Last Week to Register for WYOBRASKA Conference!

Update: Registration will close September 23rd! This is your LAST WEEK to register!
– Reconnect with your RMASFAA colleagues
– Fantastic general sessions
– Breakout sessions for all levels of experience
– Safe Zone Training
– Awesome entertainment

Check out the Conference site for the most up to date information
COVID-19 vaccinations are encouraged, but not required. Masks are also highly encouraged.

This year, instead of hosting a philanthropic group from the conference city, RMASFAA decided to encourage ALL members to contribute to their school pantry, local food bank, or other local
charity. The pandemic has hit all of our states and towns hard, and many of our own students and families are struggling. Take a photo of your team making a donation and send it to We’ll include your photos in a slideshow at the Conference.

Hotel Information
Embassy Suites Hotel Omaha-Downtown/Old Market
The room block is now full. Regular rate rooms may still be available. Thank you to our CSPs who have already registered! We are blown away by the amazing support!

Written by Blanca Perez on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion can both help and create challenges in a workplace or for college students. For example, in the financial aid office at SLCC, we regularly meet with students experiencing personal issues involving race, age, gender, physical abilities, religion, language, etc.

 In my personal experience working in the office of financial aid, I often have the privilege of assisting students with a language barrier. Some of the Hispanic students enrolled here prefer speaking Spanish with someone in the office. Having staff members available who can help them with the language barrier makes student feel more secure and comfortable due to using the language they better understand and in which they are more comfortable expressing themselves. In our institution we have financial aid staff members who speak another language such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

                Students with a second language often struggle to express themselves if they don’t have full command of that language, notes John Schumann of the UCLA’s Department of Applied Linguistics. This can lead to emotional stress and affect individual ability to learn. Parents may also not speak the language used in the school which, at least at SLCC, is often true since I regularly speak Spanish with parents and students. Parents want to know how financial aid works and what is needed to fill out the application. These parents would like to speak with someone in Spanish in order to have a better understanding of how college works. In addition to domestic students, this can occur with many international or refugee students.

                Using English as a second language likely impacts each student differently. For example, the stress of language barriers can result in the student not understanding the instructor. It’s important to inform our students of the available resources including tutoring or making appointments with the involved instructors in any given course. These are some issues students have encountered being an English as a Second Language individual.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png

Happiness is…………..By Marlene Seeklander

On a recent road trip, I spied a 2022 calendar of Peanuts celebrating “Happiness is…” Growing up, Peanuts was always one of my favorite comics, so I had to buy it. That and the fact that I also had a 15% off birthday coupon to use for that particular store made it a “must have” purchase!

On my drive home I thought about the back of the calendar and the various “Happiness is…” quotes for each month and how they might relate to us as we kick off a new school year. I thought I’d share some with you.

Happiness is…

A New Adventure – Yes, each school year is a new adventure for us, especially in the world of financial aid. If the new R2T4 rules aren’t enough to challenge you and make you scratch your head, how about making sure you’re informing your students that the college financial aid office has the ability to perform a PJ adjustment if students or their families have been impacted by the pandemic, or the challenge of spending all the HEERF funds your college received? All of the above have been an “adventure” for us this past year!  

A Good Laugh – Every year we think we’ve seen and heard it all, but every so often someone tops it. During my time here at LATC, I have to say that my favorite and most interesting story/laugh is the student who called me and asked if her refund check was available. As an on-line student I told her that once it was confirmed she had started all of her classes, the Campus Accounts Office could mail the check to her. She then asked, “Could you just fax my check to me instead of mailing it?” Hmm…

Smelling the Flowers – During this crazy busy time in our offices, don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers! Get up from your desk and take a walk outside, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. Make sure you take a lunch break away from your desk. (Remember, IT Departments frown on crumbs in the keyboard or the accidental spillage of your soda on your keyboard!) Self-care is so important!

A Team Effort – We all need a team effort to make our offices run smoothly. During the start of a new school year and all the chaos, this is even more important. Make sure you are supporting one another. Don’t forget, some days we just need to be silly and laugh! Hey, it beats crying!

