CAMPUS Closeup: Jill Compton
The word “audit” might conjure up some trepidation, particularly when it appears on a notification letter from the IRS. But internal auditors play a vital role in business and higher education. They are employees who operate objectively to ensure compliance with state and federal laws, examine internal controls and identify ways to improve operational efficiencies. Jill Compton spent more than 18 years in that capacity with the former D&N (Detroit & Northern) Bank. She was hired as Northern’s internal auditor in 2007.
“I always wanted to work at the university and that opportunity presented itself when Matt Riipi retired,” she said. “Higher education is different than banking because our customers are students and our product is education, not interest dividends. It’s also broader. Banks don’t have sports teams or public safety. The goal of any internal auditor is to make sure controls are in place that prevent bad things from happening or detect bad things after they happen. It’s not only about budgets. It’s looking at any area we can be more efficient and effective.”
Compton reports regularly to the NMU Board of Trustees. She summarizes her work since the last meeting and updates trustees on the progress managers have made correcting issues that surfaced in her review of their respective areas. Compton’s work is also subject to review—by peers at other universities who offer helpful feedback and by an external auditor who analyzes her work annually and reports back to the NMU Board of Trustees. She is a member of the president’s council, the president’s leadership team and the president’s committee on diversity.
“The biggest challenge of my job is the complexity of information technology support. We have wonderful technology; it’s a matter of finding the right people to help me when I am working on an audit,” Compton said. “The most rewarding aspect is the students. I love the energy you can feel on campus when they come back in the fall and I love working with them as employees or interns. I try to match students’ academic interests with the work I’m doing to maximize their experience. For example, having IT majors help with a blast of audits related to technology. One aviation technology student got his foot in the door for a job at the airport in part because of his experience in internal audit. Aviation mechanics are highly regulated.”
Outside of her office, Compton served as the adviser to the Student United Way organization and as a mentor with the Student Leader Fellowship Program. She has led SkillBuilder workshops that educate students about credit.
“My advice is that they get a credit card only for the purpose of paying their phone bill. They can arrange it so the bill payment is automatically charged to their credit card and then their checking account is automatically deducted to cover the credit card balance. Once they set that up initially, they can put away their credit card until graduation. When they’re done, they will have a great credit score, but no incurred credit card debt."
Compton is a native of Ashland, Wis., and met her husband, Jim, at Michigan Tech. He is a hydrology engineer for the City of Marquette. The couple has four children: Ellie, a pre-pharmacy major at NMU; Asa, who is a senior in high school and dual enrolled at NMU; and two middle school students, Maggie and Seth.
“I’m the quintessential soccer mom,” she said. “I got a class E license to coach 9-12 year olds several years ago. My kids are older now, but we still spend several weekends out of town with travel soccer.”
When not on the road, Compton enjoys cooking with ingredients purchased at the farmer’s market or harvested from her own garden. She also trades recipes with dining services employees and has changed the menu for her family’s upcoming Thanksgiving celebration based on their suggestions. And her crowning achievement this summer was jumping off Black Rocks for the first time.
“My kids got me to do it. They went first and because it took me a while to work up the courage, they were chilling in the water below—literally. But they really whooped it up when I finally made the leap.”