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University's financial chief is also a key communicator

Robert Houk • Jul 1, 2019 at 5:57 PM

B.J. King is chief financial officer for business and finance at East Tennessee State University. She also serves as a member of ETSU’s Foundation Board of Directors, and was appointed in 2017 to chair what has become the BrightRidge board of directors.

King said she “loves traveling to new places with family and friends.” She is planning her first trip to Scotland in 2020.

Fast Facts

Dog or cat: “I’m more of a cat person but we’ve had both.”

Ideal vacation spot: “Any place in Italy.”

Favorite book: Pat Conroy’s “Prince of Tides.”

HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ROLE AT EAST TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY?

I think of myself as a financial interpreter and problem solver. My staff works to provide the university and our Board of Trustees with comprehensive financial information that guides how decisions are made.

We make sure that financial data is accurately and appropriately recorded and reported, and we have an annual audit that provides a scorecard for how well we are doing. We also ensure the university is following state and federal regulations for business practices.

And we work to improve the business practices and processes at ETSU to make business transactions simpler, safer, and easier for all our stakeholders.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

I really enjoy the interactions I have with our students and their families, even though that isn’t the primary focus of my job. I also appreciate getting to work with faculty and staff from across the campus. Though our job duties and backgrounds vary, what we all hold in common is a commitment to seeing our students be successful.

Since the passage of the FOCUS Act, I have worked very closely with our Board of Trustees and have been part of discussions about university business, academic matters, and research strategies. The opportunity to work with the chief financial officers at other Tennessee public universities is also a great perk that comes with my job. We have a great camaraderie across the state.

WHAT'S THE MOST FRUSTRATING ISSUE YOU FACE?

I am keenly aware the complex processes students and their families go through to fund their education. I think students and parents find the financial aid and scholarship process frustrating, and I find it challenging to try to explain it as do many others. If we could reduce the complexity of the financial aid application and awarding processes, I think that would be the most helpful improvement we could provide our students.

Of course, these are changes that would need to occur on the federal level, but I am optimistic this will eventually happen.

WHAT DOES SERVING AS THE CHAIR OF THE BRIGHTRIDGE BOARD MEAN TO YOU?

It has been an interesting time to be on the BrightRidge board. In the time I have been on the board, we have become an authority. That change in structure allowed BrightRidge to enter into the broadband business and begin providing another essential service to our customer base.

BrightRidge has also entered into solar energy arena, offering the customers an opportunity to invest in solar with the authority. There has been a lot of change and I think it has been positive for our community.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE CONSIDERING A CAREER IN PUBLIC FINANCE?

You can’t just focus on the numbers when working in accounting and finance. To be successful, you need to understand the numbers and what is driving the numbers and trends. But you also must be able to effectively communicate that understanding to those making decisions so that the information is useful.

Communication is perhaps the most important element in my position. You need to understand the accounting and finance, but also work on your communication skills.

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