A Good Scare – During this crazy busy time it is sometimes difficult to stay organized. If you accidentally misplace the scholarship checks you offered to drop off at the Business Office or Foundation Office, take a deep breath, go for a walk, and know that you will find them. It might be wise to check the last file(s) you had on your desk in the event you inadvertently dropped them in one of those files. My wish for you is that you find them before you go home at night. We have enough other worries that keep us awake at night! (And no, I didn’t misplace some checks, but I did recently misplace a document. It was found and I had a chance to sort through some piles on my desk!)

A Long Weekend – Don’t forget, we have a long weekend coming soon with the Labor Day holiday. Enjoy the “end of summer,” take time to relax and recharge, and forget about work for a few days! You deserve it!

“Good Luck” as you kick off another school year!

Marlene Seeklander

Lake Area Technical College

Written by Beth Vollan on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee

My office is in the midst of the annual chaos that comes when the students return to campus.  The phones are ringing, scholarship checks are arriving by the armful, and students are filling up the lobby.  Oh, and did I mention that the phones are ringing?

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I am guessing many of you can relate.

I had lofty plans to create a well-researched blogpost providing insights on how to talk about race and racism. We know that to overcome racism, we need to be able to talk, to share our perspectives and experiences, and to learn from each other. As a white person, I don’t want to be racist, but sometimes I am not sure if my actions or words are racist.  And, often, I am afraid to ask.

After an evening of research, I didn’t find any suggestions to magically overcome the challenges with taking about race. Several sources underscored the need to be open-minded, respectful, and to keep emotions in-check; but nothing promised to make the conversation easy.

I gave up my search after I watched a Today Show interview with Brené Brown called How to have difficult conversations about race. She talks about the need to be courageous when talking about our differences and argues that courage requires being vulnerable. Vulnerability means feeling emotionally exposed, feeling uncertain, or feeling at risk. Feeling vulnerable is never easy.

Maybe, there is no easy way to talk about race and racism.  Perhaps, like so many things in life, we need to push ourselves and move outside our comfort zone to learn and grow. So instead of looking for an easy fix, I am going to work on finding the courage to be vulnerable and have those difficult conversations that help me understand race and racism.

P.S. While researching I discovered Emmanuel Ancho’s amazing series, Uncomfortable Conversations with A Black Man which he uses as a vehicle to answer questions about race and racism for those of us who identify as white. If you have 10 minutes to watch the first episode, I recommend it.


  1. Inclusion, Diversity & Equity, University of Missouri. (n.d.) Tips for Talking about Race at Mizzou
    Retrieved from
  2. Ancho, Emmanuel. (2020, June 3). Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man-Episode 1. YouTube. URL
  3. Today (2020, Septmer 11). Brené Brown: How to have difficult conversations about race. URL
  4. PBS NewsHour (2018, May 15). Talking about race is hard. Here’s why it’s worth it. URL

Thoughts Prepared by Kevin Howe on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Professional Judgment is a Tool to End Inequalities and Advance Racial Justice
Professional judgment refers to the authority of a school’s financial aid officials to make adjustments to the data elements on the FAFSA or to override a student’s dependency status. While financial aid officials are not able to directly edit a student’s final expected family contribution, they are able to adjust the data used to calculate the total, which may yield a new figure. Professional judgment is one of the most powerful tools financial aid administrators have to support students in their educational endeavors. In the article published by Education Trust, the concept of using professional judgment to advance racial justice and equity is described in a clear and concise manner. The “Golden Nugget” of this article is the last section where they provide financial aid officers and institutions with precise steps and actions to advance equity when so many vulnerable students are struggling.

LINK TO ARTICLE: Using Professional Judgment in Financial Aid to Advance Racial Justice and Equity

Jones, T., Ramirez-Mendoza, J. (2020, December). Using Professional Judgment in Financial Aid to Advance Racial Justice and Equity. Education Trust.

