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Faces of the Industry: Gail Walker, School Relations Manager, Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA)

March 14, 2012

Gail Walker, School Relations Manager, Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

For more than 20 years, Gail Walker has supported campuses in her school relations role at RISLA.  As President Elect for the Rhode Island Association of Student Financial Aid Professionals (RIASFAA), Gail will begin to lead the association in June for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Dan Dreves:  As the next President of RIASFAA, what is the number one goal you would like to accomplish?

Gail Walker:  As the next President of RIASFAA, my number one goal will be to follow in the steps of my predecessors and continue the good work of RIASFAA.  As part of a team of professionals, I would like to reach out to our associates, and determine the type of sessions, workshops, and speakers that are relevant to their institutions.   I would also like to see members of RIASFAA participate in regional and national organizations, so that our state and our members have a voice.

Dan:  What do you like best about working in the financial aid field?

Gail:  There are so many things that I enjoy about working in the financial aid field. It is hard to select just one.   The first thing that comes to mind is the reward of helping just one student or one family navigate the college process, serving as a guide to give that student the opportunity to realize their dream of a higher education.  A close second, is having the opportunity to work with other professionals, who selfishly put in long hours with minimal glory, because they also believe that every student has the right to an education.   On the more “geeky side”, I think financial aid (in a small way) fulfills my early desire to study law.  As we all know, being in financial aid requires the desire and ability to read large quantities of information and to decipher the true interpretation of regulations.

Dan:  If you had a magic wand and could grant a financial aid office any wish, what would it be?

Gail:  If I had a magic wand and granting a financial aid office any wish was on my selfless list of things to do…I think I would wish for the financial aid process to be simpler.  I attended college many years ago and in today’s terminology would have been considered an automatic zero EFC.  I began working when I was 15, was self supporting, and intelligent, but had no idea that a college education was within my reach.  The financial aid professionals that helped me achieve my dream spent time with me and provided me the financial resources that made that dream possible.   Through a financial aid package of scholarships, grants, and loans, I was able to graduate, secure a position, and repay my debt.  Today, I see my colleagues in financial aid still striving to help students but they are more burdened under regulations that change frequently and tremendous government oversight.  The financial aid officers I have had the pleasure to work with have been outstanding professionals.

Dan:  What do you love most about Rhode Island?

Gail:  The thing I like about Rhode Island is the variety it provides.  This variety is exemplified in the seasons we experience, the recreational opportunities available, the vast selection of art and cultural events, and the diversity of our population.    

Dan:  On a more personal note, tell us about your daughter going to Thailand and how you feel about this.

Gail:  I am jealous!   I am also very happy for her. She is majoring in Business Marketing, and this is the summer before her senior year.  The entire world is global today, so this will give her an opportunity to travel as a young adult, see a country other than the U.S. and will be another step toward her becoming a well rounded person.  In Thailand she will have the opportunity to experience an enriching two weeks of volunteer service work and amazing educational adventure travel. The group she is with will immerse themselves in elephant conservation volunteer work at the award-winning Elephant Nature Foundation. Then will spend a rewarding week volunteering at an educational centre with marginalized Burmese youth.  In addition she will discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture and explore incredible jungle, islands, and beaches.   Did I say before that I am jealous?

Dan:  What do you like to do in your free time?   (Besides reading Dear Colleague Letters)

Gail:  I just started to experience free time.  Both my children are away at school this year, so it has been a year of discovery.  I am finding that I have a lot of interests.  This winter I tried snowshoeing and joined the gym.  I enjoyed them both.  I have also had time to connect with different groups of women and am now part of a book club and a monthly girl’s night out dinner club.   In the summer, I enjoy canoeing, walking, and anything to do with water.  I enjoy going to the theater, movies, and listening to jazz.  Reading is another pastime, as well as traveling.

Dan Dreves, Northeast Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

One Comment leave one →
  1. Joan Bundy permalink
    May 31, 2012 10:36 am

    congrats Gail!

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