Title: Chief financial officer

Age: 48


Jakki Edwards brings both management expertise and a commitment to education and the arts to her new position as chief financial officer at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.

Edwards said she is focusing on operational efficiencies at the privately owned college to ensure proper use of resources. Edwards has assisted in consolidating administrative workspace to cut building costs. She also has helped assign funds to increase student support services such as counseling, housing, and internship and employment opportunities. She also is developing benchmarks for class sizes and other metrics to support the college’s continued financial health.

“Quality of education is paramount and our mission needs to be the driving factor,” Edwards said. “We need to find a balance where the number of students in a class is maximized while still delivering a quality education.”

Joining McNally Smith marks a return to higher education for Edwards, who has more than 20 years of financial management experience. She spent nine years as director of administrative and financial services at the Art Institutes, serving as the chief financial officer for the Minneapolis and Seattle campuses. More recently, she worked as director of finance and operations at Ampere, an association management company in St. Paul, where she was responsible for the financial management, reporting and leadership of more than 25 nonprofit organizations.

McNally Smith, which has 630 students, offers degree and diploma programs in music performance, music technology, music business, composition and songwriting. The faculty includes industry professionals and academics.


Q: How do you balance management expertise and a commitment to creativity and the arts?

A: I believe that these items are intricately entwined. Our mission is to “prepare students for a fulfilling future in music.” … If we focus entirely on the bottom line and the profitability of the organization, we are forgoing our commitment to the mission. When we focus on our core business, and our students, the financial health will follow.


Q: What appealed to you about this opportunity at McNally Smith?

A: I felt that McNally Smith has plenty of growth opportunities and with a privately owned college you are better able to influence change on the campus.


Q: What are some of your goals?

A: My primary goal is to maximize the operational efficiencies. We need to position ourselves as a leader in contemporary music education, and to do this, we need to ensure we are using every dollar effectively.