MVP: Most Valuable Professional is an occasional series that features a brief Q&A with a different NASFAA member. Do you know a financial aid colleague with something interesting to say? Send the names of potential future MVPs and a short note about why you're nominating them to email@example.com.
Meet Rachelle Feldman, assistant vice chancellor and director of financial aid and scholarships at the University of California, Berkeley. Rachelle got her start in financial aid in 2000 at UC Berkeley. She had been doing financial work for non-profits in San Francisco and wanted a job with more direct service, more opportunities for growth, and less of a commute. She got a job as the assistant director of fiscal management overseeing all the reconciliations, funds projections, FISAP, and scholarship funds. "My predecessor was a dyed-in-the-wool accountant type and warned me not to turn into one of those financial aid people and not to take on any projects in the first year," Rachelle says. "I am happy to say I totally ignored his well meaning advice – in 6 months I was in charge of the verification and summer committees and I am proud to have turned into 'one of those financial aid people.'" Rachelle currently serves as chair of the Prior-Prior Year Implementation Task Force. She is also a member of the Executive Board of the Higher Education Loan Coalition and has served on NASFAA's Federal Issues Committee, Rapid Response network, and chaired its Program Integrity Task Force.
If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit?
There are so many amazing things to choose from, but barring some future time when we can eat all we want and never gain weight, I might go back to 1938 and see the Cal Bears beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl. That's history unlikely to repeat!
What was the best thing that happened to you this past week?
Not really to me, but a long time friend just qualified to the Olympics in Rio – it will be her seventh time at the Olympics and it was quite a feat to come back and qualify! A work related good thing was that I was able to find a scholarship donor willing to support a young man whose parent is ill with late stage Parkinson's disease. While we cannot solve the tragic situation for this young man, at least he will have the financial support he needs to graduate from college.
One thing working in financial aid has taught me:
Calm in the face of the unknown. There are so many things that change constantly in financial aid and so many things out of your control. If you spend too much time worrying about them instead of figuring a way through them you can get lost. I've come to embrace working in the grey area and the laws and regs that seem disconnected from the on the ground experience, while advocating for appropriate change.
If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be?
An end to the hateful, mean spirited national political dialogue; a Pell Grant that more than covers the average public university tuition; and a lifetime free plane ticket so I can travel wherever and whenever I want—preferably in first class.
One thing I would like to change about the current financial aid system is:
Reduce the number of redundant and conflicting regulations that attempt to limit aid to students and institutions that serve students well. Come up with tougher standards to ensure good schools are title IV eligible and simple basic measures of accountability schools and students can understand and follow.
What book/movie have you read/seen recently that you would recommend and why?
I usually stick mainly to fiction and I love mysteries but I really enjoyed “The Boys in the Boat” for its true life story of persistence and overcoming obstacles that life throws in front of us. As my friend Doug Severs pointed out it's a great book for financial aid folks as the main characters struggle to make ends meet while going to college.
What sound or noise do you love?
A purring cat.
What sound or noise do you hate?
Construction noise – does that ever end on a campus?
My most motivating financial aid experience was:
Helping our campus create a scholarship program for undocumented students who attended high school in California once the California law was passed allowing us to help them with funding.
Biggest financial aid change I’ve seen in my career:
I think the early FAFSA and Prior-Prior Year will be a big change and really make the application process easier for families.
My favorite thing about my job is:
Knowing I am really helping people while getting to do something different each day!
Want to say hello to Rachelle or reply to something she said? Please leave your remarks in the comments section below. You can also take a look back at our past MVPs to read any you missed the first time around.
Do you know a financial aid colleague with something interesting to say? Send the names of potential future MVPs and a short note about why you're nominating them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication Date: 4/26/2016