New vice president for operations and finance reaches 90 days on campus


Christopher Gannon/Iowa State Un

Shawn Norman, new SR VP for operations/finance (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

In the 90 days since Iowa State’s new Vice President for Operations and Finance, Shawn Norman, has arrived, he has begun to demonstrate his capacity to drive positive change on campus.

Norman said his position at Iowa State exists to maintain the financial health of the institution and to help the university realize its strategic and collaborative goals.

“I’m here to help to say, ‘How do we make that happen? What ways can we go? How can we do things?’” Norman said. “So I always say, there’s never a bad idea; it’s just how can we get the idea to fruition?”

Norman said his task is to enable the university to provide the education and training necessary for today’s students and workforce needs and to do so from a financially healthy perspective.

Since he began in his position on Jan. 1, Norman said he has spent a lot of time getting to know his new surroundings and his new colleagues as well as learning some of the history and background of the institution.

“The first 45 days it was just nothing but introductions,” Norman said. “But I met a lot of people, from faculty, from students, from community leaders, and it’s been overall great; everybody’s been so helpful.”

Norman said his grandmother instilled in him an emphasis on placing importance on the people he’s surrounded by. He said this emphasis came into play when considering coming to Iowa State.

“It’s always about people, right—the people we serve, the people that we get the joy to be around and community and everything,” Norman said. “I will say the one thing that got my attention was the people.”

Norman said during his first impressions of Iowa State, he was struck by the eagerness of students and faculty to serve the university and to accomplish great things.

Norman said serving the university, its students and its wider communities is the most important aspect of the land grant mission.

“The serving part is the best thing that I can say about the land grant that I really love,” Norman said, “and I think that that helps me every day to say, ‘Hey, what are we doing? What are we serving?’ To me, I look at my employees, [and] I tell them all the time, ‘I’m serving you.’”

Norman graduated from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He also has a master’s degree in business administration from Boise State University in Idaho.

Norman started his career in accounting working at a hospital in Texas called Christus St. John. He said after a merger with another hospital, he chose to pursue an opportunity working at the University of Texas Medical Branch where he spent the next 15 years. Norman eventually worked his way up to become a director at the university.

From the University of Texas, Norman later took on a position at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he served as the associate vice president for budget planning and analysis.

“I stayed there four years and learned a lot, and this is my transition from clinical to higher [education],” Norman said. “I had to say, ‘Oh okay, I remember when I went to school.’ I was a student, you know, so it’s like knowing the students but then also the research and the great things that come with higher ed.”

Norman said one significant difference between the clinical world and the world of higher education is that clinics go through several patients on a daily basis while universities operate on more of a semester-by-semester basis.