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 email@example.com.
Executive Director of Financial Assistance Operations
St. Petersburg College
Meet Wayne Kruger. Wayne has worked in financial aid for 20 years and got his start in higher education as a Federal Work-Study student in the admissions office during his undergraduate years at Sacred Heart University. He then found his way to financial aid at the University of South Florida while working toward a graduate degree in student affairs. As a first-generation college student, Wayne saw purpose in the financial aid profession, saying he "knew personally how important that aspect of higher education was to many students and I wanted to pay it forward." In addition to being the executive director of financial assistance operations at St. Petersburg College in Florida, Wayne has held several leadership positions with the Southern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SASFAA) and the Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (FASFAA).
Wayne also has a long history of participation and volunteer work with NASFAA as a member of the Standards of Excellence Review Team and as a member of several task forces and committees over the years.
What is one thing you love about working at St. Petersburg College?
Our diverse and nontraditional student population. Having vocational training, certificates, associate's degrees, and bachelor's degrees, while being open-access, we serve students from all walks of life. The experiences you see daily are ever-changing and keep you on your toes.
Is there anything in particular about the financial aid system that you wish you could change?
The slow-moving nature of federal student aid needs to change. The Higher Education Act (HEA) needs to be brought into the 21st century. Far too many rules and regulations were written for a college landscape that simply no longer exists. If we do not reimagine the way we approach aid delivery and the regulations, we will continue to delay aid and cause frustration for students and families.
What made you decide to pursue a career in financial aid? And what do you find most rewarding about your work now?
As I decided to continue to work in higher education, I decided that working in financial aid might be the most impactful position within a college. The idea of helping others navigate the finances of higher education and help others learn from my own mistakes really drew me in.
The thing I find rewarding now is the same thing that I found rewarding my first year in financial aid — seeing that next student graduate because of the assistance you gave them.
Anything you're particularly proud of professionally?
I am most proud to give back to the profession itself. I love helping students, but I also love answering questions from other professionals, sharing best practices, and working together to make things easier for us all.
What's one thing you couldn't live without?
My family of course, but a close second is the internet.
How have you maintained or achieved work/life balance amid the disruptions caused by the pandemic?
To be honest, I haven't! In the beginning it was hard. Most people that know me understand that it's hard for me to unplug. Being at home 24/7 has made it hard to know the line between work and life. But having to help a first grader with e-learning and caring for family helps me to break away from the financial aid life. Setting defined schedules and holding yourself and others to it is really the only way.
What book or TV show have you read or seen recently that you'd recommend, and why?
I cannot more highly recommend the new version of Disney's "Duck Tales." Hear me out — recently after dinner each night my family sits down and watches an episode. The show is really well done and has something for the whole family to enjoy. There are plenty of Easter eggs and throwbacks to numerous old Disney shows and characters with enough new jokes and plots to keep the kids entertained.
What's the best thing that has happened to you recently?
I have found that it's the little things that are more meaningful this year. The Zoom calls with family for special occasions, having more leftovers after Thanksgiving so that the sandwich is just a little bigger. Putting up the Christmas decorations and focusing on the little moments is what helps to bridge the gap to the next best thing.
Anything you're most looking forward to either personally or professionally as we wrap up 2020 and head into 2021?
Personally and professionally I am looking forward to the end of the pandemic, the distribution of the vaccine, and a return to as close to normal as it was before. To make up for the missed birthdays, holidays, travel, and to get our students back on track and moving forward full steam.
Is there any message you have that you'd like to share with your colleagues in the financial aid community during these uncertain times?
Be not afraid! This year may have been tough on us all and tougher on some, but the work we do each day helps people, matters, and makes a difference. Things will get better, but our role in helping others will not change. For every one complaint you get, there are thousands that are helped and grateful. Stay safe, be well, and I hope to see you all in person soon!
Want to say hello to Wayne 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication Date: 12/14/2020