Annual Conference 2021

Good Afternoon RMASFAA-

The RMASFAA BOD met yesterday regarding the upcoming Annual RMASFAA Conference in October.  Our original plan was to host a hybrid conference so our members could attend both in-person and/or virtually.  When we originally decided on this path and investigated AV costs that would be associated with streaming certain sessions, we felt comfortable moving forward with the knowledge that we would likely take a small loss on the conference.  However, over the last several months as the ability to stream has become more in-demand the cost for AV has more than doubled. To be perfectly clear, in February the AV cost were coming in around $14,000 and with the two quotes we received just recently they are coming in between $30,000 – $40,000, depending on total number of sessions offered. 

The issue of the significant increase to cost and the potential significant loss of session options for online participants was taken to the RMASFAA Board of Directors for discussion. During our meeting, many aspects came up, but one of the biggest points debated was our fiscal responsibility to our membership.  While the RMASFAA BOD feels that offering virtual training to our members is vitally important, the financial loss that we would incur would be fiscally irresponsible of us, especially considering the low virtual registration numbers to date.  

So, it is with a heavy heart, but good intentions for our membership, we regretfully voted to cancel the virtual option of the conference.

For those institutions that had already registered for the virtual option, we will be cancelling your registration. If you had already paid, we will also be reaching out to you to get a refund for the cancellation.

On a positive note, we are still hosting the in-person RMASFAA Conference in Omaha, NE October 10 – 13.  In-person registration will remain at $125 per person. Currently we have a room block that will allow you to get a room at the Embassy Suites, Downtown Omaha for $134 (plus tax) per night.  The conference will kick-off with a pre-conference Safe Zone training from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. on Sunday October 10, with state pictures taking place from 5:15 to 5:45. 

The list of sessions will be published to the RMASFAA website soon. 

If you have any questions regarding the conference, please feel free to reach out to Becca Dobry at

Best Regards,

Becca Dobry – Conference Quad Chair

Deana Unger – Conference Quad Chair

Shannon Eskam – Conference Quad Chair

Susan Stephenson – Conference Quad Chair     

RMASFAA 2021 Conference

Register now!
One conference — two ways to attend!
Join us in Omaha, choose the virtual conference option to view select sessions, or choose both so everyone in your institution can participate!

Omaha – RMASFAA Institution Member $125 per person
Omaha – CSP Conference Exhibitor $500 (additional exhibitor $125)
Virtual – RMASFAA Institution Member $300 per institution
Virtual – Corporate Support Partner $250
For more information on pricing, see the Registration form

Hotel Information
Embassy Suites Hotel Omaha-Downtown/Old Market
Group Name: RMASFAA Annual Conference 2021
Room Block Code: RMA

Hope to see you there!

Always Say Thank You – Lesson Learned @ Summer Institute

from Sadonia Lane, KASFAA

Back in the Summer of 2019 when I attended Summer Institute I was a part of the Director’s track. It was magical, just like the Harry Potter theme that year (sorry couldn’t resist). Anyways, we had various speakers come in and one day Art Young came in to talk about mentorship. We chatted prior to the start and he asked who were some of the people I had been mentored by along my financial aid journey. There were several from my former office at Wichita State; some of which he knew and acknowledged those are “some pretty big influences.” However there’s been more outside the realm of offices I’ve been lucky enough to work in. Both KASFAA and RMASFAA have a pretty solid group of what I would call A-List mentors and leaders.

As he presented to our class that day, he mentioned to always try to acknowledge their efforts and thank them for your growth as an aid administrator. Something I took to heart as too often we work in a field that we may not always be told thank you by our students, nor our peers. It’s not expected, but it should become the norm.

So, I am currently working through my final to-do list as an aid administrator. For those who have not heard – I will be leaving higher education at the end of the month. A long, long time ago I started college as a first generation student to pursue a degree in Secondary Education teaching history. Like always there’s a story as to why that is not what I ended up doing, we’ve heard those in our offices from students. Rather after completing my BA in history I landed a job in the financial aid office at WSU. Apparently the ability to research, write and interpret complex information like regulations and forms of aid; go hand in hand for folks like myself that have to research, write and interpret history.

