Associate Director of Student Financial Planning given leadership award
By, MAX BROWN
Chris Ditter, the associate director of financial planning at Drake, was recently awarded the State Leadership Award for Iowa at the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), held this year in Minneapolis. This award is presented annually to outstanding members from each of the nine states in the MASFAA.
Ditter has worked at Drake for 17 years, taking on many duties in the financial planning office.
“Along with the director, I assist in the daily management of the office including direct supervision of five assistant directors and an administrative assistant with 14 total staff members,” Ditter said. “I work a lot in conjunction with the assistant director systems with our administrative software … to ensure the timely receipt of financial aid funds by students.”
In addition to managing the department and meeting with parents and families, Ditter said she ensures that the financial planning office is acting in accordance with federal guidelines.
“I deal a lot with interpreting and implementing federal financial aid regulations, which includes the creation of policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the multitude of federal financial aid requirements our office and the institution must abide by,” Ditter said. “I am also the point person for the financial aid portion of our annual audit.”
Ditter says that interpreting these guidelines can be the most difficult part of her job.
“Many times new regulations are provided with very little guidance,” Ditter said. “Many times regulations don’t always make logical sense either and there is a challenge sometimes in explaining such regulations to students.”
Ditter said she enjoys looking for opportunities to help the financial planning office improve and enjoys the accomplishment that comes with this position.
“There are many rewarding and fulfilling parts of my job,” Ditter said. “I love a challenge, so whenever a project has been completed or a new program has been implemented successfully that provides a sense of accomplishment for me.”
She said she appreciates the people that she works with every day.
“I find working with students and families and helping them fulfill their dreams of a college education is very rewarding,” Ditter said. “Also, working with staff and seeing them grow and develop over time and learning from them is very rewarding. It’s so nice to have great colleagues to work with every day.”
According to the MASFAA, individuals selected for the state award must “exhibit high integrity and character; have shown creative leadership; have inspired and encouraged others to participate actively in professional development activities; have sustained active involvement in professional organizations, and have supported the goals and objectives of MASFAA.”
Kristi Fuller, a coworker of Ditter across several schools, said she believes Ditter goes above and beyond these expectations.
“She exhibits high integrity daily in all her work and is very knowledgeable about financial aid regulations and processes,” Fuller said. “She always has an open door policy for any staff member, no matter if they report to her or not. Her composure, even when faced with difficult situations, is a steady influence within the office.”
Fuller focused especially on Ditter’s efforts to support the Iowa State Financial Aid Association while maintaining all her other duties at Drake.
“Chris is very supportive of Student Financial Planning employees becoming involved with our state financial aid association (IASFAA) by running for elected offices, serving as chairs of committees, or members of committees,” Fuller said. “She has continuously served on the IASFAA Executive Board for many years in different roles while still making sure that her work at Drake was never impacted.”
In addition to serving on the IASFAA executive board, Ditter has also served on the Electronic Services committee and the MASFAA Board. Ditter credits these experiences with helping improve her work at Drake.
“Participating in my state and Midwest professional associations enhances what I do at Drake as it’s one of the best mechanisms for professional development,” Ditter said. “I have so many persons I can call upon when I have a financial aid question I am uncertain of or if I want to reach out and learn about how another campus does something. The sharing of information and ideas among colleagues is invaluable.”
The MASFAA is a non-profit group of professionals from colleges in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Their mission statement is to “promote and provide quality training and professional development opportunities, to advocate and support financial aid programs, and to facilitate effective communication and coordination among interrelated professional associations, thereby serving the needs and interests of students and post-secondary institutions.”
Fuller reminds students and parents that the financial planning office is here to help with any question or problem regarding financial aid.
“We are here to offer support to Drake students and their families,” Fuller said, “We understand that financial aid is not easy to understand and can leave students and families at times feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Our goal is to alleviate some of the pressure involved with the process.”
The FAFSA application for 2019-20 is now available. The financial planning office encourages students planning to be enrolled in school for 2019-20 to file a FAFSA as soon as possible.