Take Five with Mary Barnett, our new Director of Internal Audit

Home|Blog|Take Five with Mary Barnett, our new Director of Internal Audit

1. What exactly does the Director of Internal Audit do and what prompted you to pursue this line of work as a career?

Internal Audit provides a “fresh set of eyes” to look at what colleges and departments do, and to offer advice and recommendations to management – the folks who actually do the work – to help make sure we are doing the right things, and doing things right. Since the Auditor for Public Accounts audits the financial statements, we focus our work on other areas. We’ve recently looked at the setup of a college Threat Assessment Team, compliance with the Follett Bookstore contract, security controls at colleges, mandatory student fees, and the Shared ISO Program. Currently we are auditing campus police documentation, and the Accounts Payable process at the SSC, as well as staying involved in the way CARES Act funds are handled.

Image of Mary Barnett, Director of Internal Audit

Mary Barnett

I have a degree in religion (Liberal Arts majors: represent!), and an MBA, but I more or less fell into higher education Internal Auditing when I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a position in Internal Audit at the University of Richmond 30 years ago. I can’t imagine enjoying a job more than I enjoy this one.

2. Who is your direct – the chancellor or the State Board? Please explain.

I report to the State Board, just like the chancellor; technically I have a solid line reporting structure to the Board, and a dotted line to the chancellor. This is to ensure that the Internal Audit function can be “independent,” meaning that no one, including the chancellor, can exert control over what we do. We work very closely with management, of course, including the chancellor, and ask for input on what and how we audit – we don’t operate in a vacuum! But we get to make final decisions without the pressure of reporting to someone we might someday audit.

3. Part of your job is to evaluate the efficacy of risk-management procedures and governance and to recommend corrective action if applicable. It’s an extremely important process but obviously, it’s the kind of role that would make some folks uncomfortable. What makes you different?

We like to say that auditors are the sort of people who will tell a stranger when they have mustard on their chin! Sure, it’s uncomfortable in the moment, but isn’t it better than walking around like that all day? It certainly makes our jobs easier that we get to work with people who want to do a good job, and who are always open to ideas on how they can do even better, and that’s certainly been our experience here. In addition, higher education auditors aren’t the “bad guys” like IRS auditors or bank auditors; it’s been my experience that we really are considered part of the team. People joke about not liking to hear from me (they are joking … right? 😊), but if we do a good job, then the folks we audit should walk away pleased with the results of our work. We are risk-based – we only look at the important stuff – so we are not making silly or picky recommendations, or concentrating on things that don’t matter. We know we are doing our jobs right when we hear a client say that they are going to implement changes because of something that came up during our work, before the report is even issued. Our goal is to offer something that our client didn’t know, as well as a recommendation on how they can address whatever has been uncovered, all to improve the way the department or college serves our students.

4. What constitutes the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a professional?

There have been a few times in my career when I’ve had to deliver bad news to someone who did not want to hear it, either because they disagreed with my conclusions or because they thought I had my facts wrong. As INTERNAL auditors, almost everyone we audit is someone we know, and those conversations can be hard when they are with someone you respect and like. Those times have been rare,  however, and in all cases ultimately had positive outcomes. But, they were difficult in the moment when they were happening.

5. Please take a moment to tell us a little about yourself, your hobbies and interests outside of work.

I am lucky to have my family here in Richmond! My two sons, daughter in law, and two grandchildren have all landed back here, and I could not be happier about that. Other than hanging around with the five of them, I like to be outside riding my bike, hiking or walking, or inside sewing, knitting, reading, and that most cliché COVID activity … making sourdough bread! I’m a dedicated volunteer at Shalom Farms (a food justice organization) and the Richmond Folk Festival. Currently I am an #extrovertisolatingalone, and I look forward to dinner parties, cook-outs, and any other excuse I can come up with to have people over!


Forgot Password