Laurie Schaffler is stepping down as dean of financial aid after less than a year on the job.
Schaffler, GS ’92, is moving to Seattle to live near her two daughters, one of whom is pregnant with Schaffler’s first grandchild.
“I came here from Washington state about 20 years ago to go to GS and do my writing degree, and I’m going home,” Schaffler said. “I’m going home to be near my girls and be near my grandchildren, and to figure out what I’m going to do when I get out there.”
Schaffler was named financial aid dean last summer, after Daniel Barkowitz left to become executive director of his synagogue in Needham, Mass. Schaffler believes that during her short tenure as dean, she has helped make the financial aid office run more smoothly and efficiently.
Last semester she hired five temporary employees to help ease the burden on her office, which handles financial aid for Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. As of Tuesday, the office had processed financial aid packages for more than 600 continuing students, even though it is usually just starting to process those packages at this point, Schaffler said.
The five temporary employees will soon become full-time employees, two of them year-round and two of them seasonal. Schaffler credited CC Interim Dean James Valentini, SEAS Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora, and Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger with helping her secure funding for the new employees.
“We’ve put ourselves in a much better position from a resource perspective, and it’s been completely because of the support of the deans,” she said.
Schaffler also started an internal review of the financial aid office after being approached with the idea last semester by Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, who has since been elected Columbia College Student Council president. The office sent out a student survey and conducted focus groups with students, and a staff focus group will be held soon.
According to Shollenberger, most of the assessment should be done by the end of the month. Schaffler said that a “very baseline” report will be prepared by the end of the summer.
“We’ll work off of that as we go into the future,” she said.
Schaffler, though, won’t be around to see the results of the assessment. She said that she’s been “feeling the urge to be near my girls for a while.”
“I have a very intense relationship with my children. I raised my kids by myself—I was a single mom,” she said. “By the time I was 27 I was single with three kids.”
Schaffler doesn’t have a job lined up in Seattle, but she has some ideas of what she wants to do when she gets there. First and foremost, she will continue her hobby of making “fabric art,” sewing poetry into beaded quilts.
Schaffler, who earned an M.F.A. in poetry at The New School in 2009, might also try becoming a teacher or a life coach. She said she has some “irons in the fire” at a few institutions of higher education in Seattle.
Shollenberger said that it might be a while before a new financial aid dean is hired. Before beginning a search process, he would like to finish the assessment of the financial aid office and also look at ways tweak the office’s reporting structure, possibly adjusting the responsibilities of the dean of financial aid and the director of financial aid.
Schaffler’s resignation becomes official at the end of the month. Even if she doesn’t know exactly what she’ll do next, she said she’s excited to find out.
“Most importantly I’m going to be a grandma, and pursue art,” she said. “And hopefully I’ll find a job so that I can land on my feet.”