Cal State hires new chief financial officer to oversee monetary function

Cal State hires new chief financial officer to oversee monetary function

State Hornet Staff

California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced last month the appointment of a new executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer of the nation’s largest university system.

Steve Relyea, currently vice chancellor of Business Affairs for the University of California San Diego, had spent more than 30 years involved in business and finance before the chancellor announced his new role with the CSU on March 12.

“When I was approached to consider the CSU position, it seemed to be an opportunity to really make an impact on the state of California and the lives of the students attending these campuses,” Relyea said.

Starting in May, Relyea said he wants to prevent sounding presumptuous by articulating his vision while spending time to speak with and understand every campus.

The chief financial officer holds monetary responsibilities, including working with counterparts of the campus to create a budget for all operations of the campuses.

CSU Student Trustee Cipriano Vargas said the chief financial officer works with the governor and trustees to stabilize the budget.

“The vice chancellor has a responsibility of overseeing the 23 campuses,” Vargas said. “With 437,000 students, there’s all these different needs.”

Relyea said funding will be one of the biggest challenges, as the system receives the same amount of funding it did 20 years ago.

“In that same period of time, the CSU now has 100,000 more students,” Relyea said. “That is a challenge all by itself, in terms of funding that comes from the state of California to help us provide these students a good experience and education. That’s something a chief financial officer has to think about as a main challenge.”

Relyea said there is huge demand in California for a well-educated workforce that will propel jobs and the economy of the state for decades ahead.

“This is the largest comprehensive four-year university in the world,” Relyea said. “ You’ve got 23 very vibrant campuses and the importance of the CSU to the future of California can’t be overstated.”

Graduation rates are another challenge Relyea said needs to be addressed by improving the time it takes for students to graduate.

“We want the experience of students at Sac State and the other campuses to be not only a great experience, but a great education, and you get a degree in the right amount of time,” Relyea said. “That will take some focus.”

Director for CSU Public Affairs Uhlenkamp said there was a national recruitment to identify the best candidate for vice chancellor and Relyea emerged as the best fit for the position.

“We were looking for someone with financial acumen, with a background in the state of California and someone that has worked in the highest levels of the university,” Uhlenkamp said. “I think those are all factors that ultimately led to him being selected.”

While at UC San Diego, Relyea had responsibilities in human resources and infrastructures while holding a second position as vice chancellor for external affairs, handling relationships with alumni and parents.

“The chancellor and the board of trustees saw his expertise and they look forward to working with him,” Vargas said. “He is a great addition to the CSU.”

Uhlenkamp said Relyea will serve as treasurer for White’s executive leadership team, working with the chancellor towards resolving campus issues.

“It’s a critical position as the person that reports directly to the chancellor, as part of that executive leadership team,” Uhlenkamp said.

Relyea said approximately half of the graduates from California come from the CSU system, stressing the importance of 23 campuses to the state.

“I’m very excited about going to the new position,” Relyea said. “I think the CSU is such an important institution. I couldn’t be more pleased to join and be a part of it.”