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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Shelley Park, Eastern Kentucky University

August 23, 2010

Shelley S. Park, Director of Student Financial Assistance and Scholarship, Eastern Kentucky University


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

Shelley Park:  I am most proud of the staff that I work with and the level of professionalism that they convey every day with students and families.  My institution has many low income and first generation students and because some of my staff come from these backgrounds, they are great at dealing with families.  I am very fortunate that I have “financial aid lifers” in my office–that is a staff member with many years of experience.  Experience comes in handy when you have to deal with the never ending changes in rules and regulations that define financial aid. 

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

Shelley: At EKU, we were preparing to transition to DL for fall 2010.  However, we found out in early April that our largest volume lender would not have funds after June 30.  Since we would still be certifying loans for our summer term after that date, we had to switch from Plan A to Plan B and begin DL for summer 2010.  We had three weeks from the time we made this decision until certifying our first loans for summer.  Another challenge this year has been the introduction of a new auditing firm and all the initial set up and documentation involved in working with new auditors. Certainly, last but not least, year-round Pell has presented a challenge or two!

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

Shelley:  I see more emphasis on students’ financial wellness.  There is so much need now for students to come to college with knowledge of financial information, such as credit scores, credit card debt, and understanding overall loan debt.  Financial aid administrators help students in borrowing thousands of dollars in loans for their education.  However, many times they lack the ability or desire to understand how their education debt can affect their future.

Dana:  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)?

Shelley:  If you use an integrated software system like Banner or Datatel, make sure you get a good consultant that knows your system or develop a network of users who can support your efforts.  Also, get a copy of the COD DL handbook; it will become your Bible at work.  I would also make sure you are on the FinAid listserv–information shared by others schools is so valuable.  Lastly, establish a good working relationship with your COD representative.

Dana: What do you like most about your job?

Shelley:  What I like the most about my job can also be one of the greatest challenges: not having any two days the same.  As Director, I spend most of my time in meetings (many of which can make me lose my will to live), but when I can pull myself away from being an administrator, I enjoy going to our front counter and working  with students and their parents.  The blessing I get from my job is seeing that students come back to tell me goodbye when they graduate.  That is as much an accomplishment for me as it is for them; I know that I helped them achieve that life goal!

Dana:  Do you have a mentor within financial aid?

Shelley:  My financial aid mentor is Charles Vinson.  He retired after 35 years in financial aid at Murray State University.  Charles was more than a mentor, he was a wonderful friend.  For years we would call each other on the Friday after the first week of classes in the fall to encourage the other and compare stories of students.  We especially enjoyed the fact that even though our campuses were six hours apart, we still had some of the same student issues.  Even though he is retired, we stay in touch.  He makes me realize how exciting retirement will be one day!

Dana:  Name one thing that many people do not know about you.

Shelley:  I love Harley Davidson motorcycles!  When I retire, I plan to buy one and travel the back roads of Kentucky.

Dana Kelly, Southern Regional Director (KY, NC, SC, TN, VA)

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