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 protected].
Director of Financial Aid
Community College of Denver
Meet Theresa Lavin. She began her career in the profession as a financial aid administrator at the University of Denver before moving to the Community College of Denver as an Enrollment Services Specialist. From there, she worked her way to becoming director of financial aid, a role she has held for five years.
Theresa said she loves working in financial aid at the community college level in particular because colleagues feel a sense of purpose in helping the school work towards the mission of being an open-access institution that welcomes diversity and inclusion.
"We strive to serve the needs of the students in the greater Denver community and we share a common goal," she said. "I've been with the Community College of Denver (CCD) for more than 15 years now, and in that time, I have developed almost a second family."
While she originally did not see herself in financial aid for her career, Theresa said over the years she has developed the skills needed and enjoys the constant evolution of the profession.
"It's definitely not where I envisioned myself going but I am happy to be here, and it's a career that gives me a lot of fulfillment," she said.
Theresa is actively involved with the Colorado Association of Financial Aid Administrators (CAFAA), where she most recently served as treasurer. She has also been on the CAFAA conference committee several times and previously held the role of secretary.
What do you find the most rewarding and fulfilling about your work?
I love the network of colleagues that I've built over the years, not just within CCD, but the entire Colorado Community College System. We have a system here in Colorado with 13 community colleges and we routinely get together to talk about compliance, federal regulations, best practices, and all kinds of things within our state.
What's one thing you'd like to change about the financial aid system?
I would remove the barriers that exist for undocumented students and open the doors of Title IV eligibility to dreamers [students in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)]. In an ideal world I would open the doors of Pell Grants, SEOG, and loans to undocumented students.
What's been the biggest challenge during the pandemic and what has helped you the most getting through it?
NASFAA published an article not too long ago by financial aid director Philip Hawkins called "Just Keep Swimming." I know that article is a few years old but I often think about that article because it really hit home with me. Financial aid is a profession where we're just continuously swimming against the tide of moving federal regulations and finding colleagues that you can collaborate with makes a big difference. Having a financial aid buddy to reach out to and commiserate with really can make a difference.
What's one thing you are looking forward to the most in the upcoming year?
I'm excited to see the FAFSA simplifications. It's exciting and a little scary at the same time, but I. Improving the data transfers from the IRS is important so that we can ask fewer questions on the FAFSA so the form can hopefully be less of a barrier.
Is there any one change that is keeping you up at night?
The federal stimulus funds and changing guidance last year was overwhelming. We didn't even know from one day to the next if we were truly following what we were supposed to be doing.
What's one thing you couldn't function without?
My computer station has three monitors, and I've got my ergonomic keyboard and my mouse. I like to have the comfort of just having my work station set up. I can't function without my dual monitors.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
I've always wanted to go hang gliding. I have done parachuting but I want to try hang gliding next. We live next to Golden, Colorado where they have hang gliders out all the time. When you drive through Golden and you can see people hang gliding all the time so it's something I want to try.
What's your idea of a perfect day?
Spending time with family and friends. I have a very large family — five brothers and three sisters and they're my best friends. So getting an opportunity to spend time with my family again now that we're all immunized. It's been great to be able to see them again.
Want to say hello to Theresa or reply to something she 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 protected].
Publication Date: 8/4/2021