Lunch with Director Hulvey

Kimberly Hopkin '19
Columns Editor

Before we start, I’m a little biased. Director of the Office of Financial Aid Jennifer Hulvey, who sweetly reminds me every time I see her that she wants students to call her Jennifer, conducted my application interview to UVa Law. Okay, fine – I’m extremely biased because Hulvey has always been there rooting for me personally since I first pressed send on my application. But she’s also been rooting for you, too. 

Hulvey credits her strong sensibilities to her rural background growing up on a farm. She still cherishes her life on the farm, and she loves talking to students from rural backgrounds about driving tractors; growing, harvesting, and canning her own food; and coming together as a family to make sure everything on the farm ran smoothly. For a kid like me who grew up in the suburbs, it’s easy to romanticize that lifestyle. However, she’s always clear that it doesn’t look like the movies. Barns aren’t red wooden structures with thoroughbred horses chewing on hay. It took hard work and living by a different set of norms. For instance, her mother still worries about whether Hulvey has a hot dinner ready for her husband when he’s done with work – something crucially important for men laboring on a farm for tireless hours a day. She’s able to laugh off the assumption that her husband can’t fix himself something to eat when her job keeps her late, but she did grow up in a community where this role was essential.

Hulvey’s path from this rural background to directing the Financial Aid Office at UVa Law wasn’t always easy – and it certainly wasn’t predictable. She was the first in her family to attend a traditional four-year college, which meant she didn’t have the typical support system other students benefited from. After earning her degree at Virginia Tech, she decided to work in the finance sector of the agricultural industry. While successful, Hulvey didn’t feel fulfilled. She was raised to believe that her job, her life, shouldn’t be about just making money. Therefore, she made the decision to seek employment in higher education at a financial aid office. Thinking back to her time just starting, Hulvey couldn’t help but laugh at how much she didn’t know back then. But her passion for helping students from rural backgrounds (and a few generous co-workers) fueled her success. 

When she chose to go back to school, Hulvey dealt with some less-than-kind presumptions from her family. The idea that she could quit a job with pay and benefits that she was good at to go back to school sounded lazy to some family members. However, Hulvey had seen first-hand the range of opportunities higher education can bring. After earning her graduate degree from James Madison University, Hulvey started working in the information technology field. She was a consultant for the group implementing what we know today as SIS. In a wonderful turn of events, just as that consulting job was coming to a close, UVa Law was looking for a new Director of Financial Aid. Unknown to Hulvey, her tenacity and welcoming spirit had been her job application, and she became the Director of Financial Aid in 2009. 

Although the Financial Aid Office hasn’t always been quite as involved in the admissions process, Hulvey explained that Dean Faulk has made an effort over the last couple years to include them. It’s part of an effort to break down any barriers in students’ minds about approaching the talented people in the office when they need help. Plus, UVa Law’s new application process, which includes entrance interviews, means the Financial Aid Office not only can help potential students with any financing questions, but also help fill the UVa Law community. Because Hulvey is also the liaison for military or dependent students, she typically interviews those with a military background as part of their application process. She also helps interview applicants from rural backgrounds. Given her unique perspective, Hulvey helps bridge the gap between these potential students and the law school, often reassuring an applicant through her slight Appalachian accent alone. I think we can all agree that her subtle accent is welcoming to everyone!

Hulvey loves each and every role she plays in students’ lives – no matter how small. She doesn’t want to leave UVa Law, even though she constantly gets offers to rejoin the consulting world, because she has a personal stake in the success of students here. Every day that she sees a UVa Law graduate accomplish something, she feels like she got a chance to contribute in the smallest of ways to the good that graduate is doing in the world. She values that feeling more than money. 

Speaking of things that are more valuable than money, Hulvey is always open to discussing how to juggle two strong, professional careers in a marriage. After twenty-plus years of marriage, the Hulveys have discovered that intentionally setting aside time for each other is paramount. Everyone these days has competing priorities; Hulvey and her husband strive to make sure each one knows how important they are to the other. One marriage suggestion she offered is having a regular date night. Instead of concentrating on cooking or cleaning, Hulvey and her husband go out and focus on only each other – no phones. They also do this with camping trips throughout the year. On a day-to-day basis, they try only to answer emergency emails at night. This leaves work at work so that they can enjoy their time together at home. 

The last thing Hulvey wants everyone at UVa Law to know is that her cat, Doodle, should win Paw Review. First of all, Doodle is adorable. Secondly, in the photo provided for Paw Review, Doodle is clearly brandishing her paw for you to see. Isn’t this the point of Paw Review?!