A lot of in-house financial advisors concern themselves only with the bottom line, especially at publicly funded schools such as Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, where every dollar must be stretched as far as possible. This is why, so often, those who approach such advisors for help in paying for new buildings, new classes, or new departments are likely to receive a series of blow-off responses: “sorry”; “it’s just not in the school’s budget”; “better luck next year.”
Steven Parfeniuk, though, sees himself as an “enabler.” The treasurer and VP of finance for Sheridan College says he takes his financial acumen and skills and “translates them into a means to enable the [institution] to flourish, grow, and provide improved programs and services for students.” For him, the question isn’t whether the school can find sufficient funds to reach a desired goal—it’s how.
Since joining Sheridan College in 2010, Parfeniuk has annually analyzed the school’s spending and looked for areas of inefficiency that he might be able to fix. “If we can deliver to students the same services but save money, that allows us to have more dollars to expand programs, services, and make Sheridan a bet-t-er place,” he says. Parfeniuk conducts his analysis using a system he learned at the beginning of his career in the 1980s: management by objectives. The system entails the alignment of one’s budget with one’s operational plan and mission, and success is measured by tracking how much of the plan gets delivered on.
How are you growing?
“When it comes to fostering growth at Sheridan College, I am trying to form a partnership between ourselves, senior management, our students, and the government to deliver the best education that we can.”
A major plan Parfeniuk is currently helping with and is very proud of is the Integrated Energy and Climate Master Plan (IECMP), which began in early 2011. Sheridan College’s engineering students, working with outside consultants, are reconfiguring energy use at all four of the school’s campuses by phasing in LED lighting and developing new heating and cooling systems that will use air movement and ambient air temperature. Thanks to the measures, by 2020, the school will have reduced its use of fossil fuels by 50 percent and its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent, and this will result in $2 million in annual savings on gas and electricity by that same year.
The latest project of the IECMP initiative, the phase-two structure of the Hazel McCallion campus, under construction in Mississauga, Ontario, will be the most energy-efficient postsecondary classroom building in North America. Parfeniuk says it will use no more than 100 kilovolts per square metre. (By comparison, the phase-one facility of the Hazel McCallion campus uses about 160 kilovolts per square metre.) Students were involved in the creation of the IECMP data technology used for designing the building. “The phase-two building is what we’re really striving to do,” Parfeniuk says. “We need energy, and we have to use energy, so let’s use as little as possible, and let’s make our buildings as comfortable as possible.”
Sheridan College’s other big initiative is to become a zero-waste institution, and it’s already on its way. By using double-sided printing for all physical documents and encouraging students to print and photocopy as little as possible, the school has reduced its number of impressions used by 10 million.
Such resource savings are great for Mother Earth, but they’re also helping Sheridan College to become a “global leader in professional education,” even though it’s based in Ontario, the poorest-funded college sector in Canada. The school’s success is made possible by “a great team effort,” Parfeniuk says, and it has what he calls a “distributed leadership style.” “You’re calling on people who are experts in different fields to provide leadership and use their creative problem-solving skills when issues arise.” Parfeniuk, for his part, works with the director of procurement, the associate VP of facilities, the director of finance, the general counsel of the college, and the school’s president, and he makes sure to visit each campus weekly to see what the school’s challenges may be from a financial point of view.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and one of those people in the village is an accountant,” he says. “And that accountant is trying to en-sure that a postsecondary institution like Sheridan College has the money and resources in the right place to deliver the right programs.”