2020 ACUAdemy Awards

November 12, 2020

At the inaugural Virtual ACUAdemy Awards Ceremony, the Awards Committee announced the recipients of the Outstanding Professional Contributions Award, Member Excellence in Service Award, and Rising Star Award. Each recipient accepted their awards graciously and spoke for a few minutes to the audience. At the end of the ceremony, President Julia Hann made a virtual celebratory toast to the award recipients for their accomplishments.

Outstanding Professional Contributions Award

This award recognizes a member who has made outstanding and noteworthy contributions to the profession through creating wider recognition of internal auditing in higher education, promoting cooperative relationships with other governance-related organizations, promoting high professional standards, and sustained service to higher education and internal auditing professional organizations. ACUA established this award in 2003.

Leigh Goller, Chief Audit, Risk and Compliance Officer, Duke University and Health System

Leigh is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has been an ACUA member for over 13 years. Her accomplishments and contributions to higher education auditing include:
  • Serving on the advisory board for the Turner School of Accountancy at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte
  • Hosting roundtable discussions at ACUA annual conferences
  • Leading the Research Audit Roundtable since 2015, which brings together CAEs from 30 major research institutions
  • Being an founding member of the Higher Education Enterprise Risk Management Practitioners, which brings together Chief Risk Officers from 30 universities
  • Designing and overseeing the planning and education for the ACUA Leads program
  • Serving as the Audit and Accounting Principles Chair from 2015‒2017
  • Serving as an ACUA board member from 2010‒2014
  • Serving on the External Relations Committee from 2014‒2017
  • Serving as an ACUA Faculty Program member since 2010
As a member of the ACUA Faculty Program, she presented the general session “When Culture and Crisis Collide—The Anatomy of a Great Big Mess” at AuditCon 2019. This session was filled with lessons learned from one of those ‘nightmare’ cases that we all never want to experience, which included fraud, research integrity, loss of data, reputation risk, and fines. She received amazing reviews on both her content and delivery. The story-sharing approach really kept everyone’s attention and, despite it having been an extremely difficult audit, she was willing to share a lot of information that was honest, relatable, eye opening, and useful. One review highlighted that Leigh’s topic was fascinating and ripe for a general session topic because she was willing to share:
  • Real world auditor experience
  • A fraud case and how it started as one type of issue and morphed into another one
  • The trust placed on an employee, combined with not following internal controls
  • Internal audit's role
  • The impact of the fraud on grant funds
  • The impact of the fraud on critical grant data and the resulting loss of data and research integrity
  • The publicity exposure
  • The resulting court cases
ACUA members were grateful for her presentation and stated that she sets a good example for us all. Her nominator commented that she is “heavily committed to making us all better, even when the subject is tough, such as her keynote on research misconduct.”

Member Excellence in Service Award

This award recognizes a member who has made outstanding contributions to the mission of ACUA through exceptional service. ACUA established this award in 1997.

Meaghan Smith, Director of Audit and Advisory Services at the Oregon Health and Science University

Meaghan has been with ACUA for about 10 years, but she has not spent those years twiddling her thumbs! She has volunteered for about nine years and her list of accomplishments include:
  • Working the ACUA booth and serving as a proctor at many conferences, including AuditCon 2020
  • Serving on the Host Committee for the Midyear conference in Portland in 2016
  • Writing a Kick Starter for Student Billing and Accounts Receivable
  • Serving as Web Services Director after being on its committee for several years
  • Serving as the Communications Committee Chair
  • Co-chairing the Website Redesign Taskforce and was instrumental in helping design and organize the website into what we have today
  • Serving as the Website News Editor for many years, keeping ACUA members informed of risks and current events in higher education
  • Speaking at the 2017 Annual conference
  • Serving on the Awards committee in previous years
  • Being the Professional Education Committee Chair this past year and in her first year, she has not only helped to redesign the conferences into Audit Interactive and AuditCon, but converted them into a virtual format within a short period of time
  • Receiving ACUA’s first Rising Star Award in 2016

Her nominator stated, “She is always willing to answer questions that I have and share audit programs or templates. As a single shop, this is so helpful to me. She also tries to invite those who are at conferences by themselves to social outings so they do not have to eat or go to networking events by themselves. That makes the conference more fun!”

Rising Star Award

This award recognizes an up-and-coming member who has made significant individual contributions in the areas of internal audit, compliance, or risk management that furthers the mission of ACUA. This award is intended to spotlight, cultivate, and recognize those developing the personal initiative and commitment to positively impact higher education auditing that is essential to ACUA’s continued success. ACUA established this award in 2016. This year had two Rising Stars!

