Being a social worker in a financial aid office may seem like a strange fit, but Mike Arieta makes it work.
"Having a background in social work helps me connect with students on a different level," Mike said. "I can talk to students about sensitive topics pretty easily and make them calm down. Also, financial aid is a system that is hard to navigate, just like any other government system social workers typically navigate."
Mike has a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. His master's degree in social work is from the U. He is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker.
Mike has been in for ASR for 13 years: two years in Client Services (now One Stop Student Services) and 11 years in the Undergraduate Services office in the Office of Student Finance. For all 11 of those years, Mike has worked for his manager Larry Bloom.
"Larry often tells me that you will either really love this job or really hate it," Mike said. "I never thought that this was the direction my career would go in, but I'm loving it."
Mike is responsible for "mining the ISIR suspense files." Mike digs out the student records from the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) that were not loaded during the first process due to issues with name, date of birth, and/or social security number. He takes a look at these records and loads them into the system when the information has been corrected. He also does dependency overrides for students who have issues with the dependency status they were assigned.
"I work with students whose situations require a lot of attention," Mike said. "The best asset I have in my job is the amount of time I spend working with students. It makes my job worth it."
Previously, Mike worked multiple jobs in social work. He was a mental health counselor for a local addictions program for a few months and also worked at Eastside Neighborhood Services as a social worker to teens. His last job before coming to the U was in a nursing home for chemically dependent patients.
When asked why he would choose to be a financial aid counselor if he has a social work background, he replies, "Wouldn't you have wanted a financial aid adviser who had a background in social work when you were in school?"
Other than work, Mike enjoys spending time with his fiancee, a special education teacher for St. Paul schools. They have been together for 5 years, and have been engaged for about a year. They are thinking about getting married this summer. Currently, Mike spends his time between his place in Minneapolis and his fiancee's place in Apple Valley.
Mike also loves to travel. He has been to many places across the U.S., especially different, out of the way places like small towns. He likes to see how other people live in different areas. He has not had the chance to travel outside the country as much as he would like.
When it comes down to it though, Mike really enjoys working at the U. "I love the diversity of students we have here. I learn something new everyday," Mike said. "Students often have underlying issues beyond finances. I just help them understand finances and debt and navigate their options."
Mike's favorite movie is Waiting...
His biggest fear is leaving his wallet somewhere.
If he could be any character for a day, he would be Indiana Jones. "He has a no-nonsense personality, but he likes to explore and find interesting things."
Growing up, Mike thought he may be a physical therapist or a doctor.
His favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.
He loves modern rock music.
His first concert was Amy Grant.
The last book he read was Addictive Behaviors, third edition.
If he could be anything, he'd be a wolf.
Mike has five tattoos.