My Summer Institute Experience


Shajia Donecker, a financial aid advisor at Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas,  was one of the recipients of the DMCI Summer Institute Scholarship. Read on as she tells us about her experience. 

It’s been just over a week since I emerged from the jungle (i.e. RMASFAA’s Summer Institute), armed with new tools, ideas, and confidence about how to navigate the strange, unknown, and sometimes dark and dangerous terrain that we know as the field of financial aid! After a year in this profession, I’ve learned that the terrain can be complex and confusing more often than not – it’s very easy to get lost in the jungle! However, with the right resources, network, and positive attitude, it is possible to wade through the wild vegetation (i.e. federal regulations) to find your clearing or a place to camp for the night (i.e., the best answers and policies)!

Along with the Bushmaster Class (ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!) we journeyed deep into the jungle to explore new concepts that I had only limited exposure to previously: Return to Title IV, how to hand calculate an EFC, elements of campus-based aid programs, etc. We also heard from directors, volunteers, and other financial aid gurus who work hard not only within their institutions but beyond – offering their time and sweat to advocate for numerous college students, fellow financial aid professionals, and other institutions of higher education. The message was clear – we’re all in it together! Having the opportunity to network and socialize (and also commiserate of course) with others who have faced similar obstacles in the jungle was fun, informative, and revitalizing! I walked away with an entire address book of professionals on whom to lean whenever I lose my way within the dense forest or get tangled in the tropical overgrowth.

What’s more, RMASFAA made it possible for me to attend thanks to a RMASFAA Diversity and Multi-Cultural Initiatives Scholarship, which covered registration and $500 worth of travel expenses. With our ever-tightening budgets at the institution-level, the scholarship was absolutely essential to my participation and performance at the training – as I develop my skills in financial aid, I hope to be able to return on RMASFAA’s investment by volunteering at the committee level or at a conference. Overall, I highly recommend the RMASFAA Summer Institute to anyone (financial aid peon or vice president) because, as we all know, what we do in financial aid has ripple effects throughout our campuses! I hope to return a few years from now and relive the Summer Institute Experience!

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Kansas: State Update


Kansas held its 2017 Spring Conference in Topeka, KS this April on KASFAA’s Easy Street.  Organizers were pleased with the turnout of the spring training event especially since there won’t be a fall event in lieu of the RMASFAA annual conference in Wichita this October.

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Over 20 people took advantage of the NASFAA Student Eligibility credentialing opportunity, bringing the total number to around 50 people who have done so.   RMASFAA President, Vicki Kucera came to Kansas to present a workshop about Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Two guest presenters were invited to speak, Jared Estes and Mea Austin.  Jared Estes presented about overcoming massive personal tragedy and Mea Austin spoke about tools to achieve personal and professional goals.

The secret speakeasy raised $1200-$1300 for KASFAA scholarships for members to attend Summer Institute.  Knowing the secret code got you in the door to the awards banquet but it would cost you unless you knew someone who knew someone.  Attendees were so generous, they were able to offer two additional scholarships.

These folks were able to attend Summer Institute!

Kristine Bryant – Benedictine
Jordan Boyles – Washburn
Kay Gordon – Allen CC
Kimberly Cashman – Cloud CC
Tegan Perry – Wichita State
Summer Bond – KCKCC

Don’t forget to tune into RMASFAA Wichita in October!

Dani Reynolds
Association News Committee-Kansas

Dani

Leadership Pipeline: Dani Reynolds


Continuing the Leadership Pipeline series. The eight participants that make up this year’s class will share their experiences about participating in RMASFAA’s professional development program.

Susan and I at 2016 RMASFAA
Susan and I at the 2016 RMASFAA Conference

What is your current position and how long have you worked in financial aid?

I am a Financial Aid Counselor at Newman University.  I have worked in financial aid since October 2015.

Who is your Leadership Pipeline mentor and describe your relationship with them.

My mentor is Susan Stephenson of Eastern Wyoming College.  

Despite her being a cat person to my dog person, we have built a wonderful friendship!  She greeted me at the 2016 RMASFAA Conference with the cutest outfit for my son who was born a few months later. Her generosity doesn’t just extend to gifts for cute babies. She’s always willing to offer support and I always look forward to our monthly check-ins.  

