Michele Halstead was officially named the new vice president for administration and finance this summer after a competitive national search to fill the seat left by Jacqueline DiStefano in November 2012.
Halstead said this position was “a long time coming.” Having earned one of her bachelor’s degrees at SUNY New Paltz in 1991, she has since worked at the college for 20 years in different capacities, most recently as assistant vice president for administration and finance.
She previously served as assistant director of accounting services, director of accounting services and held interim positions as chief financial officer, director of accounting services, supervisor for the office of institutional research and acting director of student accounts.
“It’s good to have grown up here in the town and to have grown professionally here,” Halstead said. “It’s scary and exciting. It’s a huge position.”
But it’s a position Halstead said she’s ready to fill. With her years of experience in professional and personal capacities at SUNY New Paltz she said her knowledge of the inner-workings of the campus is unmatched.
“My job was to watch the money come in and to watch the money come out,” Halstead said. “Having had the experiences through accounting, the one thing I felt comfortable saying [in my interview] was that I know this budget better than anyone who has come before me and possibly anyone who will come after me.”
Halstead said the interiewing process was “strange,” particularly as an internal candidate. Throughout the search period, she interviewed via Skype in her office and had face-to-face interviews with her own colleagues at a Hilton Garden Inn in Albany, N.Y.
“My colleagues, knew [I was applying] and if I didn’t make it, they’d know,” Halstead said.
However, Halstead said there are some advantages to being an internal candidate.
“Knowing the finances the way I do and the way I got to know them and building relationships with those around me has helped,” Halstead said.
President Donald Christian said that Halstead’s knowledge of the campus certainly helped her in the process but that her application stood out.
“As I looked at the candidates that emerged in the national search she was the best,” Christian said. “Several people told me from when they first saw her printed application that if she had been applying from some other college or university, her credentials would have caught their attention right away. It was a really nice alignment of her experiences here and her ability to shine in a national search.”
Halstead said that her long-time co-workers and staff are also one of her the greatest strengths.
“My staff has risen to the occasion,” Halstead said. “Without their support, since they’re so good at what they do, there’s no way we could’ve accomplished this.”
Halstead said she has built up connections with the different departments and offices she has worked with, using that familiarity to better address the campus’ needs.
“When you have that kind of relationship, you understand their business and physical needs in relation to the money,” Halstead said. “You get to understand the financial, physical and other needs and what makes their offices tick.”
One particular question Halstead said she remembered most from her series of interviews had to do with the “legacy” she would leave behind.
“I want to be the person to help make sense of the processes, procedures and red tape,” Halstead said. “I want to be the one who looks at this process and picks things apart to get things done and still have a beautiful and viable campus.”