Shari Shuman looks back on her time at UNF and ahead to the future

Courtney Green, News Editor

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Vice President of Administration and Finance Shari Shuman is preparing to swoop out of the Osprey nest as her last day of work — Friday, January 31 — approaches. Spinnaker sat down with Shuman to discuss her successes, challenges, and what the next chapter of her life will look like.

Successes

When asked about her top two successes over the past 16 years she’s served UNF, Shuman was quick to answer that she regards the transformation of UNF’s campus since 2003 to be her top success. The addition of a Student Union and Wellness Center, as well as dining services, housing, and new buildings around campus are visible, tangible marks of campus improvements that required spending money.

Shari Shuman, Vice President of Administration and Finance.

“It’s just a better campus,” Shuman said. 

Her other top success, she says, is the customer service.

“Me and my team have changed the culture, and although a lot of our departments are considered bureaucratic and don’t have a choice but to say ‘no’ sometimes, it’s how you say it.”

Shuman has no disappointments, she says. Instead, she looks back on the joy she’s experienced working with students — some of whom are still dear friends.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “It was fun coming into work. I’m really only leaving the long hours and lifestyle.”

A history with two administrations

Shuman has had the opportunity to work under both former UNF President Delaney and the current president, Dr. David Szymanski. Speaking on her time under both, Shuman had only good things to say about both leaders.

“They have been excellent leaders and good managers. They’ve allowed me to do what I needed to do in making the campus better. I have found both of them to be great partners in that.”

Divest UNF

Over the past decade, the topic of divestment — selling off previously made investments in certain companies — has emerged in relation to Shuman’s position as Treasurer of the UNF Foundation. 

The Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization responsible for collecting donations intended to give UNF financial support — some of that money has been invested in companies known for contributing to pollution caused by fossil fuels. In the past, students have protested in favor of divesting from these companies.

In 2014, Shuman was quoted on the hot topic of divestment, saying that: “The Foundation is not going to get into the business of determining whether something is socially responsible or not.”

She was and still is of the opinion that what you do on the business level and what you do on the personal level to fight climate change are two different things. For Shuman, being environmentally conscious is a personal subject. She drives a hybrid, her family recycles, and one of her daughters’ works for the EPA.

Shari Shuman went over her budget presentation in front of the board. Photo by Alexandra Torres-Perez.

Speaking on the topic of divestment ahead of her retirement, Shuman explained the balancing act her position entails: 

“We have investments that are more direct and have very little that are in the top 200 carbon-companies. The bigger thing is ‘what impact are you really going to have?’ We are a small potato. We can make a bigger impact through sustainable practices. No plastic bags in the Bookstore, no plastic trays in the dining hall. We do so many things that have more of an impact on the carbon print than if we divested. What we’ve tried to do is make a real impact on the carbon print in Jacksonville.”

Asked if the divestment issue has been a challenge for Shuman, she confidently characterized it otherwise. “I consider it an opportunity. How do you make that topic relevant for discussion? How do you make it so we do more to make an impact? We’re having those conversations.”

What’s next?

Upon Shuman’s departure, Scott Bennett is slated to take over as Interim Vice President of Administration of Finance. Shuman is confident her team will “rock and roll like nothing ever happened.”

Judging by well-wishing emails she’s received since announcing her departure, her legacy will be the difference she has made through her honesty and frankness, as well as her openness to new ideas and willingness to listen as she has tried to make UNF a better place for all students.

President Szymanski announced Shuman’s retirement on January 8, 2020.

Shuman plans to take some time off to be with her family, as well as catch up on the day-time tennis she’s been missing out on with the long hours in the office. Beyond taking some time for herself, Shuman foresees other possible jobs in her future. 

“I will probably go and do something more, either part-time or consulting project work. I haven’t quite figured all that out yet — I’m just trying to finish up here the way I would want it to be finished up,” she said.

In parting, Shuman shared that her decision to retire was a heavy one.

“This did not come lightly for me. I thought about it hard. It comes with mixed emotions, because I have loved every minute of every day here. I’ve enjoyed working with the faculty — I have really enjoyed working with the students. And especially as my daughters were going through college, so this was very relevant for me,” she said.

As she closes out her final weeks at the University, she looks forward to not just her future, but UNF’s as well.

“UNF is unique and I love how the President has termed it — Uniquely UNF — and it’s going to continue to be so,” she said with certainty. “There are lots of great things coming for the University and I look forward to staying involved in different ways.”

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