Throughout the series we will be going back to past Ron Smout recipients and finding out their story to becoming a teacher/mentor and their words of wisdom. The sixth Limelight is on Deb Henriksen.
I am so glad we have the RMASFAA Leadership Pipeline, one benefit to our organization that I think Ron Smout would be very proud of—using our current mentors to help new financial aid staff get their start in the profession. Ron was always there in our association to cheer on new financial aid professionals, mentoring others, so I was very honored to become one of the recipients of his award.
I started in financial aid 33 years ago—probably shouldn’t write that part down, should I? At that time I was working at a college where the Office of Community Service, where I was working, was closing and the Financial Aid Director at that college was leaving. The president of the college thought I would be a good fit…that is the beginning of my true profession.
I think everyone has had someone to lean on, whether it is in the beginning or as we continue in financial aid. Since financial aid is not a profession for which you can go to college, it is your mentors and friends, and RMASFAA’s Summer Institute that is your training ground. Mary Lou Hildebrandt was my mentor—at the that time, one of those “old salts” as we used to call them–been in the profession for quite some time, was a great inspiration to me, making me feel like this was something that I could do even though it seemed very, very daunting.
I hope I have lived up to the Ron Smout Award and he would say, “Good job, Deb” as that would have meant a lot coming from him. I hope I have helped those who have wanted to stay in the financial aid profession to learn and grow, where in turn, we are all helping students receive their education. I would encourage any new staff in the financial aid community who wish to become that mentor or leader in their state, regional and/or national organizations to do just that, volunteer and become a mentor to others, it is very rewarding.