Marilyn Carnevale, Senior Auditor, Rutgers University

Marilyn has been an ACUA member for a little over three years and her accomplishments are amazing. She began volunteering with ACUA within her first year as a member. As a previously published writer, she volunteered as the Deputy Editor for ACUA's College and University Auditor journal (“Journal”). During her time as the Deputy Editor, the Journal underwent the transformation from a PDF publication to exclusively online and she played a critical role in helping develop and rollout the new publication. Last September she became the Editor, where she continues to publish articles and work with experts within the membership to share their insights and experiences. When the pandemic hit, she worked tirelessly with ACUA's sponsors and members to put together a COVID-19 special edition of the Journal, which was published more than a month ahead of schedule to provide timely resources to us all.
As a testament to her commitment to excellence, she has continued to grow her professional expertise through studies and certifications. Already a CPA and PSA (Public School Accountant) when she joined ACUA, she has since finished her Master of Accountancy in Governmental Accounting degree and became a CIA (Certified Internal Auditor), CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), and CGFM (Certified Government Financial Manager).
Outside of ACUA, Marilyn participates in a variety of activities that set her apart as an advocate for internal audit. (The list is truly endless!) Below are just a few of the ways she has contributed to the internal audit profession outside of her work with ACUA:
  • Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Central Jersey Chapter: Academic Relations Committee Co-Chair, promoting internal audit to Rutgers faculty and students; Exam Content Writer, contributing CIA exam questions; Certification Committee Chair, helping individuals become certified and re-certified
  • Rutgers Business School Alumni Association: Student Outreach Committee Co-chair, educating business school students about the alumni association, as well as how to network and build interview skills
  • Rutgers Business School: Served as a panelist, facilitator, and volunteer for numerous student group events; guest lectured for several business school courses; mentored an accounting student; and connects with current students online
Her nominator said she “is a gifted, passionate, and driven internal audit professional, particularly in the higher education sector. She believes in the value of internal audit and the importance of knowledge sharing within our team, across institutions nation-wide, and to students—the future generation of internal auditors.”
Her efforts were recognized globally this past year when she was named as a 2019 Emerging Leader by the IIA. Although the IIA beat us to it, she is our rising star in higher education!

Wendee Shinsato, Director of Audit Analytics, Operations, & Quality Assurance

Wendee has been an ACUA member for 12 years. Her list of accomplishments include:
  • Serving as the Director and a member of the ACUA Audit and Accounting Principles Committee. Over the past four years, she organized meetings, created the committee’s SharePoint site, analyzed ACUA member surveys, co-authored a Journal article, and helped keep the ACUA membership aware of industry changes via “In Case You Missed It” articles in our newsletter and webpage. 
  • Writing two Kick Starters for Post Award Administration and Research Compliance. Both of these Kick Starters will be beneficial for our ACUA membership, as research continues to be hot topic.  
  • Creating and publishing an article to add to the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) website. The article gave a quick example of kick starters aimed at getting risk officers to join ACUA.
  • Collaborating with her committee members to put together a survey with NACUBO, as well as co-authoring the Journal article discussing the survey’s results, "What Business Officers Wish Their Internal Auditors Knew." 
  • Agreeing to attend the NACUBO conference at the last minute when a fellow ACUA member was unable to go. She plans to continue her collaboration with NACUBO to continue helping ACUA members out.
  • Receiving a gold medal for the CIA exam (the highest achievement award) and was recognized as a high exam scorer by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for the CPA exam! 
Her nominator stated, “While she has been involved and engaged with ACUA for a number of years, this past year she has really stepped up her contributions to ACUA. She is wonderful to work with and she is really committed to providing meaningful resources for our membership. I believe that she really represents the future of ACUA; I hope to see her take on even more leadership roles in the future.”

Awards Committee

The Awards Committee members had the privilege of reviewing many outstanding nominations this year and the difficult job of selecting those to be honored. Those eligible for ACUA awards include all present or former professional internal audit employees of regular member institutions, except for current elected officers and board members. Elected officers and board members are eligible three years after their term expires.
The committee would like to thank all of the ACUA members who took the time to recognize the contributions and service of their colleagues. The annual nomination process occurs each summer, so we encourage you all to be on the lookout and participate again next year!
For a list of previous award recipients, see the ACUA Awards website at https://acua.org/About-ACUA/Member-Awards.
The 2020 Awards Committee consisted of Toni Stephens, The University of Texas at Dallas; Laura Buchhorn, The University of Texas at San Antonio; Marion Candrea, Rutgers University; Doug Horr, Vanderbilt University; Kara Kearney-Saylor, Buffalo University; Vijay Patel, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning; Michelle Saxon, Murray State University.

About the Author

Toni Stephens

Toni is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor; she also has certification in Risk Management Assurance. Toni currently serves as the Chief Audit Executive at The University of Texas -Dallas.  She received her...
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Toni Stephens

Toni is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor; she also has certification in Risk Management Assurance. Toni currently serves as the Chief Audit Executive at The University of Texas -Dallas.  She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Toni has more than 25 years’ internal auditing experience at The University of Texas at Dallas. Prior to joining the university, she worked for the Texas State Auditor’s Office.

Professionally active, Toni serves locally and nationally within several organizations. Toni is a past President of the Association of College & University Auditors (ACUA), an international association of 600 higher education institutions from the United States, Canada, and abroad. She has served in many roles within ACUA: Vice President, Board Member-at-Large, Professional Education Committee chair, the volunteer appreciation director, and the national conferences director. She was the recipient of ACUA’s Excellence in Service Award in 2006. Toni was a Board member of the Dallas Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), chaired the Certified Internal Auditor Program, and held several key committee leadership positions. She is an Advisory Board member for the UT Dallas Center for Internal Auditing Excellence and also was on the Board of Directors for the Texas Association of College and University Auditors. She also works with and mentors internal audit students on audits to provide them with actual audit experience.

Ms. Stephens’ areas of expertise are:

  •  Adding Value as an Internal Auditor
  • Audit Evidence
  • Auditing Research
  • Auditing Auxiliaries
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Developing and Creating Continuing Education for Internal Auditors
  • Higher Education Auditing
  • Internal Controls
  • Leadership
  • Quality Assurance Reviews
  • Internal Auditing Standards
  • Best Practices in Audit Committees
  • Reconciliations and Financial Controls
  • Risk Assessment and Audit Planning
  • Understanding Business Processes
  • Working with Students in an Internal Auditing Environment

2020 ACUAdemy Awards
ACUA Awards Presented at AuditCon 2019