CFO to depart in April, search for interim to commence

Board of Trustees approves turf installation and 2 additional minors


Patrick Murphy | Northern Star

NIU is eighth on the best value colleges in Illinois ranking. DeKalb is 30th on the best college towns in America list.

DeKALB – NIU’s Board of Trustees said goodbye to a cherished friend when they convened on March 24. Sarah Chinniah, the Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer, will be leaving the university on April 20 and the Board of Trustees had to decide to start the search for an interim. 

Such a search would not be easy to fill as President Lisa Freeman said that Chinniah leaves “big heels” to fill, paraphrasing a quote from the late Madeleine Albright.

“Her concern for faculty and students was first priority and that was always clear,” Freeman said. “Sometimes the stars align and you have to hire the right person for the right job.”

Chinniah’s transparency, her ability to make big issues seem manageable and her care for the university were discussed by every present member of the board with profound appreciation.

“Thank you for the leadership, the care you brought to all of us,” board member Dennis Barsema said. “You will be sorely missed. Thank you for everything you’ve done and I wish you the best going forward.”

When Chinniah got to speak to the board, it was out of appreciation for the university and its people.

“I leave here better, stronger with so many connections, friendships and stories to tell,”  Chinniah said.

When a vote was called to search for an interim, some board members jokingly considered voting no just to keep Chinniah. But the motion was unanimously passed with President Freeman promising to consult Collegiate Enterprise Solutions to find an interim VPAF/CFO. 

Sport minors to be added

Other issues brought forward included the approval of two new minors at NIU, both of which are in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education in the School of Education. The first minor, sport for development and social change, examines how sports can be used to work toward resolving social issues and showcasing achievement on the individual and team level. 

The second, psychosocial aspects of sport and physical activity, will introduce students to the impact of sports psychology as well as determine how to explore the job market of the sports industry. 

Both minors were approved, meaning that the number of minors in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education will grow from seven to nine. 

Artificial turf to be installed

The Board also passed a resolution to install artificial turf at Ralph McKenzie Field, replacing the natural grass terrain, as well as replacing the artificial turf at NIU Soccer Field which has been used for 14 years. With an estimated cost of $1,260,000, it was recommended to the board that school donations be used to pay for the installation as well as renting the fields to youth teams. 

Because replacing the terrain means a higher quality environment for student athletes and is safer than the natural terrain of Ralph McKenzie, it’s in the best interest of students, Freeman said.