by Rebecca Cooper
She has only been an interim director of financial aid for three weeks, but Leatha Webster has already made an impact on the University of La Verne campus. This, however, almost did not happen.
“The first three days coming here I got lost and the first night going back I got lost too,” Webster said. “Everything looks the same, so I finally learned to put the two words Sheraton and Fairplex together to figure out which direction I should be going. I finally worked it out, but it was certainly a learning experience.”
Webster flies home to San Francisco on Thursday evening and returns to Southern California on Sunday night to work part of the week. The University is paying for her airfare at the lowest rate possible, she said.
During her four month term at ULV, she will live at the Sheraton Fairplex while the University continues its search for a permanent director.
“I have a passion for financial aid because I know there are a number of students who would not be able to receive an education without it,” Webster said. “Financial aid is one of the most valuable resources available to students. Financial aid is something I feel that I can stand up and speak for. I love what I do.”
Part of her love affair includes getting students more involved with the financial aid process. She plans to hold forums and focus groups to look at the issues students are most concerned with and how to improve the financial aid process.
“I hope it will give students who have not been vocal a chance to say how we can address and deal with these issues,” Webster said. “I want to continue what has happened with improving financial aid. I want to improve the timeline to deliver financial aid to students.”
Webster dealt with student financial aid for over 30 years. She retired last June to be a private consultant but put that on hold when she accepted the job at ULV.
“Simplification – that’s my main goal here,” Webster said. “We’re currently looking at how we do things now and how we can do them better with less process, but still be in compliance with government regulations.
“The dedication for the financial aid staff to improve what we are doing has impressed me. They are eager and willing and very hard workers-I’m just here to guide them in the right direction,” she said.
Webster replaced former director of financial aid Mary Lindsey last month.
“(Webster) really seems like she is a very competent and experienced person,” said Francisco Gallegos, financial aid adviser. “We are lucky to have her and we’re all looking forward to working with her.”