At the beginning of August, the dream of teaching history in secondary education will finally become a reality. I will be teaching at a local middle school here in the Wichita area. Took awhile and hot minute to get here, but I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. With Art’s lesson in my head I find it only appropriate that I say thank you to all of you.

Thank you for giving me the tools and guidance I needed to be a successful and effective aid administrator.

Thank you for giving me your words of wisdom for moments I didn’t know if I could do this job.

Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Thank you on behalf of all the students I ever interacted with and was able to help.

Thank you for the many laughs and memorable moments.

Thank you for showing me another form of the word family.

As I set out on this new journey, I will take every lesson and interaction from all of you and place those nuggets into the minds of my future students so they know there is no limitation on what they can or cannot do. Please know that you will be all missed; but I know that you will always be awesome at what you do. This region sets the bar high and our membership and students benefit immensely from it.

Written by Mark Bandre on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Those of us serving on the current RMASFAA Diversity and Inclusion Committee continue spending significant time pondering and discussing the daily realities of what diversity, equity, and inclusion truly mean in higher education and the financial aid industry. These terms or attributes can seem complicated to define while simultaneously appearing amazingly clear. Yet the reality is the numerous differences making each individual unique play huge roles in exacerbating fear of the unknown. Ultimately, it is these fears that extrapolate in manifest ways to create societal problems and dysfunctions. Our committee goal is to provide material generating thought and discussion among RMASFAA members that results in less fear and more routine recognition of human equity.

As readers consider the prior paragraph, I invite you to also look closely at the following image:

There are many things in society, and surely on our respective campuses, that exist toward a goal of equality. But the question to consider in all such things is whether that structure, philosophy, procedure or policy truly brings about equity. The image I’ve shared shows three very different people receiving equal treatment in that they were each given a box. But physical attributes result in that equality having absolutely no grounding in equity.

Physical differences tend to be easier to define. But what about differences encompassed in definitions of gender, race, ethnicity, religious preference, and sexual orientation?

Does equity exist in all things on your campus? What changes could be made that would increase equity?

Sheelu Surender on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Reflections as an Asian American

Last month I read an article that gave me pause and, as part of our Diversity & Inclusion Committee efforts, I wanted to share it with RMASFAA.  ‘If Hate Is A Virus, There Is No Vaccine’: Asian Photographers Speak Out Although the article is not necessarily student specific, I think it provides insights and perspectives into other cultures which we can all use in our work with colleagues and students alike. The article was a compilation of stories written for the May 2021 recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) month. I encourage you to take some time to read their stories and put yourself in the shoes of those discussed.

 The past year has surfaced so many emotions in our country, the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests, coupled with an escalation of aggression and hostility toward Asians during the pandemic, made me reflect on my own identity as an Indian American. As I speak with friends and students about the recent violence, I feel an ongoing sense of frustration, sadness and defeat. Although many have experienced discrimination, micro-aggressions or racism throughout their life, this new level of hatred toward the AAIP community is alarming.

As I think about my own journey in this country, I wonder how others perceive me. Do people who don’t know me see me as Indian or American? What does it mean to be a person of Asian descent in America? Am I seen as an outsider? For most of my life, I have straddled two cultures, assimilating as the environment required. As I now think about my own family’s journey to the U. S., I am reminded that our history in this country only began one generation ago. My mother immigrated to the United States when I was only six. She left India and everything familiar and comfortable, including her husband and two young girls, to venture into the foreign and unknown. She did it to prepare a path for my future; a way to create opportunities, especially educational, for her daughters. The concept of an education being the avenue that opened doors was instilled in me at a young age. This is the story of most AAPI families. They leave everything behind to seek the American Dream. It is the story of many of the students we serve. Do we really try to learn and understand the cultural differences of the students we serve? Do we really see them? Do we create space for sharing and learning, or expect that others will do that for us?

I leave you with a challenge to learn a little more about other cultures you may not have previously experienced. The only way we can help ease worry and fears of our AAPI colleagues and students is to stand with them and fight against injustice and hate through kindness, understanding and an appreciation for their journey.