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2015-2016 RMASFAA Officer Election Results!!

July 2, 2015

The 2015-2016 RMASFAA Officer Election results are now official!!  Your new RMASFAA Board Members who will assume duties at our annual conference this October are:

  • President-Elect, Vicki Kucera, Central Community College (NE)
  • Vice-President, Starla Russell, Western Dakota Tech (SD)
  • Treasurer, Donna Carter, Wichita State University (KS)
  • Secretary, Denise Grayson, Dakota State University (SD)
  • Associate Member Delegate, Robb Cummings, Sallie Mae (KS)

RMASFAA is so fortunate to have amazing professionals who are so generous with their time and talent.  Please join me in expressing sincere gratitude to all of the candidates for their willingness to run in this year’s election – and in CONGRATULATING our winners and 2015-2016 RMASFAA Officers!

Wishing each of you a fun and fantastic 4th of July!!

-Joe Donlay

2014-2015 RMASFAA President-Elect

Chair, Nominations & Elections Committee

Photos and Videos from Summer Institute

June 30, 2015


Rob Drybread, SI Chair, in his 80s heyday!

If you’d like to see photos and videos from this year’s Summer Institute, they have now been posted at

Thanks to all who participated!

–The 2015 Summer Institute Committee

My Experience at Summer Institute

June 29, 2015

Manuel Gant, Financial Aid Counselor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, was one of two winners of the DMCI (Diversity and Multicultural Initiatives) Scholarship to attend Summer Institute.  Here are his thoughts on the experience!


Attending the Summer Institute was a great experience! The organizers of the Summer Institute really do a fantastic job with how the week is structured. The decision of using a theme, such as bands from the 80s, and dividing all the attendees in small groups gives a good opportunity to get to know the people in your class and also to add some fun to an event where learning is the main goal.

The classroom format with a small group and two faculty members creates an excellent learning experience that almost reminded me of being back in college, in the good sense. The materials cover a lot of useful information and the faculty makes sure to cover the majority of it with detailed explanations and examples. This keeps the class engaged with the explanation. Also, allowing some open discussions and playing some games to go over the materials that we just reviewed was a great way to make sure that we understood the topics.

However, one of the main elements that I appreciated most was the opportunity to network and see how other Financial Aid Administrators work and being able to talk about best practices and procedures. Also, having the contacts to be able to ask questions in the future is always a useful thing and I think it is one of the best values of the Summer Institute, besides learning all the materials that are covered.

I am really glad that I attended RMASFAA’s Summer Institute! I enjoyed learning more about financial aid regulations, procedures and the overall experience offered in the Summer Institute.

President’s Update

June 26, 2015


Happy Summer, RMASFAA!

Here in Utah, we are experiencing above-average temperatures that should surpass 100 degrees by this weekend. Even though I’m leaving this week to spend four sweltering days with 15 energetic 14-year-olds at scout camp (pray for me), I’m very happy to take a few minutes to give some of the coolest people I know a quick update on RMASFAA’s latest and greatest (from the blissful comfort of my air-conditioned office).

First and foremost, thanks to each of you for your kindness and hospitality during my whirlwind tour of RMASFAA this spring. If I’m counting correctly, I visited seven state conferences in five weeks! I came home absolutely energized and more convinced than ever that RMASFAA has the most committed, close-knit, and capable group of professionals anywhere on the planet. Thanks also for the excellent feedback you provided during the listening sessions. Your responses and ideas will be essential as we work on developing our new three-year strategic long-range plan (led by the inimitable Jeff Jacobs and his awesome Association Governance committee). Feel free to contact Jeff or me with additional ideas, and be sure to watch for the ‘SLRP’ session at our annual conference in October (I think we should order Slurpees for the big rollout, but I’m not sure that’s in the budget).

I’m also very happy to report that Summer Institute was once again a phenomenal (or should I say totally tubular?) success, thanks to our incredible SI committee and faculty. I will admit that, every year as I travel home from Golden, I worry just a little about how on earth we will ever be able to top the experience…but then the next year comes and it just gets better and better! Thank you so much to all of the participants and volunteers who made SI 2015 an experience I will never forget.

Joe Donlay reminds me that there are just a few days left to vote in RMASFAA’s 2015-16 officer elections. Watch for results very soon! And if you or your institution hasn’t yet voted, please log in to and make your voice count today! This year’s slate of candidates represents RMASFAA’s absolute best and I’m looking forward to great contributions from each of them in the future.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that, just last week, your Board of Directors voted and approved the Hyatt Regency Wichita as the site of the 2017 RMASFAA annual conference, which will take place October 15-18, 2017. On behalf of the entire Association, I express thanks to Tony Lubbers and Myra Pfannenstiel (2017 conference co-chairs) for their tireless work, as well as to Carolyn Halgerson and Laura Schultz, who are making great things happen in preparation for the 2016 conference in Rapid City, SD! And last but certainly not least, a great big shout-out goes to Erin Brogan and Natalie High and their committee, who are heading up the 2015 conference in Westminster, CO. Registration for this year’s conference will go live soon and I’m looking forward to seeing each of you there. I know it’s been a long engagement, but it’s sure to be the wedding of the century!

All my best to you and yours for a relaxing, rejuvenating summer filled with all of your favorite things! Save some sunscreen for me.


My Experience at Summer Institute

June 22, 2015

Cynthia Montoya, Financial Aid Advisor at Community College of Aurora, was one of two winners of the DMCI (Diversity and Multicultural Initiatives) Scholarship to attend Summer Institute.  Here are her thoughts on the experience!

When I was first asked if I would like to go to Summer Institute by my Director months back, I remember immediately saying “YES!”… and then googling Summer Institute the moment he walked out of my office.  While a week long immersive training did not sound like a fun time, I knew that it would greatly benefit me in my new role at Community College of Aurora. As the days grew closer and the emails from the SI Committee came rolling in, I have to admit that my excitement and curiosity grew with each and every one. Their enthusiasm was undeniably contagious!

From the time that I checked in at the Golden campus, I fell in love with the experience. The people, from all different roles in Financial Aid and walks of life, came to be my friends and teachers. I learned a great deal from my class-mates (Go HEART!) and from my wonderful and amazing Instructors Starla and Regina. With 7 years in Financial Aid some of the subject matter was not new, but I undoubtedly learned something with each module and with each discussion. I think the most important thing I learned was how much I still NEED to learn! At the start of the week I never could have imagined how much I’d gain in friendship, knowledge… and let’s not