricular programming on environmental sustainability, and increase Smith’s commitment to impact investing in its endowment.

Is there a lesson you’ve learned as a leader that will inform how you will lead at Tufts?

Yes. For me, the first principle of effective leadership is collaboration. Solving important, difficult problems requires bringing together people who have new ideas and different ways of thinking. It creates an environment where everyone is able to make their best contributions. I also find it’s the most fun and rewarding way to work.

Looking ahead to taking up your new position, what will you plan to do in the early days and weeks?

I’ll be focused on listening and learning to start. I’m looking forward getting to know people and learning about Tufts from them. And I want to get to know all the campuses and to see how they operate. I’ll be especially excited at the start of the next academic year, when I can see our educational programs in action, and see how students, faculty, and staff come together as an academic community.

And when you look back on your first twelve months, or your first five years, how will you measure success?

That’s an important question, and I think five years is the right time frame. Higher education is facing new and unprecedented challenges. Changing demographics. Affordability issues. Fewer financial resources. Technological change. Increased regulation. Just to name a few. Five years from now, if there is a sense within the Tufts community that we’ve responded well to these challenges and are well positioned for the future, that will mean we’ve done some things well.  Five years from now, if community members believe the quality of our administrative services and capabilities is commensurate with our excellence in teaching and research, that will mean we’ve done some things well. Those are some of the key indicators of success in my mind.

We’re told you’re a big sports fan. If the Patriots and Red Sox are playing at the same time, which team are you watching?

That’s easy: the Red Sox. I grew up dreaming of playing third base at Fenway Park. And there are only 162 games in a season, so I’d hate to miss one!