Director of Scholarships and Student Financial Services Anne Hardy, M.S. ’10, thinks of herself as a walking, talking “Huskie Legacy.”
“My mother earned her master’s degree from NIU. My grandmother worked at NIU, and my husband’s grandmother worked at NIU,” she said. “I believe in our mission and am so proud to be part of a team that is committed to providing access to education through equitable and innovative practices.”
This mission began for Hardy in 1997, when she began working at NIU as extra help. While spending her days opening mail for the Office of Admissions, she began thinking about how to advance her career and what a future with an advanced degree might look like.
Hardy had earned her B.S. in biological sciences from Bradley University, and after holding a variety of full-time positions within Registration and Records, she decided to complete a master’s degree to open more options.
“It was a personal goal to earn a master’s degree because I love to learn new things,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue but several of my colleagues recommended the industrial management program in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.”
Hardy loved the program, especially appreciating that the course modes were flexible and designed for working professionals.
“My children were young at the time, so I took only one or two classes each semester while working full-time,” she said. “I was usually the oldest person in the classroom and the only woman, but my classmates made me feel welcome. Industrial management sounds intimidating, but it was perfect for my career goals. My focus was on organizational operations, and I learned a lot about continuous improvement, quality control and strategic planning, as well as general management practices.”
Through an independent study class, Hardy had the opportunity to help develop one of the first online courses for the program. Then, after she earned her master’s degree, one of her instructors invited her back to the classroom to be a guest speaker. Those opportunities eventually led to her taking on the role of director of NIU’s Scholarship Program. Recently, she stepped into a dual role as the director of Scholarships and Student Financial Advising Services.
“In my role as scholarship director, I oversee NIU’s merit scholarship program and other special scholarship programs; I manage about $20 million annually,” she said. “I am a liaison between the NIU Foundation and the academic colleges and other campus departments who award scholarships, so I spend a lot of time training campus staff and troubleshooting.”
Financial advising is an initiative born out of the need for more outreach and financial education. Hardy is excited for the opportunity to coordinate some of the work that is already being done related to financial literacy, and to develop new initiatives.
“I have a great team and we are committed to helping our students navigate their complicated financial journey. We do a lot of one-on-one advising about financial aid, we offer online learning modules on various financial topics, and we are developing several presentations. I also hope to develop new community and alumni partnerships so that we can bring in experts to share their knowledge with our students.”
She adds, “I like to say that my mom was a teacher and my dad was a banker, so I took those two professions and combined them into what I do!”
No two days are the same for Hardy, which both challenges and inspires her. On any given day, she may be working on new scholarship awarding strategies, developing and enforcing policies, testing new technology solutions, planning recognition events, or conducting assessment projects. She also often gives presentations to incoming or current students and helps overwhelmed families who are facing financial obstacles.
Hardy continues to be inspired to work in an area where she can witness the true transformative power that NIU has on students.
“Students I have met through the years have come back to visit and share their success stories,” she said. “I love knowing that the work I do can impact someone’s life in such a big way. My time at NIU has allowed me to embrace new perspectives. I am a lifelong learner, and every new experience helps me to understand our students better so, in turn, I can implement strategies and programs to make their experience at NIU better.”
To say Hardy is dedicated to her fellow Huskies is an understatement. Every day, she sees the challenges that students face, and their fierce dedication to pursuing education despite any obstacles.
“Our students are doing wonderful things, and sometimes they just need a helping hand to get through a tough time,” she said. “Through my work, I am able to be a good steward of NIU’s scholarship funds, and it only makes sense that I personally donate when and where I can. I like to donate where there can be an immediate impact, so recently I have chosen to contribute to funds like Undocumented Student Support and the Student Emergency Fund. I also like to contribute to the General Scholarship fund, because that gives NIU the most flexibility to help as many students as possible.”
She is also very involved on campus, serving on too many committees and task forces to count.
For the last 10 years, she has also served as a faculty advisor to a Greek fraternity on campus. She was previously very active in the Support Professional Staff Council, and during her time on the council, she created a leadership development program for staff. She also helped to start the Supportive Professional Staff Dependent Scholarship Fund.
“I have been so fortunate to have wonderful mentors, teachers, and supervisors,” Hardy said. “I wouldn’t be in my current position if I hadn’t learned various skills in the classroom that I have been able to apply to my work. I also have the support of many wonderful colleagues around campus, and the work they do every day inspires me to do better. I am so proud to be part of the Huskie Family.”
Join Anne Hardy, fellow employees, alumni and the community to support the university during Thousands Strong on Nov. 10 and 11, 2021. Together we can be examples of Huskie Pride and display the power of philanthropy.