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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Sharon Kienow from Northern State University in South Dakota

January 20, 2011


Sharon Kienow, Director of Financial Aid at Northern State University in SD

Sharon Kienow is the Director of Financial Aid at Northern State University in SD. She recently completed her one year term as RMASFAA President and is now into her third year as a RMASFAA Board member and is a veteran of 25 years in the financial aid industry.  She was interviewed by Don Buehrer, Nelnet Regional Director

Don Buehrer- What are you most proud of with your financial aid office? 

Sharon Kienow-The staff.   I work with an amazing group of people who are hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic individuals.  Each has their unique talents which make for a wonderful team.

Don- What was the biggest challenge for your office during the past 12 months?

Sharon– No surprise, it was Direct Loan and Year-round Pell implementation.  In addition, we adopted a mandatory online Registration Confirmation.  Re-educating the entire student body was a big task.  I’m happy to say that the fall semester began without a hitch and almost every student had their aid disbursed within the first couple of weeks of the semester (except the proverbial last minute students, of course!).

Don- What do you see as the next big challenge for you and your staff?

Sharon– As we all know in financial aid, never get too comfortable…  We’ve got Direct Loan and year-round Pells working for us, so now we’ll turn our attention to the new program integrity rules, Net Price Calculator, verification changes, SAP changes, gainful employment reporting, etc . etc. etc.

Don- Who within the financial aid community has been your mentor?

Sharon– Too many to mention – everyone who blazed a trail for me who served as state and regional presidents, committee chairs, presenters, etc.  I so admired their leadership skills and their willingness to share their time and talents with others.  They inspired me to try to give back as well.

Don- When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Sharon– When I was young(er), I thought I would be a teacher someday.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that wasn’t my cup of tea. 

Don- What do you like most about your job?

Sharon– The challenge.  It’s like a variety show act.  Fitting all the pieces together, keeping the plates spinning, and the balls in the air, all while trying to make it look effortless!

Don- Name one thing about you that most people do not know?

Sharon– I have an amazing 11 month old grandson  (Dylan)– no wait, I’ve probably told everyone who knows me about him already…! 

Don- What positions have you held within the financial aid industry?

Sharon– I started at NSU in the Business Office as an accounting assistant.  I then moved on to be the Perkins Loan coordinator.  From there I moved to the Financial Aid Office as Assistant Director and then eventually became the Director.  My entire career after college has been at NSU.

Don- What made you decide to get into the financial aid profession?

Sharon– I had just graduated from college and needed a job!  My first contract was for $6,700/year.  Opportunities opened up for me at the right time at NSU to advance and I’ve been here ever since.  I’m probably one of the few people who will start and end my career at the same university. 

Don- What is your favorite food?

Sharon– When we were growing up, we got to choose our birthday dinner menu.  Mine was my grandma’s meat loaf, baked potato, corn, orange jello with mandarin oranges and marshmallows, and pecan pie.  I would have to say that would still be my choice today!

Don- What is your favorite TV show?

Sharon- Dancing with the Stars, up until this season…

Don Buehrer, Regional Director (TX, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, and UT), Nelnet Partner Solutions

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