Las Vegas, N.M. – Susan Chavez knows firsthand the power financial aid has to help achieve a higher education with most of her 11 siblings completing degrees, thanks in part to financial support from New Mexico.
Chavez, a Bloomfield, New Mexico native, is the new financial aid director for New Mexico Highlands University.
“My siblings are a New Mexico story of a Hispanic family that highly valued education as a way to lift us into successful futures,” Chavez said. “We are first-generation college students with careers like former New Mexico secretary of higher education, president of a major construction company, music director of the Santa Fe cathedral, manager of an oil company, teachers, nurses and business owners.”
Chavez said she feels like she has a lot in common with students at Highlands, many of whom are also the first in their family to attend college. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from New Mexico State University.
“I’m very motivated to help these first-generation and all students achieve their potential through an education, which in many cases is not possible without financial aid,” Chavez.
Chavez comes to Highlands from Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque where she served as associate director of financial aid for four years. She led her staff in delivering financial aid services such as verifying, awarding and dispersing federal and state funds.
“For me, excellent customer service is the number-one priority. Financial aid is often the first experience students and their families have with college. I want this experience with our Financial Aid Office at Highlands to be very positive and welcoming, where students and their parents leave with all their questions answered and a much better understanding of financial aid, which can be confusing and intimidating.”
Chavez also worked as a financial aid adviser at CNM. Previously, she served as the financial aid senior outreach officer at the University of New Mexico. She also was a financial aid adviser at UNM.
“My passion is community outreach that helps incoming freshman and other students complete their FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid, so they can get started on their college path,” Chavez said.
She said one of her top goals is to develop more ways to streamline the process to better assist Highlands students with receiving all the financial aid for which they are eligible.
“To me, it’s always about the students and what our office can do to help them be successful. We will also partner closely with recruitment at Highlands to help achieve our university’s strategic goal of increased enrollment, which goes hand in hand with making the financial aid process easier,” Chavez said.
Chavez is active in professional organizations such as the New Mexico Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. In 2016, she was the conference chair for the Southwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
She said being from Northern New Mexico, she always felt a connection to Highlands.
“Most of my teachers were Highlands graduates who spoke well of the university. I’m thrilled and honored to be at Highlands, which is such a gem in higher education in New Mexico,” Chavez said.