Kelsey Ryder, associate director in the University of Iowa Office of Student Financial Aid, is the recipient of the 2023 Lola Lopes Award for Undergraduate Student Advocacy.
The award recognizes administrators, staff, or faculty outside of their teaching role who serve as strong and effective advocates for undergraduate students and the undergraduate experience. Recipients are selected by a committee composed of staff, faculty, and a student.
Since joining the student financial aid office in 2014, Ryder has been instrumental in its financial literacy efforts for students—first as a financial literacy specialist and later as a trainer and supervisor of financial aid advisors. A problem-solver who is dedicated to access and equity, and to continually improving the office’s services and communication, Ryder has spearheaded a series of changes that have positively affected undergraduate student recruitment, retention, and success through graduation and beyond.
Under Ryder’s leadership, financial literacy services transitioned from a separate unit in the office to an embedded part of all Office of Student Financial Aid advising. Her efforts to expand the office’s financial literacy outreach through presentations and workshops, as well as the partnerships she has formed with other campus offices that serve students, have made it possible for the office to reach an increased number of students each year.
Ryder’s role in developing procedures and training advisors to conduct private loan counseling contributed to reducing students’ private loans by more than $1 million in 2021-22 (compared with what students previously requested from private lenders), leading to greater financial freedom for those students upon graduation.
Ryder coordinated the hiring, training, and mentoring of a dedicated group of student peer advisors to answer phone inquiries and perform receptionist duties, a major organizational change that gave professional advisors more time to address complicated inquiries and to perform intentional student outreach. The change has even created a professional pipeline for some student advisors who have advanced to full-time professional financial aid positions.
Ryder will receive a $1,000 honorarium and a certificate, and her name will be added to a plaque that will be displayed in the UI Admissions Visitors Center.
The award is named in honor of Lola L. Lopes, former associate provost for undergraduate education and professor emerita of management and organizations in the Tippie College of Business. Lopes served as interim executive vice president and provost during 2007-08.