ACE Engage Strategic Finance Learning Studio with Rick Staisloff


​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Strategic Finance Learning Studio convenes and supports higher education leaders who are developing a strategy to secure and invest resources in service of their institution's mission. To meet the challenges of the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and lay the groundwork to thrive in the longer term requires distributed leadership that includes not only CFOs but also student and academic affairs leaders—from chief diversity officers to department chairs—who may not have traditionally played a central role in financial strategic planning. Those who have been developing sustainable business models for years and those facing the challenge for the first time will benefit from participating. 


In this series of videos, Rick Staisloff, senior partner, rpk GROUP, talks with senior campus and thought leaders about key issues and strategies, including using data-driven decisions to “fail forward,” managing expenses in the midst of COVID-19, the importance of equity for the future of higher education, and engaging faculty in developing new business models.


Strategic Finance Learning Studio: Happy Hours

Join Rick Staisloff and friends for friendly, freewheeling conversations about using resources strategically to fulfill your mission. Ask questions, share your best practices, or take a break from your quarantine by interacting with colleagues virtually.


Strategic Finance Learning Studio: Workshop

Some in higher education lack understanding around ​budget and finance at their institution—where does the money come from, and where does it go? As a result, staff are unaware of the campus economic engines and the levers under their control to create more sustainable business models. This need to open up the black box of higher education finance becomes more urgent in light of institutional responses to COVID-19. At this workshop, learn best practices from the field, including sustainable business models behind academic portfolios, student success initiatives, and administrative services. These best practices will be discussed within the framework of return on investment (ROI). Finally, participants will be exposed to approaches for creating action plans to move from the immediate response to COVID-19 to a longer-term, sustainable shared future vision.

Sessions will take place on September 16, 23, and 30 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m ET.

Registration is now closed.

What to Expect

During this workshop, participants will:

  • Dive into research on the financial impact and possible responses to COVID-19 compared to the Great Recession of 2008
  • Examine the shift from traditional approaches to resource allocation to a return on investment lens
  • Explore the components of ROI
  • Review and discuss best practices in the field for creating sustainable business models
  • Be exposed to best practices for adopting an ROI approach at their institution, with an emphasis on moving successfully from survival to recovery to sustainability in light of COVID-19

Workshop Access

You will recieve a confirmation email with a link to the workshop once all applications have been accepted. Resources will be shared in ACE Engage. If you don't already have an account, take some time to learn more about the platform, and create an account.

Session Details

In this session, we contrast the likely financial impact of COVID-19 to the last economic downturn higher education faced​the Great Recession of 2008. Particular emphasis will be placed on levers available to institutions as they seek to move from an immediate response to COVID-19, to a period of recovery through fall 2020, and ultimately the creation of new sustainable business models.

In this session, we examine the shift from traditional budget models focused on spending to a new approach based on return on investment (ROI). Participants will explore how the ROI approach better responds to changes in the external environment. Case studies will be used, looking at the application of an ROI lens. These case studies will examine academic portfolios, student success initiatives, and administrative services.

Participants will build on the skills from Sessions 1 and 2 to consider an action plan for applying an ROI lens as they respond to the financial impacts from COVID-19. Facilitators will share pitfalls to avoid and strategies for implementing change management approaches. 

Solve Together

Strategic Finance Learning Studio: Community of Practice

Beginning in early October, members of the community of practice will support and learn from a trusted group of other leaders navigating similar challenges. Rick Staisloff and the ACE Engage team will facilitate the community, connecting members to other experts, content, and networks as they build and refine the sustainable business models required to fulfill higher education’s potential.

ACE will begin accepting applications to join the community of practice soon. To be the first to know, write to

About Learning Studios

ACE Engage's Learning Studios connect higher education leaders with experts on strategically critical topics through:

  • Short-form content introducing key trends and promising practices
  • Informal opportunities to discuss issues with peers moderated by thought leaders
  • Workshops led by top experts to go deeper and develop action plans
  • Communities of practice through which both new and experienced leaders share experiences and solve problems together

​ACE Engage

This learning studio will be hosted on ACE Engage, ACE's peer-to-peer learning platform.