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].
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 news[email protected]
Associate Director of Financial Aid
Mississippi State University
Meet Jacquelyn LeSueur. Jacquelyn got her start in financial aid shortly after completing her bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University and working as an administrative assistant at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She quickly hit the ground running in the profession by becoming a financial aid counselor and drew on her own experiences with financial aid as an undergraduate.
Jacquelyn now works at her alma mater, Mississippi State University, as an associate director of financial aid, and stresses that sometimes all you need to do to take the next step in the profession is to focus on the basics.
“For individuals that are looking to get involved in the profession I will definitely recommend to take some time and breathe — that's actually the president for SASFAA’s motto for this year,” Jacquelyn said.
Being heavily involved in professional development, Jacquelyn has served as a participant in the NASFAA Diversity Leadership Program (DLP) and has helped the Southern Association of Financial Aid Administrators (SASFAA) implement its own diversity leadership program, now in its second year.
Learn more about Jacquelyn, her interests, and her career path in the Q&A below!
How did you get your start in financial aid?
I was fresh out of college and I actually started working as a temporary employee at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center as an administrative assistant in the registrar's office. I worked there for a few months and then from that point on, a financial aid counselor position became open. My vice chancellor at the time called me into her office to see if I was interested in the position.
At the time I knew nothing at all, nothing about financial aid, other than my experiences as a student. I let her know that and she still thought I would be a great fit for the office. That’s pretty much how I got started in financial aid as a financial aid counselor, and then the rest is pretty much history.
What do you find the most rewarding and fulfilling about your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is waking up every day, knowing that I'm fulfilling my purpose, being able to talk with students who have no idea of the process of receiving financial aid, as well as having students who I've helped in the past come back and let me know what's going on with their life now. I think it's the most rewarding for me knowing that I've helped others, as well as continuing to help others to fulfill their educational goals.
If you could change one thing about financial aid, what would it be?
It would be to remove the barriers that sometimes hinder students from being able to receive the proper aid to assist them in obtaining their educational goals. Financial aid is one of those things that is very instrumental in students being able to achieve a degree. So if we can try to eliminate those barriers for students, I think we will be even more instrumental in assisting them in building themselves professionally as well as personally.
What's something you wish all higher ed folks knew about financial aid?
That they would truly understand what it is that financial aid brings to the table for a lot of students. A lot of our students rely on financial aid in order to obtain their degrees. So I think if many other departments understood what it is that the financial aid office brings, to helping students to come to the different institutions and universities, then I think we would be able to better help students collectively with obtaining their degrees.
Tell us about your institution. What are some unique aspects of Mississippi State University?
At Mississippi State we take pride in ourselves in making a difference, to transform, and then to empower communities throughout the world, through learning, research, and service. We're pretty much a family. That's one thing I love about Mississippi State. I am a proud alumni of Mississippi State. So we are big on promoting diversity, inclusion, and student success.
Maroon Friday is big for us, where everyone wears maroon. That's kind of how we bridge the family gap, as well Mississippi State is known for our cowbell. I think everyone who has attended Mississippi State or works here has a cowbell, which is one of our traditions. So you know, just different aspects where we are showing just how we are trying to come together as one, to really just show pride.
Do you have any recommendations for people just getting started in the field?
I'm part of SASFAA so currently for this year, as well as for last year, I serve as the equity inclusion and global issues chair. In addition, in the past, I've also served as the diversity chair for our state association, MASFAA. One way that I got involved with the different associations is for the 2019-20 year, I was one of NASFAA’s Diversity Leadership Program participants — that’s how I got my foot in the door with the associations. What happened was our past president for SASFAA, Celena Tullos, reached out to me to see if there was a way for us to potentially bring a diversity leadership program, as mirrored from NASFAA, to SASFAA. So I was in charge of getting a proposal together, and that's how I got my start within the associations.
I know financial aid can kind of be a lot sometimes, but I promise, if you breathe and you begin to network within the financial aid family, and get involved within your associations from a state, regional, or even a national level, then I promise you it will be well worth it.
What's something you couldn't function without?
I would definitely say meditation. Every morning, I wake up, I go through my prayers and meditation, reading my affirmations each morning. That's something that I value and that I truly appreciate each morning.
What's on your bucket list, or any upcoming travel plans?
I really want to go skydiving. I was planning to go skydiving before COVID, and I am really trying to make it happen hopefully within the next six months.
Anything you've learned in the last year, or a new hobby you've picked up?
I will say with one thing that I have really, not necessarily a hobby, but one thing that I have focused on within the last year is the work and life balance. Being intentional about setting aside time to breathe to just enjoy my daughter's, to just enjoy life because I think the last two years have really shown us that we need to value life in a different perspective and Tomorrow is not promised.
Any fall plans or typical activities you enjoy in the cooler months?
I think for this year, what we're gonna do is spend some more time with our families. I'm also just going to try to enjoy having some “me” time. I'm always on the go, so I'm really trying to get back into the loop of finding out what it is that I enjoy, what I like, what I dislike, and just different things like that.
Want to say hello to Jacquelyn 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: 10/18/2022