IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Serving student groups: Student Organizations Finance Office
Terri Smith, office manager of the Student Organizations Finance Office (SOFO), believes the strength of the office lies in the staff’s cohesiveness. “We rely on each other’s years of experience to get input and make appropriate decisions for the student groups,” she said. “There is a camaraderie here.” That team spirit helps to ensure that student organizations will receive the financial advice and assistance they require in order to fulfill their groups’ purposes.
SOFO’s mission is the management of financial accounting for CU-Boulder’s student groups, including CU bank accounts, purchasing, travel and events. Student groups using CU-Boulder facilities must maintain a SOFO account and conduct business through it. The unit handles over 800 student group accounts with total funds approaching $2 million. They provide groups with information about travel and financial procedures as well as fiscal rules and events planning.
SOFO student employees fulfill a crucial role in the office’s work, according to Smith. “They handle all of the work that we (staffers) don’t, including errands, filing and dealing with unforeseen issues,” she said.
Smith has been at SOFO since August 2001, starting at the front desk and advancing to accounting tech, then to office manager. Growth in the number of groups, the number of small events and increased travel are among the biggest changes she has seen in SOFO’s operations. “A lot more students are traveling to conferences that target specific interests; for example, the Black Student Alliance attends a Big 12 conference every year, and graduate students receive funding from United Government of Graduate Students (UGGS) for interdisciplinary conferences,” she said. Multicultural fraternities and groups with either international or environmental interests are traveling more as well.
One such group is CU-EWB, CU-Boulder’s chapter of the nonprofit Engineers Without Borders-USA. The group works with communities throughout the world, providing engineering assistance to improve the standard of living in developing areas. Christina Barstow, treasurer of CU-EWB, credits SOFO with assisting the group in the navigation of accounting requirements and procedures. “SOFO has been extremely helpful in speeding reimbursements for trips and in processing travel authorizations,” she said. “I advise student groups to go to SOFO to learn the procedures.”
Student groups often change leadership from year to year, and new personnel need to be apprised of CU-Boulder’s accounting and events requirements. SOFO offers annual financial workshops every fall semester to acquaint groups with the rules of expenditures from their CU-Boulder accounts. Organizations can best help themselves by keeping new officers aware of SOFO’s function, says Smith. “The best thing a group can do for us is to let their new director or president know that we are here to assist them,” she said.
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