Please welcome Carlene Morris as a new member to RMASFAA! Carlene is the Financial Aid Officer for Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS; she’s been in financial aid since 2013, but her institution hasn’t been a RMASFAA member since 2007.
Q: Tell RMASFAA a bit about yourself and what brought you to the financial aid world
A: I received my bachelor’s degree from Haskell Indian Nations University in Education and taught at Kickapoo Nation School, which was a ninety-minute drive one way each day to get to the school. I started my master’s program at the University of Kansas in 2004 and earned my Master in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in math, science, and technology. I changed jobs and started working full-time for Haskell’s Upward Bound program as the Academic Coordinator, moving up to the Director position in 2008. After the Upward Bound Program ended in 2012, I had to look for another position. I did some substitute teaching and contract positions, but when the financial aid job opened up at Haskell, I felt I had the skills to apply. I ended up getting the position. I owe a lot to the Upward Bound Program for developing my knowledge and skill with financial aid, and Haskell’s past financial aid Director Reta Brewer for sharing her knowledge with me.
I am a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. I am a mother of three wonderful children and five grandchildren. I am married to a wonderful man who spoils me, but also respects me. I am also currently working on my doctoral degree at Baker University.
Q: What brought you to Haskell Indian Nations University?
A: I have to say KU brought me to Haskell Indian Nations University because I did not know anything about Haskell. I went to KU to look into their bachelor’s program in Education, and the person I spoke to asked me if I had looked into Haskell. I said no, and they told me I might want to look at Haskell also. The best decision I ever made was to look at Haskell Indian Nations University to get my education. I met the director at that time, Ms. Ellen Allen, and the rest is history.
Haskell Indian Nations University has a unique history. Our institution went from a boarding school for American Indians to a university. I like to think we took a negative and turned it into a positive for our American Indians. I am grateful for the sacrifice my ancestors made for me to give me the opportunity to attend Haskell Indian Nations University.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your work?
A: I would say it would be working with our Haskell students. I love to help students be successful. I also love my position as Haskell Financial Aid Officer because it fulfills my love of math. What more could a person want? I love it! It is not always sugar plums and roses, don’t get me wrong, but I choose to live my life looking at the positives. Life gives you many challenges each day, but I try to find the joy in something each day. For example, one day I was having a few issues that were causing me trouble, but I had a student who came into my office and gave me one of those Cadbury Cream Eggs, and she wanted me to know that I was a “good egg!” Great, right?! I pushed right through those challenges that day knowing that I was a “good egg.” Just thinking about that special day brings me joy.
Q: You just attended RMASFAA’s Summer Institute in the “New and Aspiring Directors Track” class. How was your SI experience? What did you like best?
A: The experience I had at RMASFAA’s Summer Institute was awesome. The training I had was what I liked best. I do know I will be bringing my staff to RMASFAA’ summer institute next year if our budget allows!
Carlene’s SI instructor James Broscheit noted that she was a very active participant in class. “I think what strikes me first looking back is her passion for the student population and also for their well-being. I was struck by the sense of balance she was looking for in making the educational experience successful.”
Co-instructor Mary Sommers concurred. “What I enjoyed about Carlene was her clear commitment to Haskell and its mission. She is all about empowering students to be successful and sees financial aid as one cog in that wheel. She is positive about our profession and I am hopeful she will continue to be involved in KASFAA and RMASFAA for many years!”
Q: Do you have a favorite quote to share?
A: “Knowledge can be learned, but until it is truly experienced, it does not become wisdom.” ~ Selo Black Crow Lakota
Growing up my life had many challenges, and I had the opportunity to stay with my grandma during the summers. One day as she was teaching me beading, she told me, “Anything you do is worth doing right.” She told me this as she had me taking apart my beading because I used the wrong color of bead. She said to take pride in all you do. Even if no one ever sees what you do, YOU know that you have done the best job you could do. My grandma told me this in our Cherokee language because she did not speak English.
Q: What do you do for fun/hobbies/favorites?
A: Well, I love many things, but spending time with my family is the best. I love to bead and do all types of arts and crafts. Taking an old piece of furniture and making it new again is great!
Q: Is there anything that you wish would come back in fashion?
A: Not really, I just go with the flow. However, there are some things I wish would never come back!
Q: If you were the ruler of your own country, what would be the first law you would introduce and why?
A: I don’t know if I would call this law, but I would ask my country’s citizens to “Respect themselves and others.” I feel when you respect yourself you tend to treat others the same way.
Welcome to Carlene and the rest of the Haskell Indian Nations University Financial Aid Office! We look forward to great things from you in the future!