Written By: Jill Anne Ladouceur
This year, AFCPE was proud to recognize Sharon Cabeen as the recipient of the Distinguished Fellow Award. The honor goes to a colleague who deserves our greatest recognition for his or her significant and long-lasting contributions to AFCPE and to the field. It also must represent someone who exhibits the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.
This is Sharon Cabeen.
Sharon has spent 10 years serving AFCPE in a variety of capacities, including: Chairperson of the Member Services Committee; member of the Strategic Planning Committee; and an officer of the Board and Executive Board as President and Past President.
A fellow colleague fondly recalls:
“Once Sharon joined our team, her passion and mission to assist consumers in better managing their finances was obvious. Although our organization’s focus is on the student—that is, student access, retention and student loan debt—she has helped us, and others in the higher education industry, realize that our contributions are a small part of the bigger picture, which she refers to as ‘The Farm.'”
The Farm is an analogy that Sharon uses to describe the world of finances. The silos on the farm are the different components of the big financial picture, including student loans, credit, spending, etc. With more than 35 years of experience—25 years in credit counseling management and financial education and 10 years in the student loan industry—Sharon has devoted much of her career to building a bridge between the industry’s silos.
As a result of her efforts, professionals in each silo have retained and shared knowledge invaluable to one another. Student loan counselors have experience in the complex world of the FAFSA and student loan repayment, while AFCs are equipped to discuss multiple debt types and help consumers develop spending plans that align with their personal values and financial goals. Sharon has used her leadership to open the eyes of both industries and to realize the importance of collaboration.
Sharon is the creator of two different financial literacy programs that are being used today by two different organizations. Thanks to Sharon, there has been an increase in AFC®certifications as well as AFCPE memberships from student financial aid professionals, lenders and guarantors across the country. Because of her, scholarships were created for student financial aid professionals to enroll in the AFC program and student financial aid experts are now attending and submitting proposals for conference presentations and increasing the network of knowledge amongst AFCPE’s membership. Through her leadership, financial aid offices are now creating positions devoted to financial literacy on college campuses across the country with a focus on a holistic approach to student aid.
The bridge is being built. AFCPE Staff, Board and Members agree—it has been, and continues to be, an honor to learn from Sharon and work together toward her vision of the perfect farm.