Leadership Pipeline: Katie Nelson

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.

Leadership Pipeline

When I was looking through my folder of assorted notes, instructions, and schedules from Leadership Pipeline, I found the handout I received on my first day at the RMASFAA Conference in 2016, with my mentor’s picture, biography, and quote. The quote that Brenda Hicks had chosen: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” by Winston Churchill. That quote really resonated with me this morning, as I drink my coffee and attempt to complete some work before the students wake up, start calling, and try pushing down the door to get into the office. It is the courage to continue that counts. We come in to work every day, not only because we love our jobs, but because we have the courage to continue. We all know that our jobs can be challenge at times. The most valuable thing Leadership Pipeline has given me is a network of colleagues, who have become friends, who can relate to the busy times with students and can provide support. Ironically, most of these people also drink coffee.

I am starting my 5th academic year as a financial aid counselor at Black Hills State University. My path to Leadership Pipeline started at the 2016 SDASFAA Spring Conference. Our Executive Board was really advocating volunteerism. They put these colorful little papers on all the tables, so you could sign up for what committees you wanted to be on. Then they spoke again about what Board positions would be opening up that fall. Up until that point, I had been involved with the regional association, but hadn’t done much at the state level. As the conference went on, I observed that the Treasurer seems to have to speak in front of everyone the least. I thought, I could probably do that job, since it was one of the open positions. I spoke with a couple people about it, and they were incredibly supportive, so I thought I’d send the email after the conference. At the Business Meeting portion of the conference, I actually paid attention, and discovered that SDASFAA offers a scholarship for Leadership Pipeline participants, and mentioned that South Dakota hadn’t had any participants in some time. After listening to Joe Donlay speak about the program during the RMASFAA update, I thought it might be a good learning opportunity, with a potentially new treasurer position. To conclude my already long story, I was offered the Treasurer position on interim in July, and started my official term and my year in Leadership Pipeline in October.  It has been an exciting ride of volunteerism. (I also learned that the Treasurer position is quite a bit of work, along with minimal public speaking J )

Brenda Hicks has been a wonderful mentor throughout this process. I give huge kudos to the Leadership Pipeline committee for their ability to match up mentors and mentees. Brenda and I first met in January 2013 at the Summer Institute planning session. We were paired together as roommates, and she helped me create my financial aid super hero name, which sadly, I cannot remember. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and utilizing her expertise. We have many things in common, we are both efficient, sarcastic, and enjoy red wine. I was also fortunate enough to have Brenda as the thought leader for the Association Management Pathway of the NASFAA Leadership & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. this past March. We were able to meet before the conference, and enjoy an evening tour of the monuments, and discuss the upcoming sessions. Even though she had a lot going on with her role in the conference, she was always sure to touch base with me about previous sessions, and to see what I had learned.

I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is newly getting involved in their state or regional association, or to anyone who has no idea what to do to get involved. Leadership Pipeline is the platform to see what kind of involvement opportunities are out there. You can hear from mentors who have held every leadership position ever created. Even if you don’t see yourself as the next president-elect, Leadership Pipeline can help you to get more involved on your campus, or even within your own office, heading a financial literacy movement. There is something for everyone, and you will only find yourself wanting to do more. I think that was the biggest thing I was looking to come away with at the end of Leadership Pipeline. I wanted to learn from the best, how to do it all, their full-time jobs, their volunteerism, and their families. The Leadership Pipeline class of 2016-17 did not disappoint.

State Update: Nebraska

NeASFAA celebrated its 50th anniversary during its 2017 Spring Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska this past March. The conference theme “Celebrating the past, embracing the future” gave conference attendees the chance to look back at how far NeASFAA has come and provided an opportunity to share memories with old and new friends.

Two guest presenters that started their career in Nebraska were invited back to present sessions. Doug Severs, of Oregon State University, started his career in Nebraska at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Doug presented a session on Working with the Campus Community and Being a Legislative Advocate. Joan Zanders, of Northern Virginia Community College, started her career in Nebraska working at Northeast Community College and Wayne State College. Joan presented a session on Coursework and Financial Aid Eligibility and a session on SULA. Other guest presenters included, Tom Melecki, College Affordability Solutions, David Bartlett, Department of Education, Dean Obenauer, Creighton University, Lisa Blaser, NASFAA Chair from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Kent Wolfe, Inceptia, Edd Cole. Office of Inspector General, Carol Swenson, Great Lakes, Janet Dodson, Tuition Exchange, Mark Araujo, Nebraska Methodist College, Linda Butcher, Doane University, Angelia Turner, University of Nebraska-Omaha and Mary Sommers, University of Nebraska at Kearney.


The conference also provided the opportunity for attendees to participates in two NASFAA credentialing sessions. Matt Johnson, University of Nebraska at Kearney, and Sheila Johns, Western Nebraska Community College, did a great job in presenting Direct Loan credentialing. The Direct Loan credentialing session had 32 attendees. In addition to Direct Loan training, Penny James, Nebraska Methodist College, presented the NASFAA Return to Title IV Credentialing Session which had 17 attendees.


The highlight of the conference was the banquet dinner. Good food and fellowship were shared with first time attendees and several retired friends joined together to share old memories and create new ones as NeASFAA joined together to celebrate the past and embrace the future.


State Update: North Dakota


Our annual spring conference was held in Dickinson, ND, located on the western edge of the state. It is the gateway to Medora (a destination you must visit in ND!) and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is home to the Badlands. Our conference theme was “The Wild Adventures of Financial Aid….Fun in the Jungle!”  Which I think we can all relate to it being pretty wild sometimes….or maybe most the time!


And as alway’s it’s great to be able to reconnect and network with colleagues from across the state, catch up on life and see how things are going. After all, we are one big happy family, right!?

