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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Christopher Pollard. Christopher has worked in financial aid for 14 years — beginning as a student customer service representative in the financial aid office at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga during his freshman year of college. His dedication to helping open the doors to higher education for more students, however, began even before his first job, when he served as a peer mentor at a local high school in Tennessee assisting high school seniors with the FAFSA and college admissions applications. "Like myself, many of the high school seniors I worked with were going to be first generation college students, and being only a couple years older than them, I wasn't far removed from what they were going through and could share with them my recent experiences navigating the college process," Christopher said.
Christopher has served on the Local Arrangements Task Force for the 2016 NASFAA National Conference, and was part of the inaugural class of NASFAA's Diversity Leadership Program (DLP) — which led him to join the DE-DC-MD Association of Financial Aid Administrators executive board as the federal relations chair. Christopher also served on NASFAA's Enhancing Loan Counseling Task Force and is currently NASFAA's Graduate/Professional Caucus Chair.
What is one thing working in financial aid has taught you?
Working in financial aid has taught me a lot, but if I had to identify one thing, it would be that customer service is key. In our profession, it's easy to become cynical after doing it for so many years — especially if you start out in the profession as a young, whippersnapper Federal Work-Study student. I've heard horror stories from friends and students I've counseled who've said their time with me was nothing like counseling they've received at other schools. A good financial aid administrator realizes that even if they've explained the process for the one millionth time, they're doing life-changing work — making the impossible possible for students who may not have resources to access higher education.
What's one thing you love about working at GWU Law School?
The people at GWU Law School are an incredible group to work for, and with. The faculty, staff, and students have been one of the most pleasant parts about working for GWU and it has only gotten better with time. Before starting at GWU Law School I thought I would have to deal with egos, especially given its prestige, but my experience has been the exact opposite. The GWU Law School community has been a constant highlight of my time here.
What is one thing you wish you could change about the financial aid system?
The elimination of loan origination fees and interest rates!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I see myself still advocating on behalf of financial aid recipients across the country — fighting for affordable access to higher education. I consider myself a lifer in the field, so I'm sure I'll still be a financial aid administrator.
What celebrity would you like to meet for a cup of coffee?
I would love to meet Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) for a cup of coffee. She's one of my favorite U.S. senators.
What was the best vacation you ever took and why?
The best vacation was a trip to Europe with the Chamber Singers choir at UT-Chattanooga. It wasn't really a vacation, per se, but I got a chance to visit the birthplace of Mozart, the Vienna Opera House, and see where "The Sounds of Music" was filmed. It was my first trip overseas and definitely a trip to remember.
What is a goal you've set for yourself for the upcoming year?
A personal goal I've set for myself this year is to learn the basics of Portuguese. A friend from college owns a travel company and is planning a New Year's Eve trip to Salvador, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I'm hoping to learn enough to at least be able to comprehend the language. I've looked into Babbel and Rosetta Stone for starters.
How would your 10-year-old self react to what you do?
My 10-year-old self would be proud of how far I've come, all of the milestones and accomplishments. He'd probably be disappointed that I'm not a computer whiz working at Microsoft, but he'd be pleased with the work and good deeds I've done.
Want to say hello to Christopher or reply to something he 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 email@example.com.
Publication Date: 3/19/2020