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

I learned about Leadership Pipeline at Summer Institute and thought it sounded like fun. I was still pumped up from SI and wanted to get involved. At the time, Leadership Pipeline was happening every other year and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity. I’m so thrilled that they’re starting a new class at the upcoming RMASFAA Conference.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?

I love hearing what other challenges people are facing to see what we have in common. The longer I work in financial aid, the easier it is to find solutions or point at a resource that could help. Having a good network of people is wonderful for when I get stumped and they are able to do the same for me.

What is it that you are hoping to come away with at the end of the program? 

I have loved Leadership Pipeline and I’m definitely coming away with everything I hoped for.  The call with all of the mentors and mentees is a highlight of my month. I’ve had several light-bulb moments during calls where I need to implement something immediately.  

Why would you recommend the Leadership Pipeline program to others?

I would recommend Leadership Pipeline to anyone wants to stay in financial aid for the long term and get involved. I would especially like to recommend Leadership Pipeline if you are on the fence because you feel like you’re really busy but you want to participate anyway. I almost didn’t apply because I was having a baby a few months after our Leadership Pipeline year together began and didn’t know just how busy I would be after he was born. I am SO glad that I did. I even hope to be on the other side as a mentor someday.

Avoiding Microaggressions


Microaggressions are casual acts of degradation or exclusion. They happen almost every day to people who are different from the majority. The difference may be skin color, background, accent, religion, etc. Microaggressions normally occur verbally, during a conversation, and they can be fueled by a person’s own prejudices or ignorance.

There is a difference between a microaggression and being impolite. Microaggressions are frequently occurring expressions or behaviors that occur consistently to an individual while rudeness is a one-time event, most likely in a confrontation. Furthermore, microaggressions rarely go beyond a subtle unintended verbal aggression. When it escalates to a physical attack or an intentional verbal aggression, it is no longer a microaggression.

Microaggressors do not typically hold ill intentions yet they can still be harmful to the individual. I would like to demonstrate this by some situational examples:

  • Can I speak to a man?” – A male library patron looking for car repair books to a female librarian. A librarian does not have to be male (or know how to fix cars) to do the job of finding books. This an example of gender microaggression.
  • “Where are you from?” – A stranger waiting in line in a restaurant to another stranger when ordering food and hearing a different accent (either from another state or from another country). This is an example of language/nationality microaggression.
  • “You got a C- in Calculus? You are Asian, you should’ve gotten an A!” – A classmate to another classmate. Being from a certain race or region does not automatically make you an expert on a subject, nor should you be expected to be. This is an example of race microaggression.

Although these can be expressed in a comedic fashion, without the conscious intention to degrade or offend, they can still be offensive and harmful to the person receiving the question or comment.

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For example, the question “Where are you from?” could be appropriate to ask when you know the person or you have had some introductory conversation and you are genuinely interested in learning more about that person. However, it is a microaggression and completely rude to ask abruptly for no other reason than you heard a different accent. This implies the person is not from “here” and thereby excluding them from the community they belong to and may have lived in for years.

In the situation about the grade in Calculus, asking about a grade could be asked without involving race or background. Although this situation is the one that most likely could be interpreted as a joke, it is offensive to a person who may have tried their best but is not particularly skilled on the subject.

In my opinion, most of these situations can be easily avoided with courtesy, respect, and awareness of social and cultural differences. It is easy to fall on the mentality of “where I live everybody is like this”. The reality is that where you live is not the only place there is and there are a diversity of beliefs and cultural practices that make up our nation, institutions, and communities. Ask yourself if you would like to be constantly tagged as “X” or asked the same personal question without really knowing the person who is asking.

Avoiding stereotyping and microaggressions requires developing a genuine interest in, and empathy for others different from ourselves. Keeping an open mind, treating everyone with respect and accepting social and cultural differences will avoid uncomfortable situations at work and in your personal life. It will also make it easier for everybody to feel part of a community, regardless of their gender, race, religion, nationality, etc.

 

Manuel Gant
DMCI Chair

Manuel