I was introduced into the financial aid world when I was hired as a work-study student at Emporia State University. I can’t remember the circumstances that led up to me applying and thinking that accepting the job was a good idea, but I do remember that I felt like a fish out of water. I was hired about two weeks before the fall semester started, the phones were ringing off the hook, and the most I could really do is put the caller on hold and go ask for help. I remember going home mentally exhausted and not sure what I committed myself to, but I remained employed in that office through my whole undergraduate career.
After earning my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, I went to work for a local bank as a funds management clerk. It was an interesting job, but I was having difficulty finding where I could utilize my computer and coding skills. Sometime in 2004, Wilma Kasnic, retiring director of the Financial Aid Office, called me up and asked me if I’d be interested in applying for the Assistant Director position, noting that they were transitioning to a system called Banner and it might give me an opportunity to use my computing skills. I had already established a good working relationship with the staff in that office when I was a work-study student, and so it seemed like a natural fit. I was hired in 2005 and continue to provide functional and technological solutions for our office.
Shortly after I was hired, I became involved in KASFAA starting with being co-chair of the Electronic Resources committee and was privileged to be introduced to so many colleagues. I was struck by the camaraderie of a large group of professionals who, I believe, really wanted to see each other grow and be successful at serving students and their families. This was further proven to be true as I received an email from Cristi Easton asking if I’d be interested in chairing RMASFAA’s Electronic Initiatives committee and that I was recommended by Chris Johnson. At first I was very hesitant to commit to this as we were about to go live with Banner and I had developed a lot more gray hair from that whole ordeal; however, with the support of my coworkers in my office as well as Chris’ recommendation, I was really encouraged to step out and serve and I was very glad I did. I found that the same camaraderie I experienced at KASFAA was the same in RMASFAA, and my introduction to the region was a very positive one. I made many more connections which continue to this day, and received a lot of valuable teaching and wisdom. While it is admittedly harder to remain involved in the region, it is definitely worth it just for these aspects alone.
After serving two years as EIC chair, the next opportunity I received to serve the region was to co-teach at Summer Institute in 2012. This was, by far, the most challenging thing I have ever done in my career. I was completely out of my comfort zone, and had some sleepless nights trying to prepare. However, as I have learned over time, nothing will teach you more than teaching others. This brings me to my closing thought: if I were to offer one single point of advice for someone new to RMASFAA or the profession in general, it would be to step out of your comfort zone and be willing to make mistakes. When you are feeling uncomfortable or you feel like you may have absolutely nothing to offer, that is the perfect place for you to be in order to step out and serve. I think those kinds of sentiments are evidences of humility – a pre-requisite, in my estimation, to receiving (and giving) teaching and wisdom. Along the way, you will most likely make mistakes, but you cannot learn anything without making them, and you certainly won’t learn anything standing still. One of my favorite preachers, Charles Spurgeon, once said “humble men are those who think themselves so little, they do not think it worthwhile to stop to serve themselves.” Step out and go serve your colleagues to the best of your ability.
Thad received the Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix Award in 2007.
Join us October 19-22 at the Snowbird Resort, just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Use the registration link at rmasfaa.org and remember to sign up by September 16 to take advantage of the early bird rate.
Keep your eye on rmasfaa.org for more information on the program and speakers.
See you there!
I attended Summer Institute last month, and was lucky enough to have been placed in James and Mary’s class. Summer Institute was easily the best professional development experience I’ve had while working in financial aid. Starting with the NASFAA CORE materials, but mostly through the guided discussion led by James and Mary. They both obviously have a deep and thorough knowledge base regarding a wide variety of financial aid topics, but that only goes so far. Their ability to work together, as well as involve the whole class, was fantastic. I didn’t just learn from them, I learned something from every member of that class, and I think that’s just amazing.
Beyond the instruction, I was very impressed with the coordination and level of camaraderie shown in Summer Institute. I went there not knowing a soul, but left with several new friends.
