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
University of South Florida Health Office of Financial Aid
Meet Joan Bailey. Joan is the director of financial aid at the University of South Florida (USF) Health Office of Financial Aid. In some ways, being the director there has brought her career full circle, as she got her start in financial aid as a graduate assistant at USF. Before wrapping up her graduate studies, she was hired full-time in the office as a financial aid counselor and enjoyed the fulfillment that came from helping students and decided to turn it into her career.
“I realized that while working in financial aid, I was making an impact. I was able to guide students from the start of their financial aid process to the end of college,” she said.
She left USF for a brief stint at St. Petersburg College in 2010, returning to USF five years later to work at USF Health as the director.
Joan has been active on both state and regional financial aid association boards, most recently serving two years as the vice president for Southern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SASFAA). She is also a past vice president and past president of the Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (FASFAA). Additionally, Joan has served on several committees and task forces with FASFAA, SASFAA, and NASFAA, and is currently NASFAA’s Graduate & Professional Caucus Chair and SASFAA’s Site Selection Chair.
“I’m a strong proponent of association involvement as a means to mentor and guide the development of other financial aid professionals,” Joan said.
Learn more about Joan, her interests, and her career path in the Q&A below!
How have you experienced innovation in your career in financial aid?
The entire verification process. That process has changed so much. The documentation, the IRS data retrieval, all the things that help to make what we do a little bit easier. I've witnessed some of that and I'm looking forward to even more changes.
What do you find the most rewarding and fulfilling about your work? Or your favorite thing about your job?
The satisfaction you get from seeing a student that you’ve helped [learn to] navigate the financial aid arena as well as navigate education in general. Another thing is being very involved in associations. That's my way of mentoring and giving back to the professionals alongside me.
Is there anything in particular about the financial aid system that you wish you could change?
I wish they would finally get to the point where they could come up with some way to simplify the repayment plans. I know there is a lot of talk about that. I also try to advocate for loan subsidies for graduate/professional students.
What's something you wish everyone in higher education knew about financial aid?
We know that admissions brings students in, but if the financial aid folks don't do what they're supposed to do, you don't retain them. They don’t get to graduation. That’s what I wish folks in higher ed understood. Financial aid retains students and gets them to graduation — and sometimes aids in their decision to attend as well.
Do you have any recommendations for people just getting started in the field?
I would say to anyone starting out that financial aid is a unique profession. It’s very family-oriented, meaning all the professionals within the profession are like family. We speak the same language, we understand each other, and someone is always available to help you. It’s one big network.
What's one thing you couldn’t live without?
I love to cook. I love to try out new recipes. That's something that I do and I find that relaxing. So I would say my kitchen and just cooking in general. I like entertaining friends and cooking Jamaican foods for them.
Anything you've learned in the last year, or a new hobby you've picked up?
I haven't picked up any new hobbies this year, but what I've found in the past year, though, is that working from home is not all it's cracked up to be. I have done more work while working from home than I did when I was in the office. I'll be here and I’ll be in a flow and I don't even realize what time it is. So I’m trying to be more intentional about putting in a time to stop.
What's your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would be a day at the spa with a cocktail or two.
What is a goal you've set for yourself for the upcoming year?
Personally, I am looking forward to traveling again. I have two trips to Jamaica planned and I’m so excited to just unclog my mind from everything.
Professionally, I’m in the midst of preparation for accreditation renewal through the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). That’s the licensing board for medical education. It’s a three-year process and I’m preparing for a site visit next year.
Want to say hello to Joan 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 protected].
Publication Date: 3/8/2022