Associate Director of Financial Aid Programs Software, Coordinates Outreach Activities

Karen Hook, associate director of financial aid, says her office helps 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students find Financial Aid programs.
Posted 05/15/08
Q: Karen, when did you come to Wesleyan?

A: Ten years ago I relocated from Burlington, Vermont to work at the Financial Aid Office. I started as the assistant director of loans and student employment. Five years ago I became associate director.

Q: What is your main role as associate director of financial aid?

A: I’m the “keeper of the calendar.” In that capacity, I work with everybody to be sure we are where we need to be at that time of year. This includes reviewing files, processing requests, coordinating outreach activities.

Q: During a typical day, how do you spend most of your time?

A: I work with students and parents about 25 percent of the time. The rest of my day is spent behind the scenes reviewing files and working on systems.

Q: How many students receive financial aid?

A: Our office works with about 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students. During the spring, we assist an additional 800 admitted students.

Q: In what ways can you help students defray this cost? What are financial aid options?

A: After financial aid is awarded, the family may be looking for ways to support their family contribution. Since each family’s financial situation is different our office is available to discuss various options, such as the Monthly Payment Plan or alternative loans. Our goal is to provide a family with the best information available so they may make an informed decision.

Q: Aside from federal, state and private scholarships, how does Wesleyan help students? Where does this income come from?

A: There are a number of institutions that are not able to provide all the aid that a student needs to attend. Wesleyan students are fortunate in that alumni and other donors have generously given funds to make sure that Wesleyan does not become one of those schools.

Q: Do you work with students of all class years or any particular years?

A: I work with a portion of the admitted students before they matriculate and seniors. It’s fun to meet students as they are entering Wes and then catch back up with them as they are about to leave. I’m constantly amazed at the opportunities they have either taken advantage of or created on their own while at Wesleyan.

Q: What office technologies do you oversee?

A: I’m responsible for programming our financial aid software system, maintaining our gateway to the federal grant programs and our website.

Q: Who do you work with on a day-to-day basis?

A: Students, parents, student accounts, staff in Information Technology Services and outside agencies.

Q: Is your job rewarding?

A: Giving away millions of dollars is absolutely rewarding, and challenging. There are many federal and state regulations that we must follow in order to stay in compliance. My favorite part about the job is that I get to meet people from all over the world.

Q: Where did you attend college and what did you major in?

A: I graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University with a bachelor of arts in international studies. I also had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester at Osaka University in Japan.

Q: What led you to Wesleyan?

A: I’m a big believer in “things happen for a reason.” I stumbled on my last job in Vermont when I received a package in the mail with newspaper stuffed in the box. The newspaper section just happened to be the classifieds. For Wesleyan, my husband and I were looking to relocate. While we were vacationing on Cape Cod, we picked up The Boston Globe on our way to the beach. I read the classifieds and I guess you could say the rest is history!

Q: Any plans for the summer?

A: My husband, son, daughter and I live in Wethersfield and we love to be outside so you will find us out on what the kids call a “nature walk.” As an extension of that we’re looking forward to some camping adventures in the Adirondacks this year.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor