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2014 RMASFAA Award Winners

November 12, 2014


RMASFAA would like to congratulate the following individuals and committee members for their efforts this past year as they were honored at the most recent banquet in Utah last month:

Committee of the Year – Association News


  • Laurie Rodriguez – Carroll College (MT), Chair
  • Sara Vancil – University of Kansas, Vice Chair
  • Shelley Blome – North Dakota State College of Science
  • Ryan Christensen – University of Utah
  • Sara Trausch – Creighton University (NE)
  • Connie Jaime-Lujan – Colorado State University
  • Marlene Seeklander – Lake Area Technical Institute (SD)

Oscar R “Jack” Hendrix Award – Rohit Kulkarni from University of North Dakota

Distinguished Service Award – David Martin from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Ron Smout Award for Teaching and Mentoring – Deb Henriksen from Black Hills State University (SD)

RMASFAA Hall of Fame – Myra Pfannenstiel from Inceptia

President’s Special Award – Deb Byers (posthumously) from Wichita State University (KS)

Thank you so much for your service to RMASFAA and your dedication to the financial aid profession.

Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix Award Spotlight – Art Young

November 4, 2014
SAAS Photo

Art’s path to a career in Financial Aid is a little unexpected, unusual, rare.

It all began when Art was teaching high school in Northern Utah. After seven years teaching in Utah’s public schools, he was burned out and decided teaching was not a long-term commitment. He had no idea what direction his life would take him. Thus, he began the “search.” He found a position for a Financial Aid Counselor open at Utah State, had no prior experience, but filled out an application, sent the required cover letter and résumé (which did not include references from his current place of employment, mostly because he assumed that there were virtually no transferable skills between teaching high school and working in a financial aid office).

At the time, Judy LeCheminant was Director of Financial Aid at Utah State. Judy’s litmus test – an applicant’s résumé had to include at least one reference from the current place of employment (otherwise it was trashed). Needless to say, Art’s résumé was trashed.

Later, in casual conversation around the dinner table, USU’s Associate Director of Financial Aid, Steve Sharp, mentioned to his daughter Elizabeth that a teacher from her school had applied for the position. Elizabeth mentioned how Art was so great, thus Steve returned to work the following day and requested his résumé be fished out of the garbage. Thanks to former student Elizabeth Sharp, who provided the “best” reference (around the dinner table, no less) – Art got his start in Financial Aid.

After two years, Art moved to the lender side of the house as a Relationship Manager with KeyBank (Art’s all-time favorite job). In fact, this is where he began networking in RMASFAA. While at KeyBank, Art’s duties included establishing relationships, keeping folks happy and providing useful information to constituents in Utah. After one year, his territory expanded to Montana and Wyoming. Then quickly Idaho, Colorado and Kansas. In addition, Art worked remotely with a diverse group of people from all across the country. It was “awesome and invigorating,” Art said. He mentioned that in this position, he made lifelong friends.

Unfortunately, due to the mandated transition to Direct Lending and associated changes to the landscape, KeyBank exited the student loan industry in 2008.

With that, Art relocated to Provo College where he served as the Director of Financial Services for 2 ½ years. In this capacity Art oversaw everything from VA benefits to work-study. Eventually (in 2011), he made a jump to the other side of town to Brigham Young University, where he currently works as an Associate Director – and the rest, as we say – is history.

Art has served on a variety of UASFAA and RMASFAA committees. While serving as President-Elect, Art participated in the NASFAA Leadership Conference and is excited about the opportunity to observe on a National Level as RMASFAA president. Art was officially supplied the gavel during the awards ceremony October 21, 2014 at Snowbird, Utah.

Art enjoys working in financial aid: the colleagues, the students, and even the constant changes (most of the time). When asked to highlight his first RMASFAA experience, Art simply stated, “It became more about the people – the people were the experience.” He was energized by the people, connections and networking opportunities. It was then he envisioned his job as a career, rather than just a job.

Art is constantly amazed by the caliber of volunteers and the generosity of the people who are willing to give of their time and talents for the benefit of our students, our profession and our association. “It is truly inspiring.”

With regard to advice for others – especially those new to the Financial Aid profession, Art mentioned the secret for him “is finding satisfaction, motivation and feeling validation.” He’s excited to come to work and tries to see things from a broader perspective. He has become a beneficiary as a result of his volunteer service. “Often we have the mentality that we are too busy to add something else to our duties. However, you really do get more out of it than you put in. It makes the work we do more effective and much more enjoyable.”

Art was honored as co-recipient of the Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix award in 2010.

October 27, 2014


I certainly hope everyone enjoyed themselves in Snowbird, Utah and trust the conference provided multiple learning opportunities, as well as the ability to network with others in our field.

It has been a pleasure to serve as the Association News Chair this past year. On behalf of the Association News Committee, I also wanted to take this opportunity to express gratitude for the unexpected honor of “Committee of the Year.”  The recognition was certainly a wonderful compliment.

I want to assure you that the blog is in good hands with the new chair of Association News, Sara Vancil. Sara is a rising star and the About the Blog page ( has been updated with her information for future blog submissions.

As always, Association News encourages feedback about all things RMASFAA – should you have any photos, blog ideas or newsworthy information you would like to share, please feel free to contact Sara.

Thanks again for a great year!

All the best,

Laurie Rodriguez

Happy National Financial Aid Day!

October 15, 2014

Falling on the third Wednesday of every October (October 15th for 2014), National Financial Aid Day is a day that is set aside to recognize and celebrate the contributions, commitment and accomplishments of financial aid professionals across the United States for helping students realize their dream of attaining a college education.

You are encouraged to do something special in an effort to celebrate National Financial Aid Day today.  Throw a party, go to lunch, host a potluck, make a toast – remember the students whose lives you’ve touched by doing what you do!

Today, we honor you!

Thank you for all you do to assist students!

RMASFAA 2014 is almost here!

October 14, 2014

We hope you’re ready to enjoy the cool mountain air, learn and network with your colleagues.

The final agenda and session descriptions are up on the website:

Make sure to take a look and make note of the classes you’re going to attend!

See you at Snowbird!

RMASFAA 2014 Conference Publicity Committee

Requesting nominations for the Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix Award

October 2, 2014

Nominations for the Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix Award will officially close next Friday, October 10.

Please take a few minutes today and consider whether you know someone who has made a significant first contribution to RMASFAA during the past year. Thus far, I have only received one lonely recommendation! (Although this admittedly makes the choice easier for the Board of Directors, I know that there are many deserving recipients throughout the region who have provided exceptional service to our association since last fall’s conference).

Please send your nomination to Be sure to include the individual’s name, title, institution or agency, and why you feel that he or she is deserving of this recognition.

Thanks in advance for your help in identifying and recognizing excellence within RMASFAA. I look forward to seeing you here in Utah later this month!


Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix Award Spotlight – Kelly Svenkesen

October 2, 2014

K Svenkesen

I was honored to receive the Oscar R. Jack Hendrix Award (“Rookie of the Year”) in 2010.  I remember being completely blown away and in a state of total shock when my name was announced!  It really meant, and still means, a great deal to me to be recognized by my fellow colleagues in RMASFAA.  At the time I remember thinking, I was just doing what then RMASFAA President Sharon Kienow charged me to do!

RMASFAA brings such opportunity to its members.  I was fortunate to be a mentee during the very first RMASFAA Leadership Pipeline.  I learned such a great deal from my mentor, Terry Stephens, and I am forever grateful to her as my mentor and friend.  I would encourage everyone out there to take a chance and go through the pipeline, attend summer institute or join a committee.  It gives you amazing experience and you meet so many FABULOUS people!

My experiences in RMASFAA have included being on the membership committee, vice-chair of the membership committee (soon to be chair), vice-chair of the training committee, chair of the training committee, conference planning committee and summer institute entertainment vice-chair and chair.  My most valuable experience though, is the friends I’ve made who have provided me with their wisdom and their laughter during the tough times!

I started working in financial aid as many of us do, as a work study.  After graduating from school I worked for a couple years for a veterinarian, but as soon as a position opened in the financial aid office I immediately applied.  I spent 11 years at Laramie County Community College, until a couple of years ago when I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado where I am now working for Front Range Community College.  For the past two years I’ve been overseeing the scholarships and loan program, and in 2 weeks I will be overseeing the service center.  I’m so extremely grateful for all the opportunities various people have given me over the years.  It is my fellow financial aid friends that have kept me going in this crazy career!