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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Deb Henriksen from Black Hills State College in South Dakota

September 2, 2011

The legendary Black Hills of South Dakota is often mentioned as one of the most scenic locations in the United States. And Deb Henriksen gets to see them often (not often enough) and up close on the back of a motorcycle. In the near future, Deb hopes to be driving her own motorcycle instead of being on the back of one. Deb is the Director of Financial Aid and Coordinator of Student Financial Services at Black Hills State College in SD. During her 28+ years in financial aid, Deb has held every elected position within SDASFAA and has served on numerous NASFAA committees. She served as the co-chair of the 2000 RMASFAA Annual Conference, as well as vice president and treasurer of the organization.

Deb Henriksen, Director of Financial Aid and Coordinator of Student Financial Services at Black Hills State College

Don: How did you select financial aid as your profession?

Deb: Actually, it found me. I had a friend at the college who was the FA Director. She left to take on another job and the president of the college came to me to see if it would be something I would like to do. My banking experience and the other years of working with students and faculty at Presentation College must have made an impact on her… enough for her to ask if I would enjoy helping the students and their financial endeavors.

Don: What major changes have you seen in financial aid during your years in the industry?

Deb: Biggest thing I have seen that has changed is the simplification of the application for aid. We’ve gone from a number 2 pencil in order to bubble in data and a manual process to electronic processing for everything. Of course, our shift from lenders to total Direct Lending has been a huge change in the last couple of years. However, things did run quite smoothly, for which I am grateful.

Don: What is your favorite movie, book, TV show?

Deb: There are so many that come to mind, and yes, probably chick flicks are still my favorite. But as far as TV shows, The Big Bang Theory, makes me laugh, which is something we all need to have in our lives—keeps us balanced.

Don: If you could change one financial aid regulation, what would it be and why?

Deb: State authorization regulations where if we offer distance education within another state we need permission from that state. It is the monetary sanction the states say we must pay that bothers me the most.

Don: Who are/were your mentors?

Deb: Mary Lou Hildebrandt (Northern State University, SD and ACT)… and a very patient mentor she was for me.

Don: What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

Deb: Seeing students walk across that stage at graduation, knowing they are headed for a better future.

 Don: Name one thing about you that most people do not know.

 Deb: I am a biker (the motor kind).

Don: What has been your biggest challenge work-wise over the past 12 months?

Deb: All the new changes with Program Integrity.

Don: How do you spend your time when you’re not working?

Deb: I enjoy touring the Hills of the Black Hills, some on the bike, but also do craft work. Plus getting together with friends, love to entertain by cooking and baking. I’m also involved in the Lions organization, Relay for Life and currently in the American Business Women Association in Spearfish and our main goal is to raise money for BHSU student scholarships.

Don: If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would they be?

Deb: Dr. Bill Cosby, Reba McEntire, and my mom who passed away way too young, when she was 51, and unexpected.

Don: Where was the last place you went on vacation? (and what did you do?)

Deb: A true vacation, not just tacking a day or two onto a conference of work? Palm Springs, CA, and did a girl’s spa and relaxation week.

Don Buehrer, Regional Director

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