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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Drolette to step down at end of year

Published: December 7, 2012
Section: News

At the end of the calendar year, Fran Drolette will step down from her role as senior vice president and chief financial officer, Steven Manos announced in an email last week. Marianne Cwalina, the current Associate Vice President of Budget and Finance will assume the role on Jan. 1.

This change in personnel was communicated to the university community through emails sent to faculty and staff; Drolette’s plan was announced on Nov. 27 and Cwalina’s appointment to the position was announced on Monday.

Drolette commented on the many changes in senior administration leadership that followed the presidential transition.

“Changes in people and positions are inevitable in a leadership transition. The level of turnover and organizational redesign appears to be unusually high, but it is hard to know whether the amount and pace of change for Brandeis has been ‘too much,” she wrote in an email. “The real test of that will be in how senior leadership balances the importance and value of historical perspective and experience with the vision for the future it is trying to develop.”

During her time here, Drolette worked tirelessly to make “workplace operations more efficient,” according to a community-wide email from Manos, the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Also according to Manos, Drolette is leaving to pursue “new professional and educational opportunities.”

Drolette wrote that she “want[s] to be in a not-for-profit” environment when asked about her future. She also said that she is “passionately committed to the mission” of higher education, “but is not prepared to ‘rule anything out,” and has been considering attending law school for a long time.

Drolette first joined Brandeis in 1976 as a staff member and served in several positions until she became the associate director of budget and planning, a title she held until she left for Babson College in 1991. She went on to earn her masters in business administration from Northeastern in 1991. While at Babson, she served as the college’s first budget director and later the director of financial planning and budgeting. She left Babson in 2002 for Boston University and returned to Brandeis in 2006 as the Vice President of Budgeting and Planning. While here, she was promoted to VP/CFO and University Treasurer and again to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2010.

Drolette’s lengthy list of accomplishments earned her the esteem and respect of her colleagues. Manos wrote in an email to the community that Drolette was “an island of stability during a period of great economic challenge,” and “a key resource to the faculty budget committee during this time.”

Drolette said she was “proud of the silos that [she has] broken down both within the Finance area as well as across the University.”

The praise of her colleagues was well-received by Drolette, who said she was “very touched by the thoughtful comments in [Manos’] email.”

Cwalina has nearly 30 years of experience in financial planning, financial analysis and accounting, according to Manos. She previously served as Bentley University’s Budget Director, Controller and Executive Director of Financial Operations, successively. At Bentley, she was instrumental in developing a reporting tool to identify sources of risks to the university’s strategic plan and actions needed to minimize those risks, as well as the financial five-year model for the impact of the university’s long-range strategic plan.

Manos wrote that Cwalina has been key to the university’s budget plan, as well as “well-known for her ‘problem-solving, can-do-spirit … and ubiquitous good cheer.” He also said that he expected Cwalina’s background in business process improvement to be very beneficial to Brandeis as the administration, “begin[s] an effort to identify more effective and efficient ways of doing business.”