Department Digest - Get to know Kenechia Clarke (SPFA)

December 17, 2021

Kenechia Clarke began her career at Yale 21 years ago, while still in college. Over the years, she developed her skills and shaped her career path, transitioning from temporary employee to casual worker, to full-time staff member in the Medical School. She began in her current department in 2005 and climbed the ranks from accounting supervisor to her present role, associate director of financial management. “I thought Yale was a unique place and that I could build a career here… I like to share my journey with others in hopes of inspiring them and showing them that there is a way to expand and shift your career path within Yale if you wish to do so.”

Q. Tell us about your team and your role?

A. I’ve been in my current office for 16 years. When I first joined this team, we were known as Grant and Contract Financial Administration (GCFA), then we became the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP), and presently, though OSP still exists, we are now Sponsored Projects Financial Administration (SPFA).

My group manages all post-award functions of Research Administration. That is; grants, contracts, and federal clinical trials that the institution receives from external sponsors. We are responsible for the award setup in Workday, financial reporting, letter of credit cash draw, invoicing, receipt and application of payments, reconciliation, and ensuring compliance with sponsor (federal, state, non-federal) requirements, as well as University policies and procedures. SPFA also has a compliance group and business analytics team. We have a dual report to Finance, reporting directly to the Controller’s Office, and dotted line to the Office of Research Administration (ORA). We work closely with our sister office, OSP, which handles pre-award functions. From a day-to-day perspective, we primarily interact with department business offices/business support units, sponsors, Shared Services, General Accounting, Financial Reporting, as well as other units within Finance.

Q. What are you especially proud of?

A. What I’m most proud of is how my team has seamlessly handled the unexpected and sudden transition into remote work due to COVID-19. We didn’t skip a beat with meeting deadlines and ensuring compliance while trying to find the best ways to complete the work. We also hired several individuals while in this new work environment and have been successful in training them fully remotely, which is a feat in and of itself. The team continues working effectively together, despite being remote, to ensure that we meet our goals. We have also experienced leadership changes, and the group continues to shine even when faced with that uncertainty. 

Q. How does your team stay connected?

A. We have large team meetings twice per month and individual, smaller team meetings once a week. The SLT has regular checks-in with individual team members, especially when we can tell that they might need a boost—sometimes it’s just talking, not even about work. We make good use of Zoom and Teams, but we are certainly looking forward to doing some in-person team-building events when we are able to.

Q. What is your advice for someone starting out in their career?

A. Never give up, get out of your comfort zone, take risks, communicate and make connections, take initiative, don’t sell yourself short, and trust that good things will come. Early in my career, I remember hearing a Yale colleague speak at an event and thinking that I’d love for her to mentor me. I reached out to her, and we met to chat. After that meeting, she passed my resume along and the rest is history. Making that connection was a pivotal moment in my career. It’s so important to take initiative to make things happen rather than waiting for them to happen.

Q. Fun fact?

A. I practiced martial arts for three years, earning my green belt with two stripes (these stripes are important!). During that time, I competed in sparring competitions and presentation of forms and I have multiple first-place trophies in both.