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ASU CFO honored with distinguished business officer award

July 24, 2018

Morgan R. Olsen's career has been filled with successes in the fields of finance and higher education. And now, he has one more honor to his name. 

Olsen, Arizona State University's executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer, recently was honored with the 2018 National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) Distinguished Business Officer Award. NACUBO’s most prestigious honor, the award is given to recognize outstanding professional achievement and exemplary contributions to NACUBO, and business and financial management in higher education. 

Olsen's award was presented to him at NACUBO's annual meeting held July 21­­–24 in Long Beach, California.

“While this prestigious award is truly an honor to receive, I am most proud of being a member of an organization that focuses on how financial and business officers in higher education can elevate ideas into action,” Olsen said. “As leaders in our institutions, which play such an important role in allowing people to reach their full potential, we have a great responsibility to help ensure that American colleges and universities improve both our society and the quality of life for as many people as possible.” 

Olsen came to Tempe in 2008 after serving as executive vice president and treasurer at Purdue University. He currently manages both the finances and administration of the country's largest public research university, holding responsibility for administering ASU’s $3.2 billion annual operating budget and a capital projects program exceeding $1 billion. 

"Dr. Olsen is not only an accomplished executive but also a good boss who cares about his people," said Nichol Luoma, ASU associate vice president for university business services and sustainability operations officer. "He is a dynamic leader who expects his units to model ASU's charter in everything we do. We are allowed and expected to challenge the status quo, commit to continual process improvement, demonstrate exemplary customer service and ensure we are keeping the university safe while supporting innovation and informed risk-taking."

Olsen's NACUBO honor is his second major award in as many years, as he was honored by the Financial Executives International Arizona chapter with its 2017 Nonprofit CFO of the Year Award.

"This recognition from NACUBO confirms the belief of his colleagues in Business and Finance that Arizona State University has a visionary CFO providing leadership to our organization," Luoma added.

NACUBO represents the chief business and financial officers of more than 1,900 colleges and universities across the country through advocacy efforts, community service, and professional development activities. The association's mission is to advance the economic viability, business practices and support for higher education institutions in fulfillment of their missions.

Olsen served as chair of NACUBO's board of directors before joining ASU.  

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer , ASU Now

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Making hot cities more livable

July 24, 2018

In latest Thought Huddle podcast, ASU sustainability experts explore strategies for keeping places like Phoenix habitable

Challenges to our planet can overwhelmingly command the headlines: climate change, massive population increases, dwindling resources.

But with every crisis comes an opportunity for creativity — innovative responses that have the potential to improve our lives and change how we interact with the ecosystem and with one another. And in Phoenix and other “extreme” cities, there is growing urgency to find those solutions.

Arizona State University’s Thought Huddle podcast explores such ideas in its latest episode, “Hot and Habitable: Creating Sustainable Cities.”

Host Mary-Charlotte Domandi talks with three ASU sustainability experts on ways to make urban spaces more livable for the long term: architect Jack DeBartolo, a faculty associate in The Design School at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; Elizabeth Wentz, dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning; and Wellington “Duke” Reiter, an architect, urban designer and executive director of ASU’s University City Exchange.

Each of these experts offers their insights into both the challenges we face and the concrete responses that can drive change. Consider one idea shared by DeBartolo to create shade with solar arrays and make a 15-acre area of downtown Phoenix more habitable year-round: “The design concept was to put this shaded pavilion a hundred feet above the ground to create a real pedestrian environment, an outdoor room of sorts, a real civic space.” Though this was not produced, DeBartolo is optimistic that the future will include designing spaces that “are both pragmatic and poetic.”

With a focus on resiliency, Wentz notes that this research often involves looking at long-term stresses such as population growth, drought and high heat: “How can we adapt and improve our living conditions so that the community is stronger overall,” she asks. One of her answers is more compact cities where commuting is limited and where people live and work “without spending an hour and a half driving to get to their jobs.”

For his part, Reiter summarizes the challenge ahead: “The evidence about where things are moving is so obvious. How do we rally the capacity to act? That’s really the big question around sustainability, resiliency and climate change.”

Find more episodes at


Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Steven Beschloss

Senior Director for Narrative Development , Media Relations & Strategic Communications