10 Reasons Financial Aid Professionals Are Fulfilled by Their Work

Did you know that having a sense of meaning or purpose in your work can help prevent burnout? Focusing on your “why” can help keep you motivated, especially during particularly stressful times. This Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re highlighting what NASFAA’s Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) find the most fulfilling and rewarding about working in financial aid. From collaborating with colleagues, to making students’ dreams come true, there are plenty of reasons to stay motivated and inspired in the financial aid profession. 

1. Graduation Day

“Graduation day is my favorite day. I love commencement. It's critical for me to keep motivated because I believe that sometimes it's super easy to get bogged down in queries, reports, and data. Commencement shows me the students that I've helped have been able to earn a degree, and it helps me see that my work really makes a difference. I work really hard with my students to help them understand their aid so they can worry about their curriculum and become excellent health care professionals. Occasionally, on graduation day, I'll get a “thank you.” And that keeps me going for the whole next year, just to know that I've made a difference for somebody.”

Heather Boutell, FAAC®, Director of Financial Aid at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

“Commencement continues to be my greatest rewarding moment, watching students cross the finish line and earning their degrees knowing the impact that our office contributed to making their dreams become a reality.”

Sharon Oliver, FAAC®, Director of Scholarships and Student Aid at North Carolina Central University

“I would say watching the students that you help in their freshman year walk across the stage and complete their matriculation. When you go to graduation to work as a university staff and then you have those students that come up and say, ‘You know, if it wasn't for you, I don't think I would have been able to complete this process.’” 

Sharmain Lazard-Talbert, Interim Assistant Director Enrollment Services at Southern University at Shreveport

2. Facilitating Access to Education

“I'd say it's facilitating access to education. For me, as a first-generation college student and Pell Grant recipient, without Title IV aid, without the generosity from donors and a supportive aid office, to put that all together and support me and communicate that information to me, I definitely wouldn't be living the life that I am today and wouldn’t be in a position to continue supporting students in that way.”

Alex DeLonis, FAAC®, Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services, Saint Louis University

“I think the obvious answer for most of us will probably be knowing that we're doing our small part to open doors and assist with access to opportunities for the students and families we serve. That's what keeps me going every day and it's why I chose higher education early in my career.”

Gena Boling, FAAC®, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment at Cornell University

3. Leadership

“Moving into a director role can be intimidating, it's challenging. I think all financial aid jobs are challenging, but I think being a director is challenging in different ways. I don't see as many students as I used to in person and so what I've traded that connection for is the connection that I can have with my staff, and what I find most rewarding is being able to give them what they need to then provide the best service to students.”

Melet Leafgreen, FAAC®, Director, Student Financial Aid at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

“I also really love being able to support staff in their career development, whether that's helping staff to have access to learn a new skill that assists with conversations they may have with students, families, or colleagues, or helping staff to connect with other aid administrators from across the country so we can collaborate or commiserate. I'm very thankful for all the opportunities I've been given and I'd like to pay that forward by bringing folks along with me.”

Gena Boling, FAAC®, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment at Cornell University

4. Helping students

It's helping students. Every now and then a student or a parent will send a thank you note or an email and just a couple of kind words which says something along the lines of, ‘We appreciate what you did.’ That's what keeps us coming back, because God knows it isn’t the regulations!”

Catherine M. Boscher-Murphy, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Montclair State University

“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.”

Jacquelyn LeSueur, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Mississippi State University

5. Orientation 

“The other rewarding part is orientation. Just going in and being able to assist and talk with parents about how they're going to help finance college for their kids, and then to talk to students about how they're going to pay for college and how they'll be able to make that degree a reality. It's always rewarding when you can come up with a solution or a plan for that student.”

Traci Armes, FAAC®, Deputy Director, Scholarships and Financial Aid at University of Texas at Austin

6. Involvement in associations

“Being very involved in associations. That's my way of mentoring and giving back to the professionals alongside me.”

Joan Bailey, Director of Financial Aid at University of South Florida Health Office of Financial Aid

“​​I also really enjoy working with other financial aid people to really turn it into a profession. Having conversations with either my staff or staff at other schools, talking about financial aid in the big picture and how we can always help students — because I think at the end of the day, I can always help students go to my institution, but the more people I give the tools of the trade of financial aid or share that passion, the more students that we can help achieve higher education.”

Nicholas Prewett, FAAC®, Executive Director of Financial Aid, Stony Brook University

7. Changing the perception of the “scary” financial aid office

“I find it rewarding to change the culture of the perception of the financial aid office, because we're considered a scary place. Students have a reluctance to come see us and we're talking about money. So automatically, it's a scary place to visit. We also want to make sure we are demystifying the financial aid process and being more welcoming.”

Dr. Kimberley Willis, Director of Financial Aid at The College at Brockport State University of New York

“I may not be seeing students every day, but I am indirectly able to really significantly impact the type of attitude people have about the financial aid office, how they see us, and elevate the perception of the financial aid office, and I think that's probably a struggle for many of us on our campuses. That’s something that I take a lot of pride in, I take a lot of pride in my team.”

Melet Leafgreen, FAAC®, Director, Student Financial Aid at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

8. Colleagues

“The people — both my colleagues and the students, for sure. In many ways we spend more time with our co-workers than our own families, so I feel lucky to work with great people.”

Brian Drabik, FAAC®, Director of Financial Aid Operations at Northwestern University

“I love working with the staff that I have here at Purdue. They're amazing people. And I love when we get together and brainstorm better ways to serve students.”

Heidi Carl, Executive Director of Financial Aid, Purdue University

9. Impact on society

“I believe this work is noble and critical. Educating students beyond high school certainly benefits individuals and their future families, but society benefits as a whole as well. It's truly all about the students.”

Kathy Bialk, FAAC®, Executive Director of Student Financial Aid & Scholarships at University of Kentucky 

“My colleagues and the people I work with, we all have a shared mission and a shared purpose in what we do. That purpose is to align our society's promise that higher education in any form — whether it's a short term credential, an associate's degree, bachelor's, and beyond — that education provides opportunity, and that opportunity translates to more fulfilling lives for all of us.”

Patti Kohler, FAAC®, Vice President, Financial Aid at Western Governors University

10.  Advocacy 

“For me to go from being a recipient of the funds to doing Capitol Hill visits and advocating for ways to improve and expand aid programs, like doubling the Pell Grant or eliminating origination fees, just things to support students and provide that access to education definitely brings it full circle for me. Being a recipient and then being on the advocacy end and just doing the work daily, it definitely keeps you going and keeps me motivated.”

Alex DeLonis, FAAC®, Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services, Saint Louis University

“In addition to the fulfilling work that we do, I enjoy the advocacy work that I get to participate in, and the time that my institution allows me to volunteer in our professional associations.”

Amy Hager, FAAC®, Director of Financial Aid, Moberly Area Community College


Publication Date: 5/21/2024

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