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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Emily Bliss, University of North Carolina-Wilmington

September 14, 2010


Emily Bliss with her grandchildren. Emily serves as the Director of Financial Aid and Veteran Affairs at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

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

Emily Bliss: I am so proud of how hard the staff in our office works.  They have a caring attitude and truly look out for the best interests of the students.  Plus, they have a sense of humor and creativity that they allow to show through a bureaucratic process.

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

Emily: Our biggest challenge was making our summer processing more efficient.  We continually work on making our processes smoother in order to reduce walk-in and telephone traffic.  Although summer will never be easy, we used our computer to glean information that employees used to look up.  I could have said that Pell was our biggest challenge, but once the software arrived it was relatively easy.  It just added time to our summer processing. 

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

Emily: I can’t wait to see the changes to verification and if it will improve the accuracy of FAFSAs. 

Dana: Do you have any tips for schools that are transitioning to Direct Lending? 

Emily: Do not hesitate to call COD if you have problems.  The employees there have always treated us with patience and respect.  Their service has been outstanding. 

Dana: Who within the financial aid community has been your mentor

Emily: I had the opportunity to work for Mark Williams for three years.  Although I have had several other mentors, he has left the greatest impression.  He toughened me up.  He was a taskmaster, but those of us who worked for him came out on the other side as much better financial aid professionals.  He tried to teach us everything he knew.  He was generous with his time and wanted every answer to be perfect.  He did not take shortcuts.  He was in the top ten most knowledgeable financial aid professionals I have known, and even though he has left the profession to become a lawyer, he could probably remember more about financial aid regulations than most of us learn throughout our career.  

Dana: What do you like most about your job? 

Emily: I love the activity, the different situations we are faced with every day, and the challenge.  This job is never dull.  I know most people say they love helping students and making college possible.  However, that is what we are supposed to do.  Keeping busy and learning all kinds of interesting things is what keeps me coming back. 

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

Emily: Most people do not know that I used to be a driver for a volunteer ambulance corps. 

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

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