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October 26, 2020

Dear Members of the Division of Business and Finance,

We are steadily moving through the fall semester and in less than 10 weeks, a new year will be upon us. The University has adapted in unimaginable ways as the COVID-19 pandemic has altered how we conduct campus operations. Things may look a little different, but in true 'Canes spirit, we have made great strides in the face of adversity.

Since my last message, our division has continued to support the transition to remote work and learning, achieved financial mitigation targets, facilitated a safe campus reopening, and has begun to look ahead to future initiatives. As we cross the mid-semester threshold, I want to update you on the extensive ways in which we have been embracing these challenges across Business and Finance. I am in awe of how much we have accomplished!

Safe Campus Re-Opening

  • We knew the first step in building community confidence was modifying our campus footprint to ensure that safety precautions were rapidly installed. Our Facilities Operations and Planning (FOP) team did a spectacular job rising to the occasion. Visible everywhere are wellness shields and barriers, sanitation supplies, and 400 A-Frames, 8,000 interior signs, and 450 decals displayed on perimeter entries reinforcing the message that "face masks are required." The team has been disinfecting touchpoints and common areas three times per day and classrooms six nights per week. Before the start of the fall semester, an application of an anti-microbial surface protectant was applied to all classroom spaces on the Coral Gables/ Marine campuses.
  • With similar speed, the Purchasing team sourced and purchased 673,622 units of PPEs and onboarded 100 COVID-19 suppliers to facilitate quick orders.
  • Fostering a culture of self-monitoring was essential for maintaining a safe environment and our Information Technology (UMIT) team developed three separate COVID-19 technology tools, each with robust dashboards; return to work attestation form, daily symptom checker, and contact tracing workflow automation. This included enhancing the UMiami mobile app by incorporating daily symptom checker access, library booking, dining hall options, geo-fenced notifications, and access to the University COVID dashboard. The UMiami app is averaging over 12,000 screen views per day! UMIT also worked closely with key University groups—including UMPD, Athletics, School of Law, Nursing, UHealth, and others—to develop specific symptom checkers for more robust screening.
  • The Human Resources (HR) team created the policies and communications to educate leaders and employees on the requirements for a safe return to work, including a new flu shot mandate. Enterprise Business Solutions quickly adapted Workday changes and responded to a host of financial reporting requests. Throughout the pandemic, HR members not only supported staff affected by furloughs and layoffs, but also facilitated the hiring or redeployment of essential employees to meet re-opening demands for assistance in numerous areas.
  • Without students, there would be no reopening, and our Financial Affairs (FA) team played a critical role in welcoming our students back to campus. The grand opening of 'Canes Central was supported by over 40 FA and 10 non-FA employees who joined efforts to improve the student experience. Many juggled current roles with greeting and guiding students on campus, providing safety kits, delivering meals, and bookstore items. At the same time, FOP organized the assembly of 42,448 Safe Return Kits, distributed to all returning members of the community.
  • Similarly, showing compassion and concern for our colleagues has never been more important and the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) has been there for so many, expanding virtual offerings to reach 8,055 participants since mid-March to provide coping and support systems for well-being, mental health, and caregiving.
  • Preparing the campus for reopening was the first step—remaining open has proven the greater challenge for colleges and universities across the nation. We have established a very flexible and dynamic approach for quickly addressing concerns. Our Police Department (UMPD) has been on the frontline since the beginning, greeting students as they returned to campus, and continuing to ensure that safety protocols are understood and applied by all. In partnership with UScreen and UMIT staff, FOP created a new surveillance testing site at Pavia Garage, which supports the daily COVID-19 testing of 1,000 students, faculty, and staff, and is also being used to provide flu shots to all.
  • Student Affairs has done an amazing job managing the complexities of keeping students safe and Business and Finance team members have risen to the occasion to assist by developing a new care management system to include: functionality for room assignments for students in quarantine and isolation; meal delivery; cleaning of the rooms; as well as overall care plans. The system also notifies faculty each time a positive COVID-19 case is detected in their classroom without disclosing the student's identity. UMIT continues to provide comprehensive IT support of the new classroom technology remote access to computer labs.