Not being from a RMASFAA school, I kind of expected to feel like an outsider during the week.
That lasted until Monday morning, and only because I arrived late on Sunday. I felt very welcomed and never slighted in the least. That really demonstrates the high level of community that takes place at Summer Institute.
I wanted to thank you all for the opportunity to attend and become a better financial aid administrator. Again, thanks, and congratulations on what’s been built by RMASFAA.
It’s a wonderful thing.
Quality Assurance Specialist
Saint Louis University
Office of Student Financial Services
One Grand Boulevard
DuBourg Hall, Room 121
The Leadership Pipeline Committee has received several requests to extend the application deadline to accommodate busy travel and work schedules. The Committee has agreed to extend the deadline to Thursday, July 31st, 2014. Interested individuals click the link below to apply!
Like many others, I pretty much fell into the Financial Aid career path. I was a recent college graduate working for the University of South Carolina Admissions office when I decided it was time to move back to Utah. I saw an open position for a Financial Aid Counselor at the University of Utah and hesitantly applied for it, since those financial aid folk have somewhat of a reputation. My boss at the time told me that in order to go anywhere in Student Services, I needed both Admissions and Financial Aid Experience. Fortunately for me, I got the job, travelled across the country, and got shipped off to Colorado Springs for Summer Institute on my first day. Talk about learning financial aid through a fire hydrant. But, clearly it didn’t scare me away so I guess I was meant to be here.
I worked for the University of Utah Financial Aid office as a counselor for a year or so, and then was promoted to the Loan Program Manager. Around that time our current director, Kent Larson, approached me to serve as chair of the RMASFAA conference. I had already expressed an interest to get involved outside of the office, but honestly I didn’t know what I had committed myself to do. However, serving as Chair of the 2006 RMASFAA conference was the best decision I ever made. It opened the doors for me to participate in so many other positions within RMASFAA including Summer Institute chair, to serve as President of UASFAA and I’m currently serving on the NASFAA Conference Committee. Within the office, I eventually was promoted to Assistant Director of Operations, and am currently serving as Assistant Director of Counseling. I’ve been in the office just over 14 years and have truly appreciated my experiences here.
The most rewarding part of being involved at any level is the amazing friendships you make with other people. Some of my most trusted friends I have met through my involvement with RMASFAA. It’s great to get to know how other people in the financial aid world do things differently and know who you can go to for help or advice. I would encourage any new professional to get involved whether it is as a committee member at the state level or even taking on a chair position at the state, regional or national level. Every opportunity I have had to serve in these associations has provided me with more rewarding experiences in return than I ever could have imagined.
Amy received the Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix Award in 2006.
In honor of the final season of The Late Show with David Letterman and as a reminder that Leadership Pipeline applications are due this Friday, July 11th 2014, please enjoy the following:
Top Ten Reasons to Apply for Leadership Pipeline…..
10. You still have space to fill in your bookcase
09. You finally get to use Windows 7 to its fullest potential
08. The Crazy Comic Book Lady at Summer Institute told you to
07. Who doesn’t love saying “RMASFAA”
06. More financial aid hugging opportunities
05. More conference calls and meetings
04. You are more passionate about financial aid than you are about ice cream
03. You want to be a director so you can close your door
02. It gives you an opportunity to let your boss know that you are gunning for his/her job
And the number one reason to apply for Leadership Pipeline…..
- You just can’t wait to serve on the RMASFAA Board of Directors!!!!
Follow this link to apply:
Dr. Timothy Alvarez, Vice President for Student Affairs, wanted a photo of himself and the student financial services staff as he is new to North Dakota State University. The picture includes Dr. Alvarez and approximately half of the NDSU student financial services staff. Dr. Alvarez most recently position, before coming to NDSU, was at the University of Nebraska. As you can see by the photo – Dr. Alvarez encourages all males to wear a bowtie on Thursdays.