Laurie Ward, financial administrator of the Student Activities Office since 2000, has moved to an administrative position in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. At the SAO, Ward managed the financial accounts of hundreds of student groups, processing deposits, reimbursements, and other expenses.
Her position at SAO will not be filled immediately. Instead, Assistant Dean for Student Activities Jed Wartman and the rest of the SAO staff will pause to assess the direction of the Student Activities Office, Wartman said.
“The position grew a lot in her eight years, and student needs have changed,” said Wartman. “We want to get the right person for the job.”
According to Wartman, Ward’s departure should not change student group routines very much, since the rest of the SAO staff have absorbed Ward’s responsibilities for now. Although Ward’s departure leaves the SAO shorthanded, Wartman said that “if groups feel like they need something, they should feel free to reach out to me and ask about what they need.”
Ward said she hopes that groups will be patient and understanding with regards to the fact that her former office will be understaffed.
In Ward’s new position as financial administrator of HST, she will handle the finances of the department’s graduate students by disbursing research and teaching assistantships and fellowships.
Ward said that she took the position, which she found on MIT’s Human Resources Web site, because she was “looking for professional growth opportunities.” She said she regrets that she won’t get as much contact with undergraduates, but that she is pleased to remain on campus.
The main challenge facing the SAO will be to ensure the financial office “continues to meets the changing needs of the student population, especially as each group of new [student] leaders has new expectations,” Ward said. She said she would also like to see more educational programs, such as workshops, incorporated into the services the office provides. Efforts to run such programs have been hindered by staffing constraints in recent years.
Ward joined the SAO in January 2000, after working on freshman advising in the Academic Resource Center (now the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Performance).
When Ward joined the office, it only processed a small number of financial requests. Since then, the office has grown significantly, as student groups were no longer permitted to hold outside bank accounts. Ward’s position also grew so that while she was still responsible for student accounts, she also advised new or struggling student groups. She also assumed the task of educational outreach, taking a proactive approach toward getting information out to students.
Much of Ward’s eight years with the SAO involved interacting directly with students, an aspect that Ward explained “is a must in any position I have.”
Ward said she is proud of the “extremely robust” state in which she has left student activities’ finances. She said that the recovery after a safe was stolen from her office in December demonstrates that the finances of the SAO can “withstand turmoil … and absorb adversity.”