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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Nikki Vachon from New England School of Communications

April 25, 2012

Nikki Vachon, Director of Financial Aid, New England School of Communications

For 15 years, Nikki Vachon has helped students realize their educational dreams.   In addition to her role as Director of Financial Aid, Nikki also serves as President for the Maine Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, MASFAA-ME.

Dan Dreves:  Share with us how you got into Financial Aid?

Nikki Vachon:  I always find it interesting how people come to aid.  I was working for a lawyer and REALLY did not want to be there for the rest of my life.  I saw an ad for the job and applied.  I find it interesting that there is no degree you can earn for this profession; no one ever dreams of working in financial aid (that I know of) and yet it is one of the most fulfilling jobs out there.

Dan:  What do you love most about your position?

Nikki:  I love working with young people and helping families, but I’m also amazed every day by the camaraderie of people that work in aid.  I’ve gotten a peek at the other side of the desk recently.  My oldest step-child is venturing off to college in the fall.  After being in the field for 15 years, I really thought this would be a breeze.  It’s nerve racking thinking you’ll miss a deadline; it’s emotional worrying about sending her off on her own; it’s scary wondering how we are going to pay for it. All of these things were not what I expected.  I love knowing the people in my position truly care about students & families.  I have yet to meet a person working in financial aid that doesn’t put the student’s needs first.

Dan:  What are you most proud of in your financial aid office? 

Nikki:  Our involvement in our state/regional associations.  I owe so much to the folks of the Maine Association of Financial Aid Administrators.  I have learned so much from my peers, and I hope to be able to give back as much as I’ve gotten out of it.   I came into this business with no knowledge about aid, and there was no one working in the position to train me. So all of my training came from other aid administrators.  It’s really another family; I appreciate them so much.  I hope to always be involved in one way or another.

Dan:  What has been the biggest challenge your office has faced during the past year?

Nikki:  Two words – software conversion.  We switched to using CAMS.  I worked with our IT person daily to get it to just import ISIRs.  I had to learn so much on the software side, and our IT person had to learn aid.  It still is truly a work in progress, but at times I felt like I would pull out my hair.

Dan:  What is one thing people may not know about you?

Nikki:  I would love to learn how to fly helicopters.

Dan:   How do you spend your off time?

Nikki:  I have three teenage step-children that keep me pretty busy.  I love being outside, doing zumba & having friends or family over for BBQ’s on the deck.

Dan:  Who do you consider a mentor?

Nikki:  It can be hard to choose a single person as a mentor when you have a group of people like MASFAA (ME) who have supported me.  They have continued to bring new knowledge and education in unexpected ways. These people have not only been wonderful colleagues, they have been amazing friends. There are so many people here that I can say have shown me not just the how we do our job, but why.

Dan Dreves, Northeast Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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