Financial Stability

  • The University ended FY20 with a small, less than 1%, operating surplus of 25 million contributing to the University's overall financial position of $2.5 billion. This positive year-end operating result was achieved despite significant disruption experienced in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year due to COVID-19 and is attributed to leadership's swift financial mitigation actions and federal stimulus support under the CARES Act. In response to COVID-19 and to support the scenario modeling and implementation of the related financial mitigation actions, the FY21 budget was recast and financial reporting was developed to track progress. And other significant achievements were made despite COVID, including the work the team achieved in successfully reducing expenses for the University by new banking agreements resulting in $4.6 million of 5-year savings and credit card merchant services for UHealth following a nearly year-long implementation process resulting in a 5-year savings of $3.5 million.
  • FA successfully refinanced the University's $605 million 5-year credit facility to extend maturity and reduce borrowing costs by $1.2 million per year, as well as raised a new 1-year $200 million revolving credit facility to further bolster the University's liquidity position due to the uncertainty of COVID-19.
  • FA completed the University’s annual audit cycle for FY20 with great results: nine days quicker than last year while working remotely and with no management letter comments or control deficiencies. This is the first time in eight years!
  • FOP has reduced the academy portion of the operating expense budget by approximately $1.3 million, or 10%. The team is continuing to review service contracts for cost-saving opportunities while still delivering the same level of service to the UM community.
  • UMPD adjusted schedules to achieve a 46% reduction in overtime since June 1, compared to the same period last year while continuing to keep our campus safe.
  • The University's employee medical plan was managed such that a zero percent increase for Calendar Year 21 (CY21) for all employees was recommended to President Frenk and was approved. Additional savings of $1.5 million were achieved through our benefits team negotiating contract rates for life and disability insurance.

Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion

  • To keep employees professionally engaged and to help leaders navigate change during these turbulent times, over 7,300 faculty and staff have participated in virtual training and organizational development programs offered through HR. The team has supported client needs, launched the Bright Horizons caregiver network, introduced new Title IX regulations, stood up Transition Support Services for employees affected by layoffs, and kicked off Open Enrollment.
  • UMPD participated in "A Bridge Beyond the Badge Community Conversation" that aims for open conversations between community and police personnel. UMPD partnered with Multicultural Student Affairs to engage our student leaders in several and continuing conversations around community policing and racial justice. Members were re-trained on critical topics such as bias and diversity. They also hosted a successful Abandon Bike Sale to students and staff and donated 26 bikes to charitable organizations.
  • Purchasing, Supply Chain, HR, and FOP launched a comprehensive program to increase the participation of minority-owned businesses in the University procurement process and attended a healthcare conference and gala for the South Florida Minority Vendor Development Council.
  • In March, the University was recognized with a CIO magazine CIO100 Award for "Innovation and Business Value." Some of the other organizations recognized this year included Accenture, Jet Propulsion Lab, Morgan Stanley, and St. Jude's Research Hospital.
  • Many groups have held all staff meetings, utilized FSAP check-ins, and fielded internal feedback surveys—including FA team members who launched a Remote Operations Survey to assess their remote work experience, with 92% favorable ratings. The Audit and Advisory Services and University Compliance Services team have even held their bi-monthly virtual coffee chats.

Future Initiatives Under Way

  • Members of the Business and Finance Leadership team have formed a committee to assess the implications and opportunities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which will likely transform the workplace of the future for decades to come.
  • Audit and Advisory Services and University Compliance Services is implementing software where department heads will receive an automatic email notification on open internal audit recommendations. Be on the lookout for a virtual experience in November to recognize Compliance Week.
  • 'Canes Central is embracing lessons learned from this fall by creating a document management working group between FA and UMIT to redesign the document intake and review process for Financial Aid, Registrar, Student Accounts.
  • HR continues to expand our diversity and racial equity efforts and will roll-out new online training for employees and will launch a sensitivity climate survey.
  • Amazon Business was selected as a new purchasing platform for the University to improve the purchasing experience, expand the online catalog, and provide a larger pool of diverse suppliers.
  • The University will be upgrading its Learning Management System to Blackboard Ultra. There will also be an expansion of Workday to go live in January 2021.
  • UMPD will be launching an on-line personal safety program instead of in-person training.

I am proud of our division for making a significant impact to the stability of our beloved U. I know we are all doing our best to juggle responsibilities and bring our best versions of ourselves to our work. Please continue to take care of yourself and engage with your fellow team members to foster a culture of belonging where everyone has an opportunity to feel valued and add value regardless of their work location.

Thank you for your amazing contributions and dedication to the U. My number one priority continues to be the health, safety, and wellbeing of the entire University community.

With 'Canes pride,


Jacqueline A. Travisano, Ed.D.
Executive Vice President for Business and Finance & Chief Operating Officer