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Faces of Nelnet: Dawn Knight, Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions (WA, OR, ID, NV, AZ, WY, ND)

December 12, 2011

Dawn Knight, Western Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

Jodi Miller: What is your main focus right now?  I know you’re on some projects for Nelnet; can you give me some insight on those?

Dawn Knight: Where to start?  OK, so I have been tasked (along with other amazing Nelnet colleagues) with enhancing Nsight, our reporting tool for schools.  Not only that, but creating ways to make  the day-to-day of our financial aid school customers easier by having our Nelnet Loan Servicing site be a more one stop shop for their needs.  The first phase of this was to add the BorrowerSearch (SSN look-up) on Nsight – which allows schools to see what their borrowers see when they login to Manage My Account.  Additional phases of the project include adding delinquency letters/templates to the site, mail merge functionality, adding additional canned (one click) reports, and more.  It’s exciting.

I am also working on the financial literacy handouts for students as well as trainings.

Along with a couple of other folks on the team, I am working on creating an interactive ‘best practices in default prevention’ on our site…more to come on that!

As we get many requests to present at different venues on a variety of topics, I am putting together a ‘Speaker’s Bureau’ of presentation listings along with a brief description of each topic.  This way, we can provide conference chairs with a long list of presentations that are ready for us to present. 

Jodi: Have you had any memorable moments over the past year work-wise that you’d like to share?

Dawn: I love our team.  Everyone on the team is extremely passionate about what they do and are always looking for ways to improve processes internally or find ways to make the school’s and borrower’s experience easier.  We laugh.  A lot.  We play practical jokes on each other.  A lot.  We help each other.  All the time.  I could not choose a better group of people to work with, end of story.   There are times in your life when you cross paths with people that you wish would hang around.  This is that case….for the past 12 years, I have been lucky to surround myself with such a talented and joyful group of people. 

Jodi: What is your favorite work-related iPad app that you can’t live without?

Dawn: I hate that PhotoBooth application that is built into the iPad. I know hate is a strong word, and I mean it.  I don’t think anyone looks attractive staring into the iPad and after seeing my image, I have moved that app to the very end, never to be used again. 

I do love GoodReader though!  I use that all the time!  It doesn’t care how I look!

(Jodi: I think the question was “favorite app” but okay…we move on.)

Jodi: What do you see as the biggest challenge schools are facing right now?

Dawn:  The ever-changing regulations.  I have a funny example of this that happened recently.  So, I was literally walking to the conference room at WFAA to present my session “Student Loan Repayment Options” when Washington D.C. announced the changes in IBR and the ‘special consolidation’ that will be rolling out soon.  I had to start out my presentation displaying the announcement from the NASFAA News on the screen so everyone could note the changes.

Another thing schools are dealing with is increasing default rates with little staff or time to be able to manage the student outreach better.  Gainful Employment.  Working with multiple federal servicers and wondering what the non-profits coming on board will mean for them.

Jodi: What is your best recent read or CD you’ve purchased?

Dawn: Yep, I still buy them.  I am also one of those people who still gets the Sunday paper.  There is nothing like the crisp paper in your hands with a steaming cup of java on a Sunday morning.  Back to the CDs.  I just bought the new Gavin Degraw one – “Sweeter’.  Love it!  I also recently bought Adele’s  ‘21’ CD, another great album by her.

I love, love, love to read.  My favorite author is Irwin Shaw; I truly enjoy the old books.  I just finished ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ by Betty Smith.  Great read.    

Jodi: Who has been your Work / Life mentor throughout the years and why?

Dawn: I feel very fortunate that I have been a part of the Nelnet family for 12 years.  One of my work mentors has been my National Director, Jim Harris.  I don’t like giving him compliments because it goes to his head, but he will never know how much he projects positivity and encouragement toward not only me, but the entire team.  He gave me an opportunity at a point that was very difficult and made me feel that I could succeed, when I felt otherwise.  I make fun of him whenever possible, but I have a huge amount of respect for who he is as a boss but as well as a true friend. 

My other mentor is my graduate school advisor and Purdue University professor, Darlene Sedlock.  Many years ago, I wanted to get my Master’s in Exercise Physiology….when my undergrad was in Tax Accounting and Mathematics.  I did not have the educational background that Purdue was looking for when adding to their Assistantship positions in exercise physiology.  Luckily, Darlene saw something in my essay, test scores, whatever that caused her to have me flown in for an interview for acceptance into the graduate program as well as into the assistantship position.  Long story short, she allowed me to have an amazing opportunity that I will never ever forget.  She pushed me and pushed me during my thesis writing and ‘made me’ get published in a few Sports Medicine journals because she knew I would appreciate it someday.  She was right.  It isn’t so much the articles I appreciate but the fact that she saw something in me that I didn’t….thank you, Darlene.

Jodi: What was the most recent meal you cooked that turned out awful?

Dawn:  Um, yeah, so I don’t cook….anymore.  Hubby is a chef, so why bother, I mean really.  I’ll do the dishes and look ornamental drinking wine while Ed cooks – what more could a husband want?!  🙂

Jodi Long Miller, Western Regional Director (CA) & Social Media Strategist

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