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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: EmilySwain, Mount Union College in Ohio

July 1, 2010

Emily Swain, Director of Student Financial Services, Mount Union College

Anne Watson: Emily, how long have you been at Mount Union College?

Emily Swain: I was hired as the Director of Student Financial Services in 2001.

Anne: What are you most proud of with your financial aid office?

Emily: How well we transition from being reactive to being proactive. Our staff was very amenable to change once they saw positive results; staff took complete ownership of their responsibilities.

Anne: What has been the biggest challenge for your office over the past 12 months?

Emily: Realizing the uncertainty–on many levels–in our profession with state, federal and lenders’ changes, but being consistent with communication to students.

Anne: Are there any primary or coming trends that you see in the financial aid office?

Emily: A continuation of doing more with less; how students want to receive communication (i.e., advancing technology/texting).

Anne: Do you have any tips for schools that are transitioning to Direct Lending (or what has been helpful to you as you have made the transition)?

Emily:  Participate in DL webinars.  There is never too much transition information, and look at what other schools are doing.

Anne: Who within the financial aid community has been your mentor?

Emily: As a graduate student in 1999 at Southern Wesleyan in North Carolina, Kim Jenerrette took me under his wings. Kim believed in the basics, the federal handbook.  He was not philosophical.  I still call him today for guidance and his interpretation of regulations. Because we both use PowerFAIDS, occasionally, he calls to ask me questions—a great mentor.

Anne: Where do you think schools should focus their efforts with regard to default prevention strategies given the industry’s move to a 3-year CDR model?

Emily: Mount Union has a 1% default rate.  Our efforts are on in-person exit interviews. The number of students wanting this service has doubled over the last year. Also helpful is 60 days before leaving school, we provide students with repayment options.  Because we are proud of our default rate, we incorporate this information in the Admission process by sharing our default information with incoming freshmen and parents.  This creates a sense of responsibility for students to repay their loans.

Anne: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Emily:  I wanted to be a math teacher. I am not in the classroom, but I am teaching every day.  As a first generation college student, my ultimate teaching experience is with other first generation students.  Personally, I find this very rewarding.

Anne: I see you enjoy the teaching aspect of your job, but what do you like the most?

Emily: Investing in others, because others invested in me!

Anne: What is your favorite food?

Emily: Authentic Mexican food—besides the great taste, I love the festive atmosphere.

Anne: Name one thing that many people do not know about you?

Emily: I went to college for one semester, took a break for two years, returned to school, and worked three out of four weekends traveling the Midwest and South, singing in churches and Christian colleges. I met a lot of folks.

Anne: Obviously, you were focused and enjoyed your job. What is your favorite television show?

Emily: It has been for years and still is today: The Andy Griffith Show.

Anne: Finally, thank you for taking time from your state conference to allow me interview you.  I see you also believe in volunteering on behalf of your state association.

Emily: Volunteerism is necessary and rewarding.  I have been active since 2002. I am currently serving as Vice President for Conferences and have held numerous positions within the association.  I am glad to serve students, my college,  and our association.

Anne Watson, Midwest Regional Director (MI, OH)

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