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New Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer

August 04, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: August 4, 2021
Re: New Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer

I am delighted to announce that Karen Sisson, vice president for business and finance at Kalamazoo College, will join Caltech as vice president for administration and chief financial officer effective October 1, 2021.

In this pivotal role, Karen will bring her demonstrated administrative success in government and higher education to oversee the campus budget and balance sheet, serve as a strategic partner to the president and provost on financial matters, and manage a large portion of the Institute's administrative functions, from Audit to Facilities to Human Resources. She will work closely with JPL leadership and several Board of Trustees committees. As a member of the Institute's senior leadership, Karen will help secure and enhance Caltech's future.

A well-respected financial leader, Karen's expertise with systems and budgeting, as well as her relationship-driven approach, have been honed with experience in both higher education and Southern California government. As vice president for business and finance at Kalamazoo College, she developed financial strategies to address the impact of COVID-19 and co-chaired committees that led to a successful reopening of campus in the winter of 2021. Prior to joining Kalamazoo College, Karen served for more than 10 years as the vice president and treasurer at Pomona College, where she developed and implemented the college's response to the 2008 economic downturn and modernized the college's financial systems and processes.  She also oversaw the financing, renovation, and construction of two science buildings, two residence halls, the studio art building, and the recently completed Benton Museum of Art, each achieving at least LEED Gold certification. Karen established the college's first dedicated investments office and advocated for the Claremont Colleges to implement a new financial and human resources system that then further improved Pomona's overall operations and financial profile.  

Prior to her tenure at Pomona College, Karen worked for the City of Los Angeles as city administrative officer, deputy mayor for finance and performance management, and deputy executive director and chief financial officer for Los Angeles World Airports, which operates Los Angeles International Airport. Karen earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Pomona College, a master's in business administration from the University of Chicago, and most recently a master's in biblical studies and theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

I am grateful to the search committee that recommended Karen after it assessed an impressive and diverse slate of candidates from across the nation. The committee included trustees Suzanne Woolsey and Timothy Sloan; Caltech faculty members Dennis Dougherty and Ares Rosakis; campus-based staff members Cathy Light and Aleen Boladian; and Randi Levin, JPL's chief information officer. The committee was chaired by Diana Jergovic and staffed by Hillary Tribbs.

Since July 2016, Margo Steurbaut has served as the vice president for administration and chief financial officer. She and her colleagues have guided Caltech with skill and care over the last five years, and most recently have helped the Institute navigate the challenges of the pandemic with sensitivity and dedication. Please join me in congratulating Margo on her retirement and thanking her for her service as we welcome Karen to the Caltech community.