Laurent Heller has been selected from a highly competitive national search as Johns Hopkins University's next senior vice president for finance and administration. Heller brings to the role extensive experience in budget and financial management, higher education strategy, and business operations at leading universities.
Heller will join JHU from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where since August 2016 he has served as vice chancellor for finance and administration, overseeing the university's finance, facilities, information technology, human resources, housing and dining, and public safety functions. His first day at Hopkins will be June 21.
"Throughout his career, Laurent has demonstrated a keen intellect and deep passion for the academic enterprise, while marshaling his extensive expertise in financial analysis and long-term financial planning to support the core academic missions of discovery, education, and service to community," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels wrote in a message to the Hopkins community today. "He has also dedicated himself to building and sustaining job and career frameworks to support staff advancement and success within his organizations, and he has made the creation of diverse and equitable work environments a hallmark of his leadership."
At Johns Hopkins, Heller will be responsible for a broad portfolio, including the university's finance, accounting, investment, and money management functions, the real estate and audit offices, facilities management, procurement, human resources, information technology, risk management, and public safety. He succeeds Daniel Ennis, who left Johns Hopkins in September after nearly a decade leading finance and administration, and Mary Miller, who has filled the role on an interim basis since October.
"I am deeply honored to have been selected for this important role and am so excited to be joining the community at Johns Hopkins," Heller said. "Johns Hopkins University's reputation as the world's leading research university drew me into the process, but what got me most excited was the great dedication, curiosity, and sense of shared vision I felt with the people I met along the way. JHU is so clearly both a very special university and home to a remarkable community of passionate, thoughtful, and brilliant scholars, students, and administrators."
At Wisconsin, Heller has worked to identify opportunities for performance improvements and to secure resources for reinvestment in the university's academic mission. He serves as executive sponsor for major campus and systems projects, including an ongoing reworking of the university's job title and compensation structures and the design and adoption of a modern, cloud-based budgeting system. He led the development of a new strategic plan for UW Finance and Administration and has demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering an engaged, inclusive, and diverse community.
"I am especially interested in finding creative and collaborative solutions," Heller said. "How can higher ed administration innovate to better support discovery, education and service without compromising on the values that our community holds dear? How can we continue to deepen our commitment to Baltimore?"
Heller was drawn to a career in higher ed, he said, by "the mission and the intellectual vibrancy of life at major research universities." Before joining Wisconsin, he served as assistant vice chancellor for financial planning and analysis at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was responsible for financial projections and where he developed a new budget planning system for the university. He previously served in several other key roles at UC Berkeley, including director of the campus budget office and director of strategy and analysis for the law school.
Heller began his career in higher education with Harvard University's Civil Rights Project, a multidisciplinary think tank that promoted racial justice and civil rights by connecting the worlds of social science research and policy advocacy. Heller joined as a temp and eventually joined the Harvard union of clerical and technical workers, ultimately working there as a financial analyst and database administrator.
"After a short stint working in the private sector, I was feeling uninspired. I found that I wanted a career working with people who were interested in something more," Heller said. "I found my home when I landed in higher education. What we do every day changes the world for the better. This makes me excited to get out of bed and get to work every day."
Heller was born in Lawrence, Kansas, where his great uncle, Francis Heller, was on the faculty and served as provost at the University of Kansas. He completed his undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley, where he earned a BA in economics.