The National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP) has announced that the University of St. Thomas, represented by Karen Harthorn, associate vice president for procurement services, is the winner of the association’s Annual Recognition Award for Excellence in Procurement for 2011.

The award was presented at the opening ceremony of the association’s annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. NAEP is the nationwide organization focused exclusively on procurement in higher education, and this award is a special honor recognizing the entire Purchasing and Payables Department on the basis of its contribution to the mission of its institution. Recognition of this achievement was based on scope and complexity of a specific achievement, technological leadership, benefits to the institution and demonstration of excellence and professionalism.

“Our congratulations and thanks are owed to Karen and her colleagues,” said Dr. Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “The current environment in higher education places tremendous pressure on institutional expenses and cost of attendance. If we can save money through more efficient and productive purchasing practices, it benefits all of us and our students.”

The changes to purchasing processes have impacted the entire St. Thomas community. A team led by Harthorn and representing various operating divisions was involved in making changes that enhanced and improved the financial performance of the university with the use of online requisition, shopping, ordering and bidding systems. In addition, her team led the development and implementation of a preferred vendor program and travel-management program, including the use of an online booking system.

“Karen’s personal leadership and collaborative approach to implement these changes has been masterful and the favorable impacts in university cost reduction have been substantial,” said Mark Vangsgard, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer. “A great many people changed the way they did things, which may have created some extra work. They learned new software, stepped outside their comfort zones and helped the institution to remain competitive and affordable in these challenging economic times. The faculty and staff stepped up to save over $2 million per year, and we are appreciative of all the efforts and cooperation.”