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We were fortunate enough to have Joe Massman from The Department of Ed present on a few topics including a Federal Update, assorted Title IV topics, and Verification/Conflicting Information. We also enjoyed having our very own RMASFAA President Vicki Kucera attend and give us an update on what’s going on in RMASFAA. Other session topics included Education Benefits for Veterans, updates on our ND state aid programs, and our Diversity Committee brought in a speaker that provided a session on Underrepresented Population: What’s Not to Know.

This year’s NDASFAA Philanthropy Project recipient was Bakken Paws. Bakken Paws is a non-profit animal rescue and foster group that was started by animal lovers who saw a need for dogs and cats around the Dickinson area. They provide animals with food, shelter and any medical needs they might have. The group did not initially start with the intent to offer pet adoption services but that is now a large part of what makes up Bakken Paws. We even got to cuddle and love up an a few furry friends that came for a visit!

During the conference, we held our annual business meeting, Scott Lingen, NDASFAA Past-President for the upcoming year passed the gavel to Lindsey Benson, NDASFAA President. During our annual meeting committees were encouraged to share updates and any changes for the upcoming year. Marcia Pritchert, Valley City State University was selected as our scholarship recipient. Marcia will receive funding to help with some of her trip expenses to this year’s FSA conference.

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NDASFAA also selected President-Elect Karrie Huber from the University of Mary, re-elected Bethany Vincent from North Dakota State University as Treasurer and re-elected Tom Ternes, from the Bank of North Dakota, as Associate Member at Large.

On our last night we held our awards banquet where we recognized years of service awards (350 years to be exact…WOW), congratulated and honored our retirees and recognized those who have gone above and beyond in the field of financial aid.

Scott Lingen, BSC, was awarded the Rookie of the Year award for his outstanding leadership as NDASFAA President, as well as leading our Financial Aid user group meetings.

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Bethany Vincent, NDSU, was awarded the NDASFAA President’s Award for all her hard work and commitment to NDASFAA, serving as our treasurer since 2013.

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Retirees: Sandy Klein (DSU), Bruce Helgerud (UND), Loretta Prather (UND), and Becky Rude (NDSU)

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NDASFAA is working hard on planning the 2018 RMASFAA Annual Conference in Fargo, ND. At the Fargo conference we will be celebrating RMASFAA’s 50th Anniversary. We look forward to seeing you all there!

I hope you all are enjoying your summer and wish you the best in this upcoming year!


Lindsey Benson, Minot State University, NDASFAA President
Heather Fink, Association News Committee


Reserve Your Room!

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Click HERE to Login, Register and Reserve your Room!

Fiscal Officers Welcome!  Special track is available!

NASFAA Credential opportunities for Application Process, Satisfactory Academic Progress and Verification are filling fast!

Conference highlights online now – program coming soon.  

Find out more by visiting these conference pages:

Conference Information

Travel and Wichita Information

Philanthropy Project


Your RMASFAA Publicity Chairs,
Cindy Kleinsorge & Ashley Jost

DMCI Conference Scholarship


The DMCI Wichita Conference Scholarship application is now available!

The RMASFAA Diversity and Multicultural Initiative Committee (DMCI) would like to announce the opening of our Wichita Conference Scholarship application. This scholarship will help RMASFAA members pay for costs to attend the RMASFAA Fall Conference (October 15-18 in Wichita, KS).

The deadline to submit the application is August 11, 2017.

The scholarship is intended primarily for underrepresented communities, but please do not hesitate to apply should you be interested in advocating for the mission of the DMCI Committee.

You will find the scholarship application on the RMASFAA website under “Online Forms”.  Below is the link to the application:

2017 DMCI Wichita Conference Scholarship Application

Note:  You must be a current member to be considered for the scholarship, so please make certain that your payment is current.

If you have difficulty with the application process, please contact Manuel Gant at mgantbernal@fortlewis.edu.


State Update: Montana

masfaa 2017 conference picture

Montana held its annual state conference this April over three days in Missoula, MT to the theme of Financial Aid Flower Power. Diane Llewellyn, member-at-large and President, Cindy Kiefer, were the conference co-chairs.

The conference had several guest speakers from varying backgrounds. Dr. Tom Crady, the University of Montana Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs conducted the welcome speech to the conference. Ron Muffick, the Director Of Student Affairs for the Montana University System notified the members of severe losses in state funding for state aid programs (i.e. need based grants and various merit scholarships) and the state-wide Default Prevention Unit (which provided services for all of MASFAA’s member institutions). Joseph Massman, a training officer for the Department of Education conducted two presentations on Financial Aid hot topics and on Federal Updates. Jennifer Madgic, the Regional Director for U.S. Senator Jon Tester conducted a short listening session in Tester’s stead and stayed for most of the conference. Vicki Kucera, the RMASFAA President provided the members with a RMASFAA update. Emily Williamson, the MASFAA President and Director of Financial Aid at MSU Billings and Cheri Johannes, the Registrar and Director of Admissions & Records at MSU Billings gave an update and advice on how to tackle a Federal Program Review as a result of MSU Billings completing their program review.

Additionally, the Director of the MUS American Indian and Minority Achievement Program (AIMA), Angela McLean, presented an update of the AIMA program and facilitated a conversation with the membership about ways to further assist American Indian and Minority students.

The members hosted a bingo night in order to help raise funds for the Mick Hanson Scholarship which helps members attend training conferences. They were able to raise over $500 and met their goal.

At this time MASFAA’s Past-President, Emily Williamson, and President, Cindy Kiefer, are attempting to work with the Montana University System to identify options for continuing to provide default prevention services for the state.

Alora Blue –Association News Committee, Montana

P.S.-Kudos to Alora for having THE COOLEST name in RMASFAA
-Ellie Roberts