Featured Colleague: Daniel Barkowitz Embodies the Perfect Combo of People Skills and Analytical Skills

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

By Claudia Zequeira

As someone who loves his job, one might not expect Daniel Barkowitz, assistant vice president, financial aid and veterans affairs, to say his career path was the product of a serendipitous event.

“Nobody decides when they’re a child ‘Oh, I want to be a financial aid officer.’ You sort of fall into this profession,” said Daniel, who added the he found himself where he is today thanks to a position he took at as a college student more than two decades ago, where he was tasked with processing loan applications.

Nevertheless, it is this field — which he described as a marriage of science and art — that gave Daniel an opportunity to use his strengths: a combination of strong people skills and a solid mathematical mind.

“Financial aid is a great place to tie the right brain and the left brain together,” he said.

In his current role, Daniel oversees all aspects of financial aid for Valencia College, managing a team of 46 individuals all of whom ensure compliance with numerous federal, state and institutional regulations. His team also makes sure the College’s nearly 70,000 students, including its veteran students, are served.

At Valencia, where he started working three years ago, Daniel is most proud of fostering team spirit and cohesion within his department even as the College transitioned to virtual work post COVID-19. For an example of how he’s fostering team spirt, view this article. 

He also noted the remarkable work his unit accomplished in the wake of the pandemic, which battered many students and their families financially. Under his watch, close to 24,000 students received $18 million of emergency federal CARES Act funding within a six-month period.

Besides managing this endeavor, Daniel said he is committed to continuing to decrease obstacles so that students can access money that can make education possible. This has included simplifying or eliminating certain procedures they previously had to follow.

“My priority is increasing access,” he said. “Let’s not ask students for things we don’t have to ask them for.”

His supervisor, Sonya Joseph, associate vice president, enrollment management, praised Daniel for his intelligent and enthusiastic effort to help students with a heavy dose of empathy.

“Daniel’s work on the development and distribution of the College’s CARES funding is remarkable,” said Sonya. “The thought and strategy he put behind this endeavor is the reason thousands of students are benefitting from this grant. He’s been able to pivot on sometimes a weekly basis as new guidelines were published.”

“This is more than a profession for him, this is his calling and his purpose,” she added. “He wants to make it possible for all students to have access to education regardless of their stage of life, their previous life choices or their background.”

Prior to joining Valencia, Daniel held various financial aid and management roles with progressive responsibility, including as dean of enrollment management at St. Johns River State College; executive director of Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Massachusetts; dean of financial aid at Columbia University, in New York City; and director of student financial aid and employment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), among several others.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in human resources education from Boston University.

A huge Walt Disney World fan, Daniel said that he was attracted to the College because of its many professional development and learning opportunities, such as those offered by the Peace and Justice Institute, book clubs offered by Organizational Development and Human Resources, and Valencia’s mission in itself.

“Valencia College is a place where the door is open to college completion for all. I welcome and treasure our ongoing conversation on equity, inclusion and diversity, and I value the opportunity to continue to expand my own knowledge and experience with these topics,” said Daniel.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in my role one important focus is ensuring that socioeconomic class is part of the College’s conversation on diversity, inclusion and equity. I hope I can be an advocate and support our students and their needs, he added.”

Daniel said he is also inspired by Valencia’s commitment to partnership and innovation.

“While we could easily rest on our laurels and celebrate our success, the College is always focused on new opportunities and ways to innovate and improve,” he shared. “The College is the students, faculty and staff, and I am daily inspired by the amazing colleagues and students with whom I work and serve.”

He also expressed gratitude for working for an institution that represents hope and opportunity for so many.

“During the year, I have the opportunity to present to and speak with many members of the community about how to pay for college,” he said. “To me and to the students I speak with, Valencia represents opportunity and possibility. Valencia opens a door to a better future for our students and their families, and I am blessed to be able to help in that effort.

In his free time, Daniel, who was born in Panama’s Canal Zone and moved to South Carolina as a teenager before moving to the Northeast to attend college, loves to spend time with his wife, adult children and his two “fur babies,” two Yorkshire Terriers named Luna and Rufus.

Daniel also enjoys cooking, puzzles and collecting Tarot cards.

“I have a passion for the Tarot — yes, the fortune-telling cards,” he said. “I have a collection of nearly 100 decks. For me they are a beautiful artistic expression and provide a canvas for a conversation on ideas. During my time at MIT, I was the first person to teach a class on the history and mystery of the Tarot; granted, it was a non-credit course.”

Know of someone doing great work at the College, who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.

7 Comments

  • Paul Wilder said:

    Great work, Dan!

    PMTue, 19 Jan 2021 18:48:06 +0000Tue, 19 Jan 2021 18:48:06 +0000pm21,6:48 pm

  • Marie Vasquez-Brooks said:

    And we are lucky to have you as OUR financial aid officer! Thank you for all that you do to serve and support our students 🙂

    PMTue, 19 Jan 2021 20:27:04 +0000Tue, 19 Jan 2021 20:27:04 +0000pm21,8:27 pm

  • Lauren Z said:

    Definitely a well deserved highlight! ❤

    AMWed, 20 Jan 2021 07:50:28 +0000Wed, 20 Jan 2021 07:50:28 +0000am21,7:50 am

  • Jeff Goltz said:

    Dan, you are a "rock star." Thank you for the friendship and collaboration with the SPS team over the years.

    AMWed, 20 Jan 2021 08:15:44 +0000Wed, 20 Jan 2021 08:15:44 +0000am21,8:15 am

  • Nichole Segarra said:

    Dan is so knowledgeable and helpful to his colleagues and to our students. I'm so glad he's a part of the Valencia family.

    AMWed, 20 Jan 2021 09:02:26 +0000Wed, 20 Jan 2021 09:02:26 +0000am21,9:02 am

  • GMaritza said:

    Well deserved recognition! Thank you Dan for all you do for our students and our Valencia community!

    PMWed, 20 Jan 2021 13:10:02 +0000Wed, 20 Jan 2021 13:10:02 +0000pm21,1:10 pm

  • Jennifer Bhagirath said:

    Wonderful feature, thanks for all that you do Daniel!

    PMTue, 02 Mar 2021 16:46:04 +0000Tue, 02 Mar 2021 16:46:04 +0000pm21,4:46 pm

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