Loyola University of Chicago
Being the second oldest in a family of 10 kids, Daniel Matamoros knows firsthand what it's like to have to come up with creative solutions for allocating financial resources. In his everyday counseling, he is able to apply his own experience making budget restrictions work in order to pursue his higher education goals to help manage unique pathways for students.
"I intentionally brought myself into this field in order to provide the type of support and services which I myself sorely needed when I went through my own undergraduate experience and which my siblings continue to struggle with," Daniel said.
Daniel's route to the financial aid profession began when he introduced himself to the bursar's office at the University of Dallas. It was here during his undergraduate work that the financial aid team encouraged him to work a Federal-Work-Study job at the registrar's office and apply for scholarships. For Daniel, this experience opened his eyes to the importance of support networks within an institution in order to be able to make dreams, like studying abroad, come to fruition.
As a first-generation Latine individual having now worked in financial aid for six years, as a permanent resident, Daniel has found himself in an interesting position when it comes to the advocacy work he is able to participate in.
"Since I am not able to vote for policy changes, I believe that I have an important perspective/outlook on what advocacy work and community engagement looks like beyond the typical political process," Daniel said.
With a litany of volunteer and leadership experience focusing on advocacy, professional development, and regulatory issues through the MASFAA region, Daniel has provided key support for legislative initiatives, conferences, and committees.
Even with all of this experience, Daniel said that he still struggles with a sense of imposter syndrome and with a sense of not feeling quite welcomed at the table, but continues to persevere to ensure that others have their voices heard.
"I continue to feel like my presence in this space has required for me to forge my own path, in the initiatives I am passionate about, and in my volunteering for events, committees, and panels, that have enabled me to ensure that my voice and my struggles are used in service of my community as needed," Daniel said.
As a member of NASFAA's Diversity Leadership Program, Daniel hopes to "articulate and advocate for the support of students who continue to experience hardship after hardship based on a system that was created without them at the forefront of policy and decision-making."
Learn more about Daniel in the brief Q&A below.
Who is your favorite historical figure, and why?
Antoni Gaudi. He was the Catalan architect responsible for such masterpieces as the Sagrada Familia and the Park Güell (to name a few). He is my favorite historical figure not only because he created incredible public works that could be enjoyed by everyone (regardless of socioeconomic status), but also because these works were intricately inspired by the beauty and effervescence and transcendent qualities of nature.
How have you seen diversity in higher education change since you began your career?
I am appreciative of how diversity and representation are no longer just buzzwords that colleges and policymakers use to gain political leverage. I believe the most important recent change regarding diversity in higher education includes the willingness of certain stakeholders to provide spaces where individuals from minoritized communities not only get a seat at the table, but also now have the power to enact change in a meaningful way.
The benefits stemming from these changes have been seen more broadly via the introduction and financial support that institutions have made to bolster initiatives for financial wellness and mental health initiatives that support diverse students who enter educational spaces without the same resources as other traditional students. Similarly, advocacy efforts requesting aid eligibility for undocumented students and the removal of the Selective Service requirement (which negatively impacts trans-identifying and other students) have been staples of diversity work in higher education spaces, which I see continue to grow in engagement in the future.
What are some of your life goals?
As of today, I hope to be able to successfully defend my dissertation in 2023 in order to earn my Ph.D. in higher education from Loyola University Chicago.
From there, I hope to continue to develop in my own career in financial aid, with the hope of using my experience and knowledge to further engage and assist my community through advocacy and community engagement efforts. Being able to leverage that into potential policy and rulemaking work would be ideal, but we will see what the future holds in that front.
How does your perspective impact how you do your job and approach financial aid?
I believe that my positionality and identity as a first-generation, bilingual, Hispanic, male professional in a support role in higher education has impacted how I see and conduct myself at work.
Particularly, my perspective has allowed me to see the importance of going beyond just the mere day-to-day operations of our office, recognizing the importance of making myself present, and conducting advocacy and outreach work with local minority-serving community organizations in Chicago that provide information and support to families of minoritized backgrounds.
Additionally, I have done my best to continue to learn and collect resources — such as contacts from external scholarship organizations and other alternative support systems — that allow me to provide counseling, which minimizes our typical over-reliance on loans as a financing tool in higher education. So many people in our communities are loan-aversive (for good reasons), so using my experience engaging with these communities to then focus on finding supplemental assistance options has granted me a unique approach to conducting my work in financial aid.
Any hidden talents?
I love to cook. In fact, I am obsessed with trying new recipes and finding new recipe books to continue to hone my skills in the kitchen. Being able to use this as a way to combine my love for art and my love for hosting and providing a warm and welcoming environment to my family and friends is a sincere joy.
What do you do when you're not working?
Usually I am reading, spending quality time with my spouse and children, painting with watercolors, or planning my next visit to a karaoke bar!
Publication Date: 1/21/2022