Ten Questions with Jacqueline Travisano

By UM News

Ten Questions with Jacqueline Travisano

By UM News
A closer look at the University of Miami's executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer.

With multiple degrees in business administration and a wealth of experience managing assets and annual operating budgets in the billions of dollars, Jacqueline A. Travisano could surely hold a lofty position with a Fortune 500 company on Wall Street.

But it is in higher education where she has chosen to make her mark, and “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says the University of Miami’s executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer.

Travisano, who previously held positions at Nova Southeastern University and St. John’s University before joining UM in 2017, recently spoke with University Communications about everything from her love for higher education and what women can do to rise in the ranks of leadership to the critical role her office will play in helping UM achieve its goals as it nears its centennial in 2025.

You’ve probably known about the University of Miami for years. Now that you are part of the U, what surprises you most about it?

I have an appreciation for the people and for the deep connections and history in our community that you can only get by being here. It’s truly a remarkable place that has been on this incredible upward trajectory at 93 years young and, in fact, keeps getting better. The University is so important to so many, and that just feels very special.

Your office is responsible for several areas, encompassing every facet of the University, it seems. What’s your strategy for handling it all and getting results?

Operations, business, and finance certainly do touch nearly every facet of the University. Assembling a first-class leadership team to serve all these stakeholders has been a critical part of the strategy. I believe positive results occur when expectations are clearly communicated and understood and barriers to success are removed.

University endowments are one of the most important aspects of any institution of higher learning. What strategies has your office undertaken to grow UM’s endowment?

Yes, our endowment serves both current needs and the needs of future generations, so we are focused on making sure the University’s investments provide optimum returns at an appropriate level of risk. We also work closely with the Board of Trustees leadership and investment committee, and Development to assist in the stewardship of donors. Our donors make the endowment possible, so making sure they have timely and accurate information is very important.

Your role as executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer has expanded beyond how the job was previously organized. What are the advantages to the University to this new way of doing things?

Our new structure positions the University of Miami to maximize efficiency, implement best practices, and meet our strategic priorities. This allows us to streamline reporting and minimize redundancies to unite and better serve all aspects of the University. This new way of doing things is aligned with our peer and aspirant institutions.

What’s the most critical role your office plays in helping the University of Miami achieve its goals as it heads toward its centennial in 2025?

Strengthening the University’s financial flexibility and sustainability are critical components as we head into our centennial. We will also continue to improve the university systems and processes that support the core operations of the institution such as our research enterprise, teaching and learning. Additionally, we will explore ways to invest in capital improvements that make our campus competitive places to live, work, and learn. All of this is in direct support of our strategic priorities and to prepare us for our centennial and beyond.

What is it about working in higher education that you enjoy?

Everything. There is no other place I would work. The opportunity to be surrounded by leading faculty and researchers, high-energy students, and dedicated staff can only be found here.

You’ve been named one of South Florida Business Journal’s Influential Business Women, and the National Diversity Council presented you with its Glass Ceiling Award. What advice do you have for young women, especially our incredible students, who hope to rise in the ranks of leadership?

Set ambitious goals, and once they are achieved, set more. Resilience is a word we use to describe the U, and I encourage young women to take that spirit with them in their lives and their careers. Setbacks occur, but it is how one responds to setbacks that really defines them.

What’s your favorite UM sports team and why?

I’m so proud to be a Miami Hurricane. I have nothing but admiration and respect for our student-athletes and coaches. If I had to pick a sport, I would say football because I grew up in the Steel City, and our weekends were spent waiting for and watching Pittsburgh Steelers football games. The year 2017 was a very exciting first year for me at the U, watching the Hurricanes win the ACC Coastal Division, play in the conference championship game, and make it to the Capital One Orange Bowl.

From being an active member of the Royal Dames for Cancer Research to serving on the Honorary Board of the Special Olympics of Broward County, you’ve done extensive charitable work. Why is charitable work important to you?

We all have an obligation to give back to the community. Those of us that are as blessed as I am with family and good health and professional opportunities have a responsibility to pay it forward.

At a recent Business and Finance Leadership Forum you told attendees about a set of laws (Friday’s Laws) that you’ve kept on your desk for more than two decades. When did you learn about these laws, and how have they been beneficial to you?

I learned the laws in 1998, and I have kept them on my desk ever since. They are simple reminders that tough times do occur, that they don’t last forever, and that each person has control of their words, thoughts and actions.

As she continues to immerse herself in the culture of the University, Travisano is inviting faculty and staff to attend intimate roundtable discussions to share their feedback and perspective. During the first “Coffee and Conversation” discussion, held on February 20, participants welcomed the opportunity to ask questions, and candidly and confidentially discuss their concerns.

“The session was a great opportunity to bring up some of the roadblocks I’m experiencing, and speak with her casually about them,” said Heidi Tyre, with Supply Chain Services.

“I think these sessions are important because it allows leadership the opportunity to listen to faculty and staff, and get to know everyone while building relationships,” added Richard Kenny from Housing and Residential Life.

More than 90 faculty and staff from all campuses already have signed up for future discussions, and more are being planned.