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.
Senior Associate Director of Financial Aid
Meet John Falleroni. After completing his undergraduate work at the University of Dayton and graduate work at Duquesne University, John began his career at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but following a roughly six-year stint at the federal agency decided to pursue a career in financial aid. Since then, John has used his past experience to amplify advocacy efforts and has been active with the Pennsylvania Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (PASFAA), serving as vice president and chair of the Government Relations Committee. John has also volunteered in NASFAA's Advocacy Network, Rapid Response Network, and State Advocacy Task Force.
"I am constantly writing letters to legislators about financial aid issues and reading about financial aid research from organizations and think tanks," he said. "Beyond advocacy, it is also thrilling when I am contacted by legislative offices for information."
What's one thing you couldn't live without?
My wife and my family.
What's one thing you always keep handy on your work desk?
A bottle of water. After not drinking enough water, I developed kidney stones a few years ago. After the pain of kidney stones, I am always drinking water now.
Do you have a favorite childhood movie?
I remember seeing "Citizen Kane" when I was 11 years old and it knocked me over because it was so good. At a young age, I was fixated on the search for Rosebud, but I knew the movie was so much more. I continued to watch it as I grew older and I noticed so much about the movie. I know I watched movies before I was 11 years old. However, after watching "Citizen Kane" I cannot think of anything else. This movie taught me how to appreciate movies. The critics are correct; it is the greatest of all time.
What made you decide to take up a career in financial aid?
I left the IRS, because you think about it like, do you want your obituary to read that you work for the IRS, or would you prefer that you worked at a university in financial aid and did good? I think it was the reason why I went to this job was that idea that, hey, I can make a difference.
What motivates you to work hard?
If you ask me what's the greatest thing about financial aid, it's that you can make a difference, you really can do good in the world and there's just nothing better! It's the most awesome and efficient profession I think that I could be a part of.
Something you're particularly proud of professionally?
I'm involved in this city of Pittsburgh initiative called the Financial Empowerment Centers. I kind of act as an advisor to that group. It's a group that does work in the community about getting their people's finances together, and I think if I wasn't in financial aid I would be able to do something like that.
How has working at the IRS helped you in your financial aid career?
I think one of the greatest professional achievements that I had is through NASFAA. I was interviewed in January of 2019 about when the IRS shutdown was occurring and there were problems with their system about how students couldn't get verification information and because they couldn't get it from the IRS.
I spoke out about that, and the next day it was in The Washington Post, and the next day, it changed. The Washington Post came back to me and asked me about this and I told them about the family that I had the great pleasure of calling back and saying, "Hey look, guess what I could do now I could get your verification done because of these changes."
Is there anything specifically about the financial aid system that you would want to see changed?
If I had a magic wand, I'd like to eliminate origination fees on Direct Loans and make verifications very rare.
What has the ongoing pandemic taught you about the financial aid system and how your team operates?
You have to be creative, and you have to respond, and you still have to deliver. The need is still there and it's greater than ever. And you've got to figure out a way to meet that need. It's a challenge and, my goodness, I think we're at the precipice of something very bad now again. Be willing to look at this challenge in the face, respect it, and be able to handle it.
Is there anything you're most looking forward to professionally as we wrap up 2020 and head into 2021?
I am back in the office now, but you have this sword hanging over your head with COVID-19. I think most of all I am looking forward to a kind of normal office day.
Are there any specific skill sets that you've been wanting to learn or recently learned?
The pandemic presents a challenge, always. Before the pandemic I was taking Chinese lessons and I really enjoyed that, and I am looking forward to getting back into taking Chinese lessons again.
In the meantime, I've been trying on Duolingo and trying to keep my Chinese language skills going, but that's one thing I want to master and one thing I'd like to learn.
Is there any message that you have, you'd like to share with your colleagues and financially during these uncertain times?
It's been said, and especially here at Duquesne: Be patient, be brave, be kind, and it'll work out. We'll be okay.
Publication Date: 11/25/2020