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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Cristi Millard from Salt Lake Community College in Utah

February 4, 2011

When Cristi Millard was a little girl, she told her Mom she wanted to be a superstar when she grew up. Little did she know that a job application “accident’ some 26 years ago would lead her to a profession in financial aid…and make her a superstar with her students and staff. Cristi is the Director of Financial Aid at Salt Lake Community College in Utah. She was interviewed by Don Buehrer, Nelnet Campus Solutions Regional Director for RMASFAA and SWASFAA.

Cristi Millard, Director of Financial Aid, Salt Lake Community College

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

 Cristi– Probably how well everyone works together. We have four separate locations and over 30,000 students , so we have to be on the ball everywhere and all the time. The group I have now really respects each other and they always put in the extra time to make sure the students are served.

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

Cristi– The increase in students and financial aid applications. Our applications went up 46% and we went from around $14 million in Pell to over $32 million. Keeping up with that was a huge challenge. And at the same time we were transitioning to the Direct Loan program. Crazy!

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

Cristi– Incorporating all the new regulations (SAP, ROF) and still maintaining our service to students since we continue to grow.

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

Cristi- First was Mike Johnson, who was the director at Utah Technical College at Provo-Orem (now Utah Valley University) when I first started in aid. He and my next boss, Gayle Norman, gave me the knowledge I needed and opportunities to grow and serve the different associations. Then Jeanne Mott, as far as training goes. She gave me my first chance to teach at RMASFAA’s Summer Institute. That was about 10 years ago and I am still involved with SI.

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

Cristi– Rich and famous! I always told my mom I wanted to be a superstar, but she suggested I learn to type and take shorthand (a forgotten art) just in case my superstardom didn’t pan out. She’s a very smart woman.

 Don- What do you like most about your job?

Cristi- How often everything changes. I would be so bored if I didn’t have the constant challenges that financial aid brings. Of course, this past year was almost too many changes, even for me. I also like the opportunity to share my knowledge with others through conference sessions and service.

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

Cristi– I’m actually very shy – okay, those of you who know me quit laughing. I am really very shy and get very nervous before I speak or when I meet new people. I have had to learn to appear confident and friendly, even when I’d rather hide.  [Note from Jim Harris: I have known Cristi for years….and I,  for one, am not buying this answer.]

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

Cristi– I started out in financial aid at the front window, moved to a specialist, became an advisor and then the director. So I started at the very beginning and worked my way up.

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

Cristi– It was truly an accident. I thought I was applying for a job in conferences and workshops (handling summer athletic camps, teen programs, teacher recertification). Apparently, they were going to hire from within so passed my application on to the Financial Aid Office. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Don- What is your favorite food, TV show??

Cristi– Favorite food – macaroni and cheese. Really! Everywhere I go I try their mac & cheese. There’s a restaurant in Washington, DC that has great macaroni and cheese with shrimp and lobster. Absolutely to die for! My favorite TV show is probably Criminal Minds – guess I just like the dark side of things.  [Note from Jim Harris: This I do believe]

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

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