Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Christine “Kit” Ardell, University of Vermont
Kit Ardell is the Associate Director of Student Financial Services Administration and Operations at the University of Vermont (UVM). At the June VASFAA conference, Kit received the association’s top award: “Volunteer of the Year.”
Anne Del Plato: Your title and your responsibilities seem unique. Can you tell us more about some of the top projects you’ve worked on recently?
Kit Ardell: UVM does have a unique financial services structure. First, we segment by in-school and out-of-school customers. Then we provide a combination of financial planning, student aid, and bursar services for each.
In my position, I work on special projects. I’ve compared it to building a house–my job would be to provide the house plans and the lumber. Examples of some of the recent top projects I’ve worked on include an institutional implementation plan for the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) and assuring that all required customer disclosures are in place.
Anne: You started as a student loan processor at UVM and worked your way up to your current position. Can you share advice for others who would like to further develop their financial aid careers?
Kit: I would encourage them to view challenges as opportunities for growth. Financial aid is so changeable. Always look at these changes as a way to improve services and efficiencies. I had been in the customer service field prior to working at UVM. When I came to UVM, I focused on understanding the students’ needs as well as those of the institution. This enabled me to find effective ways to serve both the external and internal customers. I was also fortunate to have the support of many wonderful people at UVM and the Vermont Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators who coached me and provided opportunities for growth.
Anne: What are the biggest challenges your office has faced in the last year?
Kit: What comes to mind, probably because they are so current, are the HEOA and Direct Loan implementations. With regard to Direct Loans, VSAC has always been committed to doing what’s best for institutions, students and families, and has been a great resource to Vermonters. It is difficult to see how the movement to full Direct Lending has changed their role.
Another major challenge we face is the current economic crisis and its impact on both families and institutions. More families are applying for aid and qualifying for it, and available resources have not kept pace with the need. We’ve developed talking points for our front line staff to help them deal with the frustration families are facing while always providing honest, forthright information.
Anne: What do you see as upcoming trends in financial aid?
Kit: I think there will be more of a trend to provide certification of individual financial aid administrators to assure consistent knowledge base and to elevate the profession.
I also think there will be an increased need for financial literacy training for the students and families we serve.
Anne: You have been very active in Vermont’s professional association as evidenced by your “Volunteer of the Year” award. Can you share some insights with colleagues who want to get involved but are unsure how to get started?
Kit: My first suggestion is to find your passion and then jump right in. Associations have such a range of options for volunteering, whether your passion is creative, technical, or community service. I think you’ll experience what I did–volunteering in financial aid associations will help you grow professionally by developing skills and connections with colleagues that you wouldn’t have a chance to develop otherwise. One of my passions was legislation and training. I was able to serve on conference committees for eight years, putting that passion into action.
We are seeing fewer young professionals who are active in our associations. I know that the demands of job and family are difficult to balance, but I believe that you will gain much more than you give when you become active in your association.
Anne: Changing direction entirely, Kit, can you share something about yourself that most people don’t know?
Kit: I’m not sure if most people know that the number one thing in my life is my faith. It influences everything I do.