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Finance VP and former shared services leader will return to Chicago

By Yardain Amron, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 21, 2014

He’s heading home.

Rowan Miranda, associate vice president for finance and former head of the controversial shared services initiative, has left the University for a position at the University of Chicago, his alma mater.

Miranda confirmed the decision Tuesday, and said he is excited for his new position as treasurer and senior associate vice president for finance and administration at the Chicago school.

“I’ve been interested in working at the University of Chicago for a long time,” Miranda said. “It’s the place where I went to school and the opportunity presented itself so it was a good time to make a change.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Director of Procurement Nancy Hobbs will assume Miranda’s responsibilities while the University begins the search for a permanent replacement.

Hobbs has financial experience managing the $1.5 billion budget that supports the three University campuses and the University Health System. She was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Miranda’s decision to move comes one month after Thom Madden, the University’s director of sponsored programs, took over the reigns of the University’s shared services initiative.

In a statement released the day the transition was announced, the University said Miranda would focus his attention on the health system’s agreement with Allegiance Health, the search for a new University treasurer and the next stage of strategic procurement as the shared services initiative transitioned into its next phase. Miranda spent four years at the head of the shared services project.

The initiative, still planned to launch this summer, will downsize and consolidate approximately 275 staff from different departments into a single center, and is expected to save the University about $5 million annually.

The plan itself was widely protested by faculty — a petition in opposition has garnered more than 1,100 signatures. Miranda himself also became a point of contention because of his past position at Accenture, a Chicago-based consulting firm the University is paying $11.7 million to implement the program.

Miranda said he personally asked Tim Slottow, the University’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, to assign someone else to the project.

“I asked that because something that should have been an honest disagreement between the faculty and the administration turned out to be very personal and when those things happen, it's just good to get out of the way and depersonalize it,” Miranda said.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily in early December, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Miranda’s previous position at Accenture and the resulting faculty outcry had no influence on the change in leadership.

“As you know, he wasn’t a part of the selection of Accenture,” Fitzgerald said. “It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with this project moving into a different phase.”

Though both said the shared services controversy had nothing to do with Miranda’s decision to leave, Fitzgerald noted Chicago was like “going home for him,” as Miranda was based in the city while working for Accenture.

As Miranda prepares for his new role, he leaves behind a term largely marked by his guidance of the Administrative Services Transformation, which is one component of the shared services initiative.

“Some things worked out and some didn’t, but I’m pleased with the overall experience,” Miranda wrote in a letter sent to employees in the Office of Finance on Tuesday.

In an interview, Miranda said the notion that there was not enough communication regarding shared services is “ludicrous.”

“Google the University Record and you’ll find articles going back 2010, 2011, 2012 on shared services, so the notion that this was done somehow in secrecy is just silly,” Miranda said. “People should say that they weren’t paying attention rather than pretending that communication was flawed.”

In an early November letter obtained by The Michigan Daily and signed by 19 LSA department chairs and program directors, stated the project had been characterized by an aura of secrecy, which led to increased anxiety among staff.

An additional anonymous letter by a staff member to a department chair echoed that angst.

“I cannot even tell you how anxious and worried and sick this charade has made me,” the employee wrote. “I cannot sleep. I do not know what I will do if I find myself without a job next year.”

Miranda said people’s assumptions that ethics were compromised because he was connected with Accenture are unfounded.

“I did not call the University asking for a job; they recruited me from Accenture, and that’s significant here,” Miranda said. “So this convenient, mudding-the-water, saying bad-things-about-them, bad-things-about-me, with no proof of anything inappropriate whatsoever — well these faculty that talk a big game about evidence, it’s amazing that that’s their definition of evidence: ‘He happened to work there.’”

Steve Kloehn, the University of Chicago’s associate vice president for news and public affairs, wrote in an e-mail that Miranda’s hiring ends a national search for the position.