University of Rhode Island appoints Abby Benson vice president for administration and finance

Benson, who joined the University in 2021, is an accomplished higher education leader with deep Rhode Island ties and broad public higher education experience

KINGSTON, R.I. — March 27, 2024 — The University of Rhode Island has named Abby Benson vice president for administration and finance. A Rhode Island native, Benson is an accomplished education leader with a proven commitment to public universities.

Benson has served on the University’s senior leadership team since December 2021, when she joined URI as chief of staff and strategic advisor to the president. She was named interim vice president for administration and finance in May. Her appointment follows a national search.

“Abby is an experienced higher education leader with a proven career as a strategic thought partner and steward of public resources,” said URI President Marc Parlange. “During her time as interim vice president, and before that as chief of staff and strategic advisor, she has been instrumental in enhancing administrative effectiveness and increasing community engagement across the University.”

As vice president, Benson will serve as chief financial officer of the university and lead a team of more than 480 staff members across a range of administrative areas, including enterprise risk management; facilities operations and capital projects; financial operations; human resources; public safety; and strategic procurement. She also will share management with the provost of the financial strategy and planning and information technology services departments.

“It has been such an honor over the past year to work with many of the dedicated staff who are so critical to supporting URI’s teaching, research, and service missions,” Benson said. “I look forward to what we can accomplish together as we work to power the university of the future.”

As chief of staff, Benson simultaneously managed several administrative, budget, communications, and government relations functions. She also helped lead the development of the University’s current 10-year strategic plan, Focus URI.

A native Rhode Islander, Benson says she returned to the state, in part, because of her belief in URI’s land- and sea-grant missions and service to the state of Rhode Island. 

She has deep experience in public higher education, having served in roles of increasing responsibility at the University of Colorado for nearly a decade. As part of the CU system, including at its flagship campus in Boulder, Benson served as associate vice president for government relations, assistant vice chancellor for research and innovation, and associate vice chancellor for strategic resources and support. In the latter role, she helped oversee CU Boulder’s budget of more than $1.8 billion and supported strategy planning and execution for key business, facilities, IT, communications, equity and compliance, and government and community relations functions.

Prior to her time in Colorado, Benson served in the Washington, D.C., office of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, helping to lead a team that advocated for MIT’s federal priorities. In that role, she also served as president of the Science Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of more than 50 research universities dedicated to sustaining federal investment in scientific research.

Benson is a military veteran, having served for nearly a decade in the United States Coast Guard, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. Her service included time at Marine Safety Office Boston, as well as in the Office of the Assistant Commandant for Operations and the Office of Budget and Programs.

Benson began her career as an earth scientist, supporting environmental assessment and remediation efforts at U.S. Navy and U.S. Army facilities, including several Superfund sites. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geology and geophysics from Yale University and master’s degrees in transportation and logistics from MIT.