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On July 23, Penn announced Joel Carstens as the university director of Financial Aid.

Carstens, who directed Princeton University’s undergraduate financial aid renewal process, as well as the Office of Student Employment, will replace Bill Schilling, who retired on June 30 after serving for over 30 years.

“The University of Pennsylvania’s unique place in American higher education, the quality of a Penn education at all levels, the Penn Compact and the University’s strong aid program are just a few of the many reasons Penn is a great place to work and pursue an education,” Carstens wrote in an email.

Michelle Brown-Nevers, associate vice president of Penn’s Student Registration and Financial Services, headed the search and hiring committee and believes Carstens is an ideal fit for the position.

“Joel’s well-rounded experience in financial aid, his leadership abilities, his systems experience and his philosophy about work make him a prime candidate for the position of University Director,” she wrote in an email.

During his eight years at Princeton, Carstens made significant changes to the student employment program, making it a part of the financial aid operation, which included developing online tools for what previously was a “manual and difficult experience” for students and potential employers, according to Robin Moscato, director of financial aid at Princeton.

“He just made the student employment system work so much better and be a much more pleasant experience for the students,” Moscato said.

In addition to being a terrific financial aid administrator, she added, Carstens “relates to students, parents, coworkers and colleagues around the university, which makes him a really valuable asset in the financial aid department.”

“My first priority upon arrival in September is getting to know the aid staff and the University community,” Carstens wrote. “Along with this task, the Next Generation Student Systems project will provide the entire SRFS team the opportunity to look at our structure and how we do things at Penn.”

Carstens, whose appointment is effective Sept. 1, does not plan on beginning with an overhaul.
“Until I have a chance to review everything, the University community should not expect to see substantial changes,” he wrote. “However, it has been my experience that incremental change that is both beneficial and transparent to students and families works best.”

Carstens currently serves as vice president of external affairs of the National Student Employment Association, an organization of professionals involved with programs for working college students. Prior to his post at Princeton, he held the position of director of financial aid at MGH Institute of Health Professions, where he led the school’s first integrated systems implementation.

Overall, he looks forward to “continuing the good work accomplished during [Schilling’s] tenure and leading a team that wishes to build upon that success.”

Carstens added that he is pleased and honored to take on the position.

“I welcome the challenge of building from the strong foundation developed by Bill Schilling and the entire financial aid team,” he said.

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