WMU News

O'Flaherty tapped for post at U.S. Dept. of Education

Aug. 30, 2004

KALAMAZOO--After eight years in Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University's student financial aid guru is headed to Washington, D.C., for what she calls "the opportunity of a lifetime."

Susan O'Flaherty, WMU's executive director of student services, has been tapped for a new post as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Education. Her focus at the department will be on student applications and systems in the Office of Student Financial Assistance. It's a job to which O'Flaherty brings more than 30 years of experience in working directly with students.

"For me, this is really a dream job, a perfect match," O'Flaherty says. "What I can bring to the very complex federal financial aid system is a perspective on how universities operate, how financial aid offices operate within those universities and how aid systems impact the lives and college experiences of our students."

She began her tenure at WMU in 1996 as director of student financial aid and scholarships. Five years later, she took on her current title when she added oversight of the Registrar's Office to her duties. Her departure will trigger searches for new people to handle the multiple roles she currently plays at WMU.

"Sue is a lynchpin for a number of vital University services and initiatives," says Dr. Linda Delene, WMU's provost and vice president for academic affairs, who announced O'Flaherty's resignation, effective Sept. 24. "For the past three years, she's overseen both the registrar's office and our financial aid operations. Each of those tasks is enormous, but holding both at a university this size is really a Herculean effort. This is a loss for the University, but truly a gain for students around the nation, because of the knowledge, commitment and passion Sue brings to the issues of financial aid."

A strong advocate for financial aid systems that are tailored to meet student needs and the reality of their lives at college, O'Flaherty is nationally known in financial aid circles, has played leadership roles in a number of professional organizations and has repeatedly testified before Congress a well as other federal panels and commissions. As an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Education, she served for two terms--six years in all--as a member of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which serves as an independent source of advice and counsel to both the secretary and the Congress, making recommendations on issues of access and delivery of financial aid.

O'Flaherty came to WMU from a financial aid position at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She also has held position in financial aid and administration at universities in California, New York and Connecticut. She earned a bachelor's degree from Adelphi University and a master's degree from Cal Poly State University.

Delene says the University will immediately launch searches for a new registrar, a director of financial aid and a vice provost for enrollment management. In the interim, Delene announced the following personnel adjustments.

Barbara McKinney, formerly of the Department of Mathematics, will serve as interim registrar.

Carol Aslanian will serve as interim director of the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Marcie Ohs of the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships will assume O'Flaherty's role in the implementation of WMU's new Student Information System, which is now underway, and O'Flaherty expects to continue advising the University on the project until it is completed.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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