When Cheri B. Spence (M.S.'08/B) enrolled at VCU to get her master’s in information systems, she was already the chief information officer for International Mission Board, a large global nonprofit headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.
Spence, who has been married for 35 years and is the mother of three and grandmother of two, says that for much of her life, going to grad school to update her computer science degree from 1981 took a back seat to getting her children through college. She adds, “Once they were launched, it was my time!”
She soaked up everything she could during her time at VCU. “Every class I attended contained information that helped me move forward in my role as CIO,” she says. “I was able to apply concepts on a weekly basis.”
The year after she graduated, Spence was named global CIO for International Mission Board and spent the next eight years traveling extensively to work with the organization’s IT teams overseas. She revamped the nonprofit’s infrastructure, enhanced security and escalated critical systems to the cloud.
In 2016, she retired from International Mission Board and went to work as global CIO at ChildFund International, also located in Richmond. That organization was midway through replacing a system that affected its software in 25 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas and the work of 11 associated organizations in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Spence steered this project to success. Her secret? She accomplished the work, she says “by maintaining positivity and confidence in the face of tough leadership challenges and encouraging organization-wide cooperation, trust and transparency.”
Through it all, she maintains connections to VCU. She is an adjunct professor in the School of Business, mentors graduate students and serves on the VCU Information Systems Advisory Board.