Randy Doerksen probably had no idea that he was going to have such a strong connection with Friends University when he first arrived as a freshman almost three decades ago.
“Being part of a vibrant and growing institution has been an incredible experience and one that I am thankful for,” said Doerksen, Friends University’s vice president of administration and finance.
After graduating from Friends University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1981, he was hired by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation where he spent seven years working in several capacities: bank examiner, investigator and department head for investigations. However, he was interested in finding a more fulfilling occupation. He was intrigued when he heard that his undergraduate alma mater, Friends University, was hiring. He was interested in working for students and saw a challenge that would help him learn something new and exciting. Once he responded to the job posting, he was interviewed and hired as the chief fiscal officer in 1988.
Part of what appealed to him about the job was the ability to participate in the new and innovative Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program. Being one of the first universities that offered the EMBA program really helped put Friends University on the map. As a student in the EMBA program, Doerksen – along with other students – collaborated with the teachers about ways to improve the program. Although the program was challenging, Doerksen developed relationships and worked through the intense workload.
“Everything in my life was carefully scheduled – work, exercise, family and school,” Doerksen said. Due to the financial crisis that Friends University was in when he arrived, he worked more than full-time the first few years. Not only did he work until 6 or 7 p.m. every evening and have a full load of homework to complete thereafter, he had the responsibility of a new baby boy, born in the first year of his program. “My bonding time with Blake often occurred at the late-night feedings,” Doerksen said. He graduated from the EMBA program in 1992.
He soon went on to take the role of vice president of administration and finance. His duties include completing budgeting, planning, bills, keeping buildings prepared, and overseeing human resources and administrative technology. “It’s great when you can find a job that combines work with your hobby,” Doerksen said. His other hobbies include investments and studying the financial markets.
The EMBA program makes it possible for professionals to earn their Executive Master degree in Business Administration in two years while continuing to work full-time. EMBA students are able to gain various new skills by combining coursework with day-to-day professional experiences.
“While plenty of technical knowledge and managerial skills were obtained through the program, it was actually the relationships with other students in the cohort that was most valuable,” Doerksen said. “We were a very tight group, and the value of a team approach to problem solving is something I learned and continue to value and appreciate.”
While at Friends University, Doerksen has had quite a few accomplishments, one of which includes the leadership team that he has been a part of over the years. They have managed almost $60 million in new capital expenditures and added $50 million to the endowment and reserves.
He also completed revenue analysis to determine future budget priorities and align revenue with the costs and activities related to revenue generation. The Revenue Center Report identifies the financial contributions made by University revenue centers after factoring in the impact of overhead expenses and indirect costs. These centers include academic programs, auxiliary functions and fundraising.
“This type of tool is fairly rare in higher education, though important,” Doerksen said. “Theme five of our strategic plan emphasizes financial stability – something the revenue center report helps ensure.”
In 2002, the IRS selected Friends University to undergo a comprehensive examination. After 22 months, Friends University was thankful to walk out clean.
“One of the most important aspects of my job at the University is to ensure compliance with applicable rules of regulations by regulatory entities,” Doerksen said. While the final report from the IRS had recommendations, no penalties were assessed and no follow-up was required, he said.
As far as the current economic struggle, Doerksen is very pleased with the way Friends has recovered. Friends University, like most universities and businesses, is stressed; however, resources were set aside to weather the storm years ago. Doerksen has been very pleased with Dr. Biff Green as president and respects and admires him very much.
Since Friends University is his alma mater, Doerksen wants to make sure that the right tools are available to make the future run smoothly. He sees himself working with higher education for the rest of his life, and predicts he will stay in the Midwest.
“Candidly, I’m open to God’s leading,” Doerksen said. “I know I want to leave this institution with a legacy of financial stability.”
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