Alumni play critical roles as staff members at Michigan State University, providing a backbone for the institution in its yearly operations. Shea Bryant, CPA and manager of financial reporting for the Office of Finance, is a prime example. Although Shea has been a member of staff since 2018, he has been a Spartan for much longer, as a two-time alumnus of the Broad College of Business. He and his team serve the vitally important role of publishing the MSU audited financials — a comprehensive report of the university’s revenue and expenditures.
“Shea is a huge asset to the MSU finance team and an exemplar in demonstrating a high level of professionalism in the stewardship of institutional resources,” Lisa Frace, senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, said. “Over the past five fiscal cycles, Shea’s unique skills, leadership and experience have proven integral to reporting MSU’s strong financials year after year.”
Further distinguishing himself, Bryant was recognized in 2023 by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and received the Daniel D. Robinson Accounting Award for his contributions to the implementation of NACUBO guidance on tuition discounting for public institutions.
Born in Lake Jackson, Texas, Bryant and his family came to settle in Midland, Michigan, through his father’s career as an accountant at Dow. Following in his father’s footsteps, Bryant decided to be an accountant himself. MSU was his school of choice, and he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s in accounting as a Spartan before joining the workforce.
“Coming out, I had a few options. I did an internship at Dow Chemical and had an option to stay in Midland or join the Big Four (PWC, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte). However, I also had an offer to stay in East Lansing and join a firm called Plante Moran. I loved MSU, I knew that they did the MSU audit, so I tried for that one.” Once at Plante Moran, Bryant built a relationship with MSU as he audited the institution’s financials each year.
Eventually, in 2018, the opportunity came for him to return to MSU, and Bryant jumped at the chance. As the manager of financial reporting today, Bryant leads a team that includes seven skilled CPAs, all tasked with managing the healthy financial reporting of the many units across the university. Each year, this effort culminates in the audited financials report, the official financial results of the university.
“It’s a huge effort and involves anyone that touches our financial reporting system,” he said.
Bryant and his team serve as the highest-level look within the university throughout the year, reviewing major trends and making sense of the total results. Once it comes time to form the annual report, his team works with the many different reporting units across the university to accumulate the total financial outlook each year. From there, the reports are subject to a thorough external review process, requiring approval from the Board of Trustees. Upon approval, the reports are finally published for the public to view.
“As a nonprofit public university, our stakeholders are the public, grantors, the government, among others,” Bryant continued, emphasizing the importance of the results. “[The reports] are designed to show users how our resources are utilized annually and demonstrate our stewardship of these resources as we meet our mission. … One can see within the financials the significant expenditures on instruction, research and public service that improve our world.”
Bryant greatly values the experience that his journey back to MSU has given him. “Speaking in public used to scare me, so when I started at Plante Moran, I knew I would have to address that, and I began to present to new hires. So, when I came here, it’s never been scary for me.”
Those skills come in handy to this day, as Bryant’s position requires presentations of complicated financial information. “I was fortunate to join a veteran team that welcomed me with open arms and made my acclimation to the university very smooth,” he said. At each point throughout his journey, Bryant exhibited true Spartan values as he applied his passion for the university to his financial work.
For words of advice to those interested in the higher education side of financial management, Bryant said, “Higher education accounting is unique, especially at a large campus like ours, because these are effectively small cities. There are opportunities to be a highly technical accountant centrally (i.e., my team), a unit-specific accountant that effectively runs its own business, a budget-focused accountant, an accountant dedicated to managing capital assets… the list goes on.”