Case Study: Group Coaching for New Directors

Fall 2019


To empower new financial aid directors with essential skills, tools, and actions needed to address the critical financial aid management areas all directors face, while being mindful of limited budgets and time.


Financial aid directors with less than one year of experience face numerous challenges in their new role. For example, they are not always prepared to balance compliance with ethical dilemmas that arise with staff, students, parents, and campus leaders; they may be ill-equipped when managing limited resources to advocate for professional development; and they may not understand the comprehensive nature of financial aid operations. 


To address the need for new director professional development, Blue Icon Advisors offered an 8-week group coaching experience to help new directors successfully grow into their position. The group was limited to 8 individuals - all new directors - from across the country and from a variety of sizes and types of institutions. 

Prior to the first session, group members completed a short survey to rank suggested topics in a priority order based on their interest and immediate need. The top three topics, compliance, professional development, and operational calendars, were covered during the 8-week period. Bethany Iñesta Bowman, director of financial aid at Lamar University, explained: "The ROI on the Blue Icon Advisors New Director Group Coaching was huge for me! Each week I learned new ways to be a better manager, aid administrator, and enrollment management professional."

Each coaching session was conducted via video conferencing software, so no travel was required and time out of the office was kept to a minimum. The weekly online meetings were complemented by homework assignments, which offered practical applications, followed by discussions and coaching guiding the exploration. One participant commented, "The weekly homework was an ideal way to encourage me to research and ask questions on my campus and of myself as a financial aid administrator. It was also a great tool that ensured I was an active participant in my learning and left me a product to use each week on the job." Marie Fico, director of student financial services at St. John Fisher College, stated: "Blue Icon Advisors New Director Group Coaching was a great support group in my first year as a director. The weekly discussions and materials touched on key topics that will help me be successful. The consultants provided positive feedback and had their own experiences that they could add to the conversation." 


"As a result of my time with the New Directors Coaching Group, in my first 4 months as a new director, I have: developed a comprehensive staff training plan with accompanying budget proposal; drafted a 2-year strategic plan for my office that will have a direct impact on student recruitment and retention; developed professional relationships with other directors that provide me with counsel and guidance; and have secured a mentor within our profession."

"When I signed up for the group, I had hoped to gain technical financial aid knowledge and maybe understand my role in the larger enrollment management community better. I am beyond pleased to say that my expectations were exceeded in every way, that each week I learned something I could implement to improve myself and my office immediately. Furthermore, the depth of knowledge the group leaders brought to the table each week and how much they shared with us was invaluable."

"[The group leaders] were great. They provided positive feedback and steered the conversations so that our time was well spent. They also had their own experiences that they could provide to the conversation. The material was laid out well and I got a lot out of the experience."


Do you want to improve your leadership skills? Learn to advocate for yourself and your staff? Do you need help with compliance? Register today for New Director Group Coaching

Publication Date: 2/11/2020

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