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Provost - Open Dore E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

September 2016

A Uniquely Vanderbilt Budget Model

Dear colleagues,

I was pleased to see the great turnout earlier this month at the Chancellor’s town hall on our new budget model – VU-ETOB. To more broadly share information about the FY18 budget process, I have devoted this newsletter to discussing the rationale behind the change and what it means, and perhaps equally important, what it does not mean.


As the Chancellor explained, our goal is to establish an enhanced budgeting system that “give[s] deans more autonomy to focus their resources on their strategic priorities while maintaining the central efficiencies we’ve realized as a result of One Vanderbilt.” Vanderbilt is fortunate to be in a strong financial position. We have robust philanthropic support, low debt, growing extramural research funding, and unprecedented demand for our education programs. In parallel, academic and administrative services have in recent years been aligned for increased efficiency and effectiveness. Our trans-institutional collaborative culture is continually reinforced through these efforts and others tied to the Academic Strategic Plan. Having also just navigated the separation of the university and medical center budgets, the time is right for this important change.

What VU-ETOB is not

This is not a sea change. Deans have always deployed their approved budgets at their discretion following university guidelines. However, in ~2010, the four undergraduate schools and colleges moved to a more centralized budget model whereas the professional schools remained largely ETOB. As part of this, undergraduate tuition revenue flow was centralized to the Provost’s Office for re-allocation to the four schools awarding undergraduate degrees. Going forward with VU-ETOB, we will now implement a mutually agreed upon formula to determine allocation of those funds. I am working closely with the deans on developing an appropriate model that will transparently manage and incentivize collaboration across the schools and colleges.

VU-ETOB will not result in a decentralization of critical common services used by all. Thinking of this like a federal system, many activities will remain commonly managed so that we can continue to realize efficiencies and provide quality services, resources and tools to our faculty, staff and students. From academic services, like the libraries and registrar, to university administrative services like human resources and post-award management, these will operate as shared resources, with opportunities for shared governance and input through faculty/staff committees, working groups and advisory boards.

What VU-ETOB is

Through a VU-ETOB model, revenues flow directly to the schools and colleges. Each school and college also directly pays their own expenses and bears responsibility for a share of the general university operations they utilize, from utilities to public safety to legal to research services. Such direct management is intended to incentivize responsible oversight of expenses and strategic growth of revenues (such as extramural research funding). VU-ETOB will allow the schools and colleges to realize any benefits they may incur from better use of facilities and resources.

Importantly, strategic investments and initiatives in all the schools and colleges will continue to be supported through allocations of non-school revenues; for example, from unrestricted endowment and gift distributions.

I believe that Vanderbilt, more than most universities, is strongly positioned to implement this new kind of Every-Tub-On-Its-Bottom model that will realize benefits from increased local budget accountability without forsaking alignment on strategic priorities. It is my responsibility, as Provost, to ensure the very best deployment of our resources to support excellence in discovery and learning in and across each of our schools and colleges for the university as a whole.

Having all our schools and colleges located on one compact campus has fostered an unusual culture of collaboration at Vanderbilt. Vice Chancellor and CFO Brett Sweet and his finance team are working with me and the deans to make this budget model one that endures for the future. To do that, we will also continue to listen to faculty and staff input so that we establish a VU-ETOB model that preserves and furthers academic excellence across the campus.

Join me at my next Open Dore On Location to share your suggestions, or email me at provost@vanderbilt.edu.



Susan R. Wente

Previous Open Dore Issues

In case you missed it….

Welcome Back! – August 2016

A Semester of Change – May 2016

Mental Health Awareness: A Role for All – April 2016

Reflections on our Graduate and Professional Student Community – March 2016

The True Value of Creativity and the Liberal Arts – February 2016

New Year, New Hires, New Perspectives – January 2016

Looking Ahead to 2016 – December 2015

All past issues

Other News

University budgeting system evolves to support strategic priorities

University begins faculty approval process for new undergraduate business minor

Chancellor, Army ROTC will host Leadership Symposium and centennial celebration Sept. 27

Troxel named director of Vanderbilt University DIVE initiative

Chancellor Faculty Fellows nominations open for 2017

Join Provost Wente on Oct 18 at 4pm in MRB III, Room 4131

Faculty and staff are invited to attend these informal discussion sessions held at locations across campus.

Faculty invited to forums to learn about funding opportunities


“These funding programs represent some of the primary vehicles by which we invest in our faculty, fostering developments in discovery and learning that promote collaboration and advance inter-disciplinary excellence.” – Provost Susan Wente
Friday, Sept 30, 2 to 3 pm, 201 Alumni Hall and
Monday, Oct. 10,  3 to 4 pm, 5306 Stevenson Center. 

New working group to define university’s global strategy


The International Strategy working group, comprised of faculty from a wide range of disciplines, will identify Vanderbilt’s strengths and existing international ties, assess current and best practices of peer institutions, and identify areas of need and opportunity. The group is charged with developing a strategy that both supports the international research of faculty and raises the global profile of Vanderbilt as a research institution. Read more.

Mental Health and Wellbeing focus of Chancellor’s committee and new campus wide initiative


A committee of faculty, staff and students has been charged to consider and make recommendations on how the university can further support holistic and inclusive approaches to supporting mental health and well-being. This is part of an ongoing, campuswide initiative to promote healthy help-seeking behavior and to create a culture of safety in which the stigma of seeking support can be eradicated.

The Wond’ry opens at the new Innovation Pavilion


Vanderbilt University’s Wond’ry is the campus epicenter for creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship for students and faculty across all academic disciplines. The center hosts an abundance of programs designed to foster an interdisciplinary spirit of creation, innovation and experiential learning. The Wond’ry is located in the Innovation Pavilion, adjacent to Vanderbilt’s new Engineering and Science Building, an interdisciplinary research and teaching building.

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