The Rocket

A change in status

VP of finance receives promotion in wake of ongoing lawsuit

Adam Zook, News Editor

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University President Dr. William Behre announced on Sunday that Vice President of Finance Amir Mohammadi will serve in a new role in his leadership cabinet. This change in status comes in the midst of an ongoing legal battle between Mohammadi and SRU over alleged racial discrimination during the presidential search in the fall of 2017.

In a press release delivered by email, Behre was quoted as saying that it was apparent to him that restructuring the president’s cabinet was necessary to ensure SRU’s long-term success.

“Key to this effort was assessing if our leadership talent was correctly aligned with needs,” Behre said. “To that end, as part of the cabinet reorganization I’ve restructured Amir Mohammadi’s role and have asked him to serve as the senior vice president for administration and economic development. Dr. Mohammadi has agreed to accept this new challenge as the university’s chief innovation officer.”

Mohammadi’s new responsibilities include presiding over large-scale international partnerships and serving as chief contract negotiator across all segments of the university. Promoting economic growth and linking university curriculum to coincide with the needs of the workforce are two goals put forth by Behre in his statement that he hopes to see met with these changes.

First reported by The Pittsburgh Post Gazette in December, Mohammadi alleged that discrimination based on his Iranian origin and Muslim faith had twice halted his promotion despite a three decade career in education. Defendants named in the case were SRU, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and Robert S. Taylor, a member of the presidential search committee and council of trustees. The suit claims that Taylor intentionally tried to sabotage Mohammadi’s candidacy by leaving the premises before Mohammadi’s interview, bullying, being rude to other members of the search committee, warning others not to pick Mohammadi without providing reason, mocking Mohammadi and leaking information from the search to the local press.

There have been no official rulings or decisions made in this ongoing civil lawsuit. Mohammadi was contacted about both the lawsuit and position change, but could not be reached for comment on either.

The established changes will officially take place on July 1, according to Behre. He also emphasized that no additional costs were created by the executive restructure for next year’s budget, and that the university will soon begin advertising to fill an additional position on the president’s cabinet.

“Within the next several months the university will be advertising for an additional cabinet member, a vice president for advancement and chief development officer,” Behre said. “The vice president for advancement will fill the position vacated by the retirement of Barbara Ender.”

Behre outlined the changes and general job descriptions for each of his cabinet members, including himself:

William Behre, president. As the chief executive officer, Behre provides leadership and oversight for all aspects of the University, including academics, finance, planning, student affairs, enrollment, advancement, human resources, athletics and other key areas. The president works closely with the cabinet to ensure that the strategic direction and policies of the University are aligned with its mission. As the chief executive officer, the president has principal responsibility for the planning, development, implementation, assessment and improvement of all programs and policies.

Philip Way, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. As the chief academic and student life officer, Way is responsible for the creation and implementation of the academic priorities for the institution as well as ensuring the quality of its educational programs. He also is responsible for fostering the University’s commitment to student success by actively developing, implementing and maintaining undergraduate and graduate programs that enrich student learning, build and maintain a strong sense of community, and promote growth through engagement in the life of the University. Way oversees the academic deans, athletics, police, global engagement, information and administrative technology, student success and transformational experiences.

Amir Mohammadi, senior vice president for administration and economic development. As the chief innovation officer, Mohammadi provides leadership for expanding the University’s partnerships regionally and beyond to promote economic growth and developing strategies that link programs to workforce needs. He also provides leadership for large-scale international partnerships and serves as the institution’s chief contract negotiator across all segments of the University. He is responsible for directing a broad range of University administrative matters, including campus construction, sustainability, facility maintenance and “systemness” partnerships. Mohammadi oversees the assistant vice president for facilities planning and environmental safety, director of sustainability and the director of auxiliary operations. He collaborates with the chief financial officer in the areas of purchasing, bond financing, changes brought about as a result of the current “systemness” discussion that is emerging from the Chancellor’s Office and staying apprised of key financial metrics.

Rita Abent, chief communication and public affairs officer. Abent conceives, implements, evaluates and refines strategic communications to support and advance the institution’s goals and priorities. She stewards the public face of the institution, oversees constituent-based communications and advises the president, senior officers, faculty and other members of the University community on communication strategy and opportunities. Her portfolio includes: content strategy and strategic communications; crisis communication; news and media relations; web and digital communications, social media, graphic communication, The ROCK Magazine, athletic communications, University Licensing and commencement. Abent serves as the official University spokesperson and is the agency’s Right To Know Officer.

Carrie Birckbichler, chief data officer. Birckbichler provides executive leadership for building a data informed culture among administrators, faculty and staff focused on the effective use of data and analysis to improve the quality of institutional decision-making and stewardship of institutional resources. Her position is responsible for data governance functions and advocates for issues related to data analysis, standards and data integrity. She serves as the official source of statistical information and institutional analysis for SRU and oversees University reporting for institutional compliance with State System, commonwealth and national requirements. Birckbichler’s portfolio includes: academic resources; academic affiliation agreements; accreditation and assessment; compliance; grants, contracts and sponsored research; institutional research; state authorization; student information reporting; student services; and summer school.

Molly Mercer, chief financial officer. Mercer provides leadership and direction for all financial-related matters throughout the institution in support of education, research and strategic goals of the University.  Mercer advises the president and provides vision and strategy to lead the financial direction of the institution.  She oversees the development of the annual fiscal budget and long range planning for use in resource allocation decisions.  As CFO she is responsible for policy development that reflect the appropriate application of accounting principles, internal control standards and compliance with applicable board of governors or regulatory requirements.  Mercer’s portfolio includes:  Controllers Office, budget and planning, accounting services, accounts payable, student accounts, purchasing and contracts, and administrative/financial systems.

Tina Moser, chief of staff. Moser provides overall support for the operation of the President’s Office and serves as an adviser to the president. She reports directly to the president and helps to facilitate strategic management processes, provide expertise and program management for specific strategic initiatives out of the President’s Office that are critical in meeting the institution’s goals. She builds and nurtures relationships to serve as a resource for the president and point of contact as designated for key constituents to resolve complex issues and help move forward institutional priorities. Moser provides oversight for: alumni relations; special events; and the President’s Commissions on disability; racial and ethnic diversity; women; gender identity and expression and sexual orientation; wellness; sustainability; mental health and veterans and military affairs. She serves as the administrative liaison to the council of trustees.

Lynne Motyl, chief human resources officer. Motyl provides vision and strategy for human capital development in support of the University’s overall mission, vision, values and strategic plan. She provides leadership for developing human capital strategies, decision support and administration, planning and management of human resources-related matters campuswide. Her portfolio includes: talent acquisition and development; human resources information systems; professional and leadership development; legal and regulatory compliance, compensation and performance management; employee engagement and relations; benefits; immigration; diversity; Title IX and labor and employee relations.

Amanda Yale, chief enrollment management officer. Yale provides strategic and operational guidance for both the vision and results of integrated recruitment, financial aid and recruitment marketing initiatives in connection with the University’s mission and strategic plan; advises enrollment policy; helps lead the institution toward innovative domestic enrollment partnerships; and plays a pivotal role in ensuring the University’s continuing excellence. She advises and advocates for continual enhancement of best practice enrollment management tactics, including but not limited to recruitment events, recruitment marketing and communication flow, financial leveraging and literacy, segmented academic campaigns, funnel management, and contact and outreach campaigns. Her portfolio includes: academic records and registration; financial aid and scholarships; undergraduate and graduate admissions; and orientation.

Edward Bucha, executive director of the SRU Foundation, Inc., will continue to attend cabinet as an ad hoc member.

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A change in status