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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Christine Ditter from Drake University

January 10, 2011

 

Associate Director Christine K. Ditter, Office of Student Financial Planning from Drake University

Pam King:  How long have you been in the financial aid industry?

Chris Ditter:  I have been in the financial aid industry since 1989 when I was a graduate student working in the financial aid office at the University of Northern Iowa.

Pam:  What is your primary job focus at Drake University?

 Chris: At Drake University, I am the Associate Director.  I supervise 5 assistant directors and an administrative assistant.  I work in conjunction with my assistant director systems with our administrative software (Banner) coordinating the loading and testing of releases and patches.  I complete a majority of the survey/report requests for our office (i.e., IPEDS, FISAP, Common Data Set etc.).   I am also responsible for athletic packaging and for the coordination of the financial aid portion of our annual audit.  I deal a lot with the creation of policies and procedures and ensuring we are in compliance.

Pam:  What makes your campus unique?

Chris:  I think our location makes us unique.  We are a private university in Des Moines, Iowa which provides us with all the opportunities of an urban setting without the hassles of a real metropolis.

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

Chris:  I would have to say our biggest challenge over the past 12 months was implementing Direct Lending for the first time and keeping up with all the new regulatory items.

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

Chris:  I don’t know if I would call it a coming trend or not but the word change is becoming more and more common each year in regards to regulations.  There seems to be more and more regulatory requirements in our day-to-day jobs.  It has become burdensome to manage.  I am all about improvement and making things better but with some of the regulatory requirements I question why they are doing so.

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

Chris:  I would have to say I have had many mentors throughout my career.  I have always looked toward my supervisors as mentors and feel I have learned a great deal from each and every one of them (i.e., Brian Will, Nancy Boleyn, Casey Cason, Lori Hanson).  My current supervisor and mentor is Susan Ladd for whom I have worked since I began at Drake in 2001.

Pam:  What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

Chris:  There are many rewarding and fulfilling parts of my job.  I love a challenge so whenever a project has been completed or a new program has been implemented successfully that provides a sense of accomplishment for me.  I find working with students and families and helping them fulfill their dreams of a college education is very rewarding.  Also, working with staff and seeing them grow and develop over time and learning from them is very fulfilling.

Pam:  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?

Chris:  Right now we have not considered a plan regarding default prevention as our default rates have always been very low.  However, we have many financial literacy resources available to us and our students. 

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

Chris:  I have changed my plans over the years from stunt woman, movie star, band teacher and psychologist.  When I was a graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa, I was in the family counseling program and working in the financial aid office.  I remember saying I’d love to focus my work on college students and my co worker introduced me to the College and University Student Services Program.  I changed my program and never looked back.   I never dreamed or said I wanted to work in a financial aid office, but here I am and enjoying it.

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

Chris:  Way back when I was in high school, I ran the 400 meters hurdles and placed second at the state track meet—which happened to be at Drake University!

Pam:  What is your favorite television show?

Chris:  I don’t know if I really have a favorite television show that I follow religiously but recently I have enjoyed watching Dancing With the Stars and Undercover Boss.

Pam King, Partner Solutions Coordination and MO

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