by Marie Felde
In the late '60s Alison McGill took a break from her studies at Berkeley to travel. This month she returned as the campus's chief financial officer and its first-ever controller.
Although McGill, 47, decided to finish her undergraduate degree at UCLA, near her Santa Monica home, she said she's always wanted to come back to the Bay Area.
"The campus is as beautiful as I remember it," she said from her University Hall office with its view of the Campanile.
It is also home to her 20-year-old son, Eric, a third-year student with a double major in engineering and economics. "Of course, I had to ask his permission to take the job. He said it would be fine. I think he liked the idea of a full refrigerator close by," said McGill.
But McGill can't completely abandon her Bruin roots. Her daughter, Heather, 18, begins her studies at UCLA this month.
As far as their mom was concerned, the two were always UC-bound. "I basically brainwashed them from the beginning," admits McGill with a flash of the quick smile that punctuates a conversation with her.
McGill's formal title is "controller and executive director-financial and business services." She has management responsibility for nine financial and business services units and oversees an annual operating budget of $6.8 million and 170 full-time employees.
McGill arrives at a dynamic time. The campus is in the midst of developing
the online Berkeley Financial System to streamline its operations and improve
financial information for the campus.
The addition of the controller title follows a systemwide directive to add a controller position at each of the nine campuses. "For Berkeley, a controller is a new position. But it is a typical position at most universities," said McGill, who comes to Berkeley from California State University Sacramento where she was associate vice president for finance.
"Alison McGill brings a wealth of experience and a clear vision that is essential to this important position. The campus is fortunate to have her leadership as we move into the future," said Vice Chancellor Horace Mitchell.
As the campus's chief financial and accounting officer, McGill said her job begins after budget allocations are made by the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Budget and Planning.
"I'm responsible for all the financial transactions after that," she said. That means providing financial reporting and analysis to "entities on and off campus-be they students, regents, departments or the chancellor-at the level of detail they want, accurately and on time."
The controller position, she said, adds the responsibility "to establish and maintain internal controls that serve as a safeguard for the appropriate expenditure of funds."
While some on campus may be curious or even wary of just what a controller will do here, McGill is quick to calm concerns.
"We are not here to interfere with the operation of the university. We're here to protect everyone through proper procedures and accountability so they can continue to do the good work they do," said McGill.
McGill's professional career spans 22 years, all in the CSU system. In addition to her BA in anthropology from UCLA, she has a certificate in counseling, also from UCLA, and an MBA from CSU Chico.
"My background has not been in traditional accounting. It has always been in higher education management. I've aimed for the broad view-how can I make this campus run better?" she said.
At CSU Sacramento her duties included budgeting and financial management and reporting, with time devoted to working on the university's academic plan and assessment strategies.
Over the years McGill found that her penchant for active outdoor activities-she skis, golfs and kayaks-couldn't wait for annual vacations. "I try to work out every day. It's how I deal with stress."
How she will deal with the stress of competing allegiances during Cal-UCLA games, however, is still an open question.