After 10 months, financial aid director hired

by Brook O'Meara-Sayen / Beacon Correspondent • October 16, 2014

After nearly 10 months without a director, the Office of Financial Aid has filled this key vacancy.

James Olick, 38, was chosen to fill the position after a national search, according to an emailed statement to the Beacon from Ruthanne Madsen, associate vice president for enrollment and student financial services. Olick announced on Oct. 1 that he would be heading the department via Twitter.

Olick was formerly employed by Johnson & Wales University in the Providence school’s Student Financial Services department, where he said he worked for nine years.

Although Olick said does not officially start in his position until Oct. 24, he said he was excited to work at Emerson. 

“The community and culture are what attracted me to Emerson,” he wrote in an emailed statement to the Beacon. “This is an exciting time for the college and I feel privileged to become a member of the community.”

As director, Olick said he will deal directly with the student body in matters of financial assistance, ensure that the college complies with federal and state financial aid regulations, and oversee strategy for the department. 

Olick said he is originally from Rhode Island, attended the University of Rhode Island as an undergraduate where he received a double major in marketing and management information systems. He also earned his MBA from URI. He is currently seeking a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University. 

The position was left vacant after former director Kerri Jacobs left in December 2013, and Madsen said the timing wasn’t ideal for hiring. 

“When the former director of financial aid left in December, it was a very difficult part of the season to try to hire an experienced financial aid administrator,” Madsen wrote. The reason for that is the financial aid cycle starts in January. The window of time to effectively hire for this role is between September and December.” 

Jacobs said she left the college on good terms. 

“I left Emerson for a position closer to my home,” she wrote in an email to the Beacon. “I had a baby in July 2013 and it became a priority to find a position in my field where I could also be close to my family.”

When the Financial Aid Office was without a director, Madsen said its staff worked closely with her and that she distributed directorial functions among them. The office also hired a temporary staff member with financial aid knowledge to assist during the busiest times of the year, according to Madsen.

Madsen wrote she was “thrilled” to welcome Olick to the college. 

“He has a deep knowledge of the many facets of financial aid,” she wrote, “from regulatory compliance to technology and offers a very approachable demeanor which will help when working with students and families.”