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 William R. Burke. William is the director of financial aid at the University of Scranton, where he has worked for over 35 years in various financial aid roles. He was first introduced to the world of financial aid as an intern during his senior year of college. At the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) State Grant Program in Harrisburg, William gained valuable experience that he attributes to helping him land his first full-time job as coordinator of financial aid at Lackawanna College. From there, he went on to serve as assistant director of financial aid at Wilkes University alongside 2000-01 NASFAA National Chair Rachael Lohman. He then became associate director at the University of Scranton, his first role at the school. "I'm celebrating my 41st year as a financial aid professional, in a year that has been my most challenging due to COVID-19," he said.
Throughout his career, William has served on several NASFAA committees, including the National Awards Committee and Need Analysis Committee. Additionally, William participated in a focus group for NASFAA's research on the Federal Work-Study program and has moderated several panels at NASFAA national conferences over the years.
What is one thing you love about working at the University of Scranton?
I am blessed working at the University of Scranton for over 35 years. Our university is committed through its Jesuit tradition to the individual care of the person — something I have aspired to and have asked my staff to as well. Together, we strive to be men and women for others, which is true for some many financial aid professionals. The University of Scranton has allowed me to be a door-opener, not a gatekeeper, to those striving to both obtain an education and promote social justice throughout their lives.
What motivates you to work hard?
I'm motivated to work hard realizing how unimportant I am, but how the work my staff and I do helps so many students achieve their dreams. Often, measurement of success is calculated by dollars, but the work we financial aid professionals do to enhance the quality of life for students, their families, and their communities far outweighs monetary success.
My favorite thing about my job is:
No brainer — meeting face-to-face with students.
What is one thing you wish you could change about the financial aid system?
The major change I would encourage we work on is expediency and availability to remove as many barriers to students in obtaining the financial resources needed to accomplish their educational goals.
What message would you like to send your colleagues in financial aid during these uncertain times?
Stay calm and continue to strive toward assisting your students, but with the realization that circumstances prohibit you from doing as much as you desire. In my 40-plus years in financial aid, COVID-19 has been my greatest professional challenge, but as with other lesser challenges, both effort and time will allow a return to normalcy.
What has the COVID-19 outbreak taught you about yourself and/or your team?
The recent COVID-19 experience has made me realize how important my Boy Scout training to "Be Prepared" was. I doubt any of us anticipated the challenges we are now facing. What allowed me and my staff to continue providing service to our students and their families is commitment to continual training, much through NASFAA and PASFAA.
As you are working from home, what does your workspace look like?
I'm bucking the trend with regard to expert advice on how to best work at home. Instead of setting up a singular work space, I float around my home, both inside and out to break up my work day. I normally stand for Zoom meetings and allow my dog to occasionally sit on my lap to calm my nerves at other times. When working on campus, I often swam during lunch, but now my wife, dog, and I take a walk instead. It helps me unwind and prepare for afternoon challenges.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
I would like to take a cross-country train trip going different routes to and from. I guess this may not be the best time to book.
What's the best thing that has happened to you recently?
Not an event, but the realization of how important my family is to me, even though we need to physical distance ourselves from each other during this crisis.
Want to say hello to William 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: 5/21/2020