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Associate Vice President for Risk, Audit, and Compliance
Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois
Date Posted 07/13/2021
Executive-Administrative Vice President
Employment Type Fulltime
Application Deadline Open until filled

Reporting to the Vice President for Operations, the Associate Vice President for Risk, Internal Audit, and Compliance will play a leadership role in enterprise risk management, internal audit, risk management, and compliance. The AVP will oversee and ensure coordination of these risk governance functions, which were organizationally aligned in 2018. The AVP will work in close partnership with key Northwestern stakeholders to identify and implement best practices appropriate to a complex private research university with distributed ownership and governance of risk.

A core responsibility of the AVP will be to foster and continue elevating Northwestern’s internal audit program through a systematic, disciplined, and collaborative approach to effective risk management, internal controls, and governance. Internal audit operates in a primarily outsourced model. The AVP will partner with the Director of Internal Audit to evaluate, implement, and lead the most effective internal audit structure for the University’s academic and research mission. The AVP should have experience leading or overseeing, or high familiarity with, a high-functioning internal audit program in a complex organization. The Director of Internal Audit will report to the AVP.

The AVP will also oversee University Compliance. Northwestern operates in a decentralized compliance model, with University Compliance holding direct accountability for certain compliance areas (such as Clery and Conflict of Interest) while partnering with issue-specific compliance owners dispersed throughout the University. The AVP will help guide the further buildout of the compliance program and ensure appropriate accountability and escalation processes exist. The Senior Director of Compliance will report to the AVP.

The AVP will also oversee the Office of Risk Management. The Office for Risk Management manages the University’s insurance and self-insurance programs and provides operational risk consulting services to the broader Northwestern community. The Office also oversees the student health insurance program. The Director of Risk Management will report to the AVP.

The AVP will be responsible for coordination and execution of the University’s enterprise risk management (ERM) program. The AVP will update the ERM framework and structures as appropriate and chair various risk committees.

The AVP will report quarterly on progress in all these areas to the Audit, Risk, and Compliance Committee of the Board of Trustees and lead the coordination of Board materials across the functions.

  • Opus Partners is assisting Northwestern University in this search. Please contact Katie Dean, Associate Partner, or Craig Smith, Partner, to apply or to seek additional information: katie.dean@opuspartners.net/craig.smith@opuspartners.net

Specific Responsibilities:

  • Provide leadership direction for internal audit and advisory services designed to add value and improve operations across the University. Ensure the development and implementation of a comprehensive annual internal audit plan based on systematic and on-going institution-wide risk assessment. Monitor audit follow-ups and mitigation plans for timely and accurate completion. Escalation issues or themes as appropriate. Determine appropriate allocation of internal and external resources needed to achieve desired internal audit results.
  • Oversee the University’s enterprise risk management program. Develop a risk assessment framework to identify, assess, mitigate, and monitor risks that will drive the planning of the internal audit, compliance, and risk management functions. Lead ERM committees and track on key risks requiring additional mitigation or management awareness.
  • Oversee the Office of University Compliance. Monitor and provide direction in the development, review, and revision of compliance-related policies and procedures. Partner with issue-specific compliance leaders across the University to foster a culture of ethics and compliance and mitigate institutional risks. Coordinate effective compliance monitoring and training programs. Ensure appropriate handling of the University’s Ethicspoint Hotline and issue escalation processes.
  • Oversee the Office of Risk Management. Identify and assess risk and work to reduce potential loss through risk mitigation and risk transfer. Ensure appropriate risk financing and insurance programs are in place, along with strong claims management practices. Collaborate with campus partners on operational risk management initiatives.
  • Identify any issues or trends that need to be escalated to University leadership and ensure appropriate follow-up and resolution.
  • Be accountable for budget planning and performance and manage recruitment, development, and retention of staff for the three functions.
  • Assist in the management and staffing of the Audit, Risk, and Compliance Committee of the Board of Trustees. Provide quarterly updates to the committee.
  • Participate in other University committees or initiatives as assigned.


  • Performs other duties as assigned.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Master’s degree (or above) in accounting, finance, business, law, or a related field required.
  • At least ten years of demonstrated leadership/supervisory experience in the areas of risk management, compliance, or audit.
  • Experience working directly with an internal audit practice (overseeing or partnering), or experience as a in an auditing service provider role.
  • Direct experience with enterprise risk management and general knowledge of compliance and risk issues facing higher education.
  • A track record of capacity and team building, including the ability to recruit and retain high-performing individuals and develop the talents and expertise of staff.

Minimum Competencies: (Skills, knowledge, and abilities.)

  • Technical Competency – Subject matter expertise in internal audit, risk management, and compliance. Strong understanding of control and risk management models and their applicability to the higher education industry. Involvement in industry and professional associations. Familiarity and awareness of all aspects of AVP portfolio and the ability to represent risk, audit, and compliance in multiple institutional situations.
  • Risk-sensitivity - Ability to balance risk with organizational objectives and navigate a decentralized control environment. Expert judgement when weighing institutional risk and opportunities. Strong critical thinking and analysis skills to solve problems.
  • Leadership Presence and Credibility – Capability to hold the room with senior leaders and trustees. Willingness to engage on difficult issues and hold other leaders accountable with transparency and fairness.
  • Action Oriented – Ability and desire to act quickly to resolve issues and develop solutions. Orientation to implement solutions vs. just identifying issues.
  • Communication – Expert communication skills with internal clients, team members, peers, and senior leaders. Comfort will leading institutional messaging on behalf of risk, audit, and compliance team.
  • Customer and Personal Service – dedication to providing high service levels to internal and external campus stakeholders.
  • Negotiation and Influence – Documented expertise transforming outcomes based on the ability to build consensus and navigate competing objectives.
  • Utilizing Technology – Understanding and expertise with the role technology plays in risk management initiatives and how artificial intelligence and machine learning are being utilized in the internal audit and risk management sectors.
  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws and the regulatory environment that influence higher education and Northwestern.
  • Management - The ability to manage individuals with differing backgrounds and experience, with a passion for developing talent and fostering opportunity and growth.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • CPA, CIA, CRM, or other professional certifications appropriate to the reporting functions of this position.
  • Leadership experience in a university, academic center, or hospital environment. Alternatively, leadership experience within a highly decentralized non-profit, corporate or government setting.

Preferred Competencies: (Skills, knowledge, and abilities)

  • Working knowledge of the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.
  • Understanding of Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards and OMB Uniform Guidance.
  • Understanding of COSO and ISO frameworks and applicability to higher education.
  • Familiarity with the unique aspects of research.
  • Understanding of insurance markets, coverages, and claims.
  • Knowledge of HIPAA, FERPA, GDPR, and other relevant privacy regulations.

The Northwestern campus sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa as well as the Menominee, Miami and Ho-Chunk nations. We acknowledge and honor the original people of the land upon which Northwestern University stands, and the Native people who remain on this land today.

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