The expert staff on our School Support Team are committed to MEFA’s mission of making higher education more accessible and affordable in Massachusetts.

Julie Shields-Rutyna
Julie Shields-Rutyna

Director of College Planning

Julie joined MEFA in 2007 and in her role provides expertise related to planning, saving, and paying for college to families, colleges, and other organizations. Prior to joining MEFA, Julie worked for the College Board, Nellie Mae, and American Express, and was the Director of Financial Aid at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Julie has been involved with MASFAA in a variety of positions and committees since 1993. She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge.

 

Stephanie L. Wells
Stephanie L. Wells

Associate Director of College Planning and Education

Stephanie joined MEFA in 2001 and has more than 20 years of experience in higher education financing. She works with colleges, high schools, and community-based organizations to educate and support families on college enrollment and financing, and she is co-chair of the MASFAA Government Relations committee. She received her BS in Speech Communications from Bridgewater State University and has completed graduate study for a joint master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Science at Suffolk University.

 

Jonathan Sparling
Jonathan Sparling

Associate Director of College Planning and Education

Jonathan joined the MEFA team in 2018.  In his role, Jonathan works with colleges, universities, and community organizations to support their work with students and families navigating the college planning and financing process. Before joining MEFA, Jonathan worked in the financial aid office at WPI and more recently at American Student Assistance, helping colleges, universities, and community partners implement financial literacy programs for students. Jonathan received his BA/MA from Assumption College and MBA from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He also holds the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) designation through the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education (AFCPE).

 

Meredith Barnhart
Meredith Barnhart

Director of Integrated Communications

Part of the MEFA team since 2012, Meredith works to provide a comprehensive curriculum of education and guidance on the college enrollment and financing process to families and colleagues, and has served as tri-chair of FAFSA® Day Massachusetts and a member of MASFAA’s Just the FACTS faculty. Before joining MEFA, she worked in finance and undergraduate financial aid for 10 years at Boston University. She received a BS in Commerce from the University of Virginia and a master’s in Higher Education Administration from Boston University.

 

Meg Villavicencio
Meg Villavicencio

Finance Associate of Portfolio Originations

Meg joined MEFA in 2003 as a member of the Customer Service team. She is currently part of the Finance team’s Loan Originations group, working closely with colleges and families to make the application and certification process as smooth as possible. Before coming to MEFA, she worked at State Street in the Global Securities Operations area. She received her BA from Denison University and her MBA from Suffolk University.

 

Greg Hargrave
Greg Hargrave

Senior Operations Analyst

Greg joined MEFA’s Operations team in 2007, and today he works closely with both AES and families to assist with customer service and issue resolution. He also works with schools and MEFA loan originations to support families during the application and originations process. Before joining MEFA, he worked for American Student Assistance on the Lender Relations team. He received his BA from The University of Massachusetts at Boston.

 

Shari Tozian
Shari Tozian

Outreach and Marketing Services Manager

Shari joined MEFA in 2010. She works with high school counselors and seminar presenters to schedule and coordinate MEFA seminars and provide college planning information to families across the Commonwealth. Before coming to MEFA, she worked in education financing at Key Education Resources, in financial aid at Tufts Dental and Medical Schools, and in various capacities at American Student Assistance. She received her BA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

 

Jonathan Hughes
Jonathan Hughes

Associate Director of College Planning and Education

Jonathan Hughes joined MEFA in 2001 as a loan counselor. As Associate Director of College Planning and Education, he is the point of contact for community-based organizations. He conducts seminars on college financing and the importance of saving for college. He is a member of the MASFAA Financial Wellness Committee and has a BA in Communications from Emerson College.

 

Jennifer Bento-Pinyoun
Jennifer Bento-Pinyoun

Program Manager, MEFA Pathway Your Plan for the Future℠

Jennifer joined the MEFA team in 2014 as Program Manager for their comprehensive career and college planning portal, MEFA Pathway Your Plan for the Future. Working with educators, students, and families across the Commonwealth, Jennifer provides support in many capacities with the goal of addressing and promoting post-secondary planning for students. She received a BA in Educational Psychology from Keene State and a master’s of Education in Teaching and Learning from Argosy University.

 

shaun
Shaun Connolly

College Planning Representative

Shaun joined MEFA in 2016 and currently works as a College Planning Representative. He assists families and counselors by providing information and answering questions related to the U.Plan, college loans, and financial aid . Prior to working for MEFA, Shaun was a teacher and counselor in the Worcester Public Schools. Shaun received a degree in Communications from Bridgewater State University.

 

Mary Rubenis
Mary Rubenis

College Planning Representative

Mary joined MEFA in 2017 as part of the College Planning Team. She assists families and school professionals by providing information and answering questions related to the U.Plan, U.Fund, college loans, and financial aid. She has a background in public relations, with prior PR experience in health care and consumer goods. She is passionate about helping families with disabilities, and gives seminars on The Attainable Savings Plan<sup>SM</sup>. She received her BS in Communication Studies from Emerson College.

 

Ajea Stupart
Ajea Stupart

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator

Ajea joined MEFA as an intern in 2016 as part of the College Planning team. Through her time as an intern, she developed a keen understanding of all of MEFA’S programs, products, and most importantly, overall mission. In the spring of 2017 she joined MEFA full time as the Social Media and Marketing Coordinator. In this role, Ajea works with all of MEFA’s social media channels, scheduling and analyzing content and brainstorming creative ways to reach every customer on MEFA’s platforms. She received a BS from Lasell College in Communication with a focus in Journalism & Media Writing, and is now pursuing an MS in Integrated Communication Marketing.