From the farm fields of Kentucky to the Finance and Administration Office at USI, Steve Bridges '89 M'95 proves himself to be an interesting mix of wit, humility, dedication, competitiveness and accountability, as well as the first USI alum to serve as a vice president. The Henderson, Kentucky, native always knew accounting was his path forward in life, and USI offered the educational trifecta he desired: accounting major, location near home and cost-effective. "In a lot of ways, I felt like I was the student USI was built to serve," he says.
Since graduating with two degrees, Bridges has returned the favor by pouring himself and the knowledge he gained back into serving the institution, advancing through 10 positions since being hired as a staff accountant in 1989 and working alongside all the finance vice presidents in USI's history.
What prepared you most for the role of VP for Finance and Administration?
There were many opportunities and people along the way who helped prepare me. The three years I spent as project manager for the implementation of Banner, our campus-wide administrative software, gave me the opportunity to work with all areas of the campus and with so many great USI individuals, in this unified, massive effort. It was an incredible professional learning opportunity.
Why are you so dedicated to USI's success?
This one is simple for me. I believe in what we do. I have seen the ability we have to change lives with our high-quality education and to economically change the community around us and beyond. I was lucky to see the first leaders who developed USI from its beginnings and their passion was instilled in me from my start. Incidentally, USI has changed my life too!
What is your stewardship style?
Spending within our means and spending in a way that recognizes the sacrifices our students and families make to attend USI. I want to leave this institution in the strong position that has been a real positive in weathering tougher times.
What is USI's financial outlook?
USI continues financial resiliency. External groups, such as our credit rating agencies, review USI and, even with the overall higher education sector outlook listed as negative, have continued to rate our campus with a positive outlook. Conservative financial practices have been at the heart of that success, but being a part of a triple “A” rated state is also helpful for us. As demand, demographics, resources and operational needs change, so must we and we are able to do so strategically given our financial position.
What role has family played in shaping your values and ethics?
Huge is an understatement. My father was about accountability before it was a common term. He did not dwell on success but instead the next task that needed to be completed. I am a little better at reflecting on accomplishments, but always feel something can be improved and strive for better. He and my mother wanted more for me than they had, and I want the same for my personal and USI families. My aunts and uncles pushed me to be better and just a little competitive! I am a product of so many people who were in my life and hope that, just maybe, I can provide that to others. It would be a legacy that would leave me smiling!