Sharon Kurek, who currently serves as executive director of the Office of Audit, Risk, and Compliance at Virginia Tech, has been named the university’s vice president of audit, risk, and compliance and chief risk officer.

In this expanded role, Kurek will continue to report to the Compliance, Audit, and Risk Committee of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and have dual administrative reporting to university President Tim Sands and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring.

This change signals the university’s commitment to be well positioned and prepared for both risk and opportunity in today’s dynamic landscape of higher education with an aligned and well-connected risk-assessment model informing university leadership at all levels of operation.

“Sharon’s leadership and ability to effectively manage risks and take full advantage of emerging opportunities has helped Virginia Tech achieve strategic objectives and strengthen its core mission of teaching, research and engagement missions,” said Sharon Brickhouse Martin, chair of the Board of Visitors’ Compliance, Audit, and Risk Committee and president of Brickhouse Martin Healthcare Engineering in Centreville, Virginia. “Given the unpredictable nature of higher education today, Virginia Tech’s success in managing risk is critical to our future.”

Since joining the university as director of internal audit in 2008, Kurek has progressively held more responsibility in the audit, risk, and compliance space. Following a charge from the Board of Visitors and Sands in 2017 to develop the university’s enterprise risk management and institutional compliance programs, Kurek became executive director of the Office of Audit, Risk, and Compliance to acknowledge the value of an integrated view of risk and what it can bring to strategic decision-making across the university.

In a recent announcement on changes to align university operations for enhanced service to the university, Sands said Kurek’s experience and vision will support Virginia Tech’s success in a complex higher education environment.

The decision to create a chief risk officer and distinguish the leadership roles for internal audit and institutional compliance followed an external review of the department. That review included input from members of the Board of Visitors and more than 40 interviews with campus leaders and stakeholders and incorporated expert knowledge of best practices across peer institutions.

“Aligning risk and strategy at an institutional level will provide appropriate focus and executive support to ensure an understanding of strategic priorities, emerging risks, and management decision-making,” said Kurek. “An integrated audit, risk, and compliance function allows the university to develop and communicate a view of risk to management and the board that is comprehensive and prioritized. Further, this new alignment will support leadership’s understanding of risks and risk mitigation and will allow management to make more sophisticated risk-informed decisions and provide more effective oversight for the board.”

Prior to joining Virginia Tech in 2008, Kurek worked at the University of California, Berkeley, serving in a number of roles with increasing responsibility in the audit and risk management functions. She began her professional career at the Georgia Department of Audits conducting external audits of state entities, including colleges and universities for the State of Georgia. She received her MBA from Virginia Tech, a bachelor’s degree from Mercer University, and holds professional certifications in public accountancy, compliance and ethics, and fraud.

With this organizational change, the three functions of the Office of Audit, Risk, and Compliance’s will be further clarified.

Internal audit

Justin Noble has been named Virginia Tech’s chief audit executive and will be responsible for leading, managing, and organizing all aspects of the university internal audit function. He will report to the Compliance, Audit, and Risk Committee and administratively to the vice president of audit, risk, and compliance and chief risk officer.

Noble came to Virginia Tech in 2019 as director of internal audit and has placed high priority on building relationships across campus. A certified internal auditor, he has worked in higher education for 15 years and in internal audit for more than 20 years. He is a past president of the Association of College and University Auditors and has published articles on higher education audit in the College and University Auditor and EDUCAUSE Review. Noble received dual master’s degrees from Texas Tech University.

Institutional compliance

Suzanne Griffin, who joined the Virginia Tech community in September 2022, has been named the university’s first chief compliance officer. Griffin is responsible for leading the university’s institutional compliance program and coordination of the distributed processes that support universitywide compliance.

Her career includes more than 25 years of in-house legal, executive leadership, and management experience including domestic and international matters. Most recently, she served as a member of the executive leadership team of a major branded poultry processing company as senior vice president, general counsel, and chief risk officer, with responsibility for the company’s legal affairs, workplace safety, health, environmental, sustainability, and corporate governance.

Griffin received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law, and is a certified compliance and ethics professional. 

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