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Faces of Nelnet: Jim Harris, Managing Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

April 30, 2012

Jim Harris, Managing Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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

Jim Harris: My main project seems to be keeping up with email.  I am not sure how we used to work when there wasn’t such a thing as email.  Those days are just a hazy memory now.  Right now, I am working with our national Partner Solutions team to determine how we can best help schools.  We plan future trainings for borrowers and schools, participate in financial aid conferences (which are in full swing right now), and other initiatives.  Recently, I met with graduate and professional schools to see if we can create some publications that are specific to their students. For example, much of our financial literacy materials are geared towards undergraduate students.

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

Jim: I had the opportunity to meet with FSA in Washington DC.  I had only been there a couple of times for different conferences like NASFAA.  I met a lot of very nice people who are working really hard. They are often tasked with implementing legislation under very tight deadlines.  Also, for the first time in many years, my whole team was able to come together for a meeting.  I loved getting everyone together.  It was productive and fun.

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

Jim: That is a difficult question.  I think it is unique for every school. What I hear schools tell me most often it that they are just trying to get a handle on all the changes that have occurred recently and are trying very hard to provide good service for their students through it all.

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

Jim: Dawn, no one buys CDs anymore.  You should change that to “downloaded”.  I downloaded quite a few Adele songs, like everyone in the US.  As far as books….our team started a book club.  The first book is called The Lifeboat.  I haven’t started reading it yet….but I am fairly certain it will have something to do with a small boat in some kind of body of water because a larger boat has sank. I got that all from just the title. I am very intuitive.

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

Jim: There have been so many.  Of course, my family…all of them in some way or another.  Some people, like you Dawn, have served as more of a warning sign of things to avoid in life. So, you are even a mentor in a strange sort of way.  Seriously, Mr Bachman, my high school speech and debate teacher, was probably the first person that really gave me confidence.  He pushed me to stand up and speak in front of people.  And even when I made a fool of myself..which I still do today…he helped me learn from it, keep my chin up, and keep trying. He passed away years ago.  I regret that I never told him thank you.  I owe much of my success to him. Oh!  And my boss Ed Martinez.  ( You should always mention your boss when getting asked questions like this.) He is the wind beneath my wings.

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

Jim: Why are you ending this interview with such a negative question? (See my previous answer regarding mentors, Dawn.)  I love to cook.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  When I am home, I don’t like to eat out because I travel so much for work. Here is one thing I struggle with, however….  my mom and my mother-in-law are both amazing cooks.  In particular, they both make the best pot roasts.  Both of them have different methods, but they turn out equally wonderful.  Despite all of their tips, my wife Kathy and I have never had much success with them.  Ours turn out lightly more tender than a leather shoe. Still, we keep trying.  Dawn, next time we make one, I’ll invite you over for dinner.

Dawn Knight, Western Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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