Continuing with our blog series, ‘Getting to Know You’. We will be getting to know a financial aid colleague from each state in the region a little better. Next up, Montana!
When I sat down to start this blog post, I didn’t want to just pick someone at random. More importantly I did not want to pick someone from my office and make it seem like I was playing favorites. So instead, I mass-emailed my state’s Financial Aid association and asked for recommendations to see who everyone felt should be “spotlighted”. I received two nominations from two amazing professionals who recommended two people who they felt deserved appreciation for their hard work. Janet Riis recommended Shauna Savage who coincidentally was this month’s Spotlight for the Distinguished Service Award. Shauna, in her humbleness suggested that I spotlight the other person instead. Sandy Christiansen, University of Montana nominated Emily Williamson, the Director of Financial Aid & Scholarships at Montana State University of Billings. Shauna stated the following when asked why she felt Emily should be spotlighted:
“I would like to have to have her spotlighted since I think she is an inspiration to everyone she meets and whoever hears her speak. She is a wonderful role model especially for young women entering the financial aid field. She worked hard to become the amazing young woman she is. She earned the role she is in today due to hard work and strong ethics. I am so proud to have had her as a supervisor. I had much more experience in financial aid than she did when she became my supervisor. I had similar experiences with this in the past and it was not always an easy path to travel. Emily always gave me the respect I felt I deserved and I loved working for her. She would ask advice from me and then proceed in the way she felt best. She always considered the needs of her employees and the students. I do not know of anyone who does not like or respect her.”
Coincidentally, Emily is also my supervisor and I can confirm that she is one of the most hard-working people you could ever meet. She puts our whole team before herself and often can be seen working the front desk so that team members can work on files, attend trainings or even just to take vacations. Even more than being a supportive leader, she makes work fun and less stressful by just being her amazing self. However, don’t just take my word for it read below to see how charismatic she is.
What is your background and how did you get into financial aid?
I was an unsuspecting freshman eager to put her work-study award to use at the University of Montana. Oddly enough my top pick wasn’t the financial aid office, but they were the first to call and the rest is history.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
One summer in high school I was a flower shop delivery driver. I experienced some very strange apology attempts from lovers who had erred in their ways.
What’s your favorite book?
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy reading and gardening. I find pulling weeds extremely therapeutic after a long day, week or month at work.
At which store or travel destination would you like to max-out your credit card? Any reason why?
Scotland is on my list of places to visit and if I happen to find myself a kilted husband while I’m there, I won’t complain.
Favorite line from a movie?
“Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my BOOMSTICK!” ~ Army of Darkness
What is the best thing you ever got from a fellow staff member? (i.e. an item or piece of advice)
When I applied for my current position, my dear friend Terri Gruba gave me some sage advice: “Remember it’s not brain surgery, nobody is going to die if you screw up.”
If you had to share a memory about work, what would it be and why?
There are too many to tell, but for me they all are linked to the amazing sense of pride I get knowing that the work I do, we all do, is so impactful on our students’ lives. That we can be the difference in someone attaining a degree and fulfilling their dreams. As a first generation, Pell Grant recipient myself I have experienced this on personal level, and knowing that I can do the same for others is extremely powerful, humbling and inspiring.
If you had to eat one meal, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh man, this is tough but I would have to choose some type of TexMex, and since I’m currently craving Crispy Pinto Bean Burritos from Taco Time that’ll have to be my pick.
Do you have a secret talent? Or is there a talent you wish you had?
No secret talents, I’m an open book perhaps too open sometimes. So maybe I should wish for the ability to not mirror my thoughts on my face in certain meetings or settings.
What is something on your bucket list?
To live abroad.
Do you have any phobias?
I am afraid of birds, especially those of the larger variety… Fowl are foul.
What was one thing you could not live without as a kid?
My Velveteen Rabbit
If you could say one thing to the person who nominated you, what would it be?
Thank you! I am very humbled by the nomination especially when I know that I work with a great group of Montanans who are even more deserving of the spotlight.
What is one thing you like to share about yourself that people often forget to ask about?
I enjoy any and every opportunity to dress up in a costume and make a fool of myself.
Association News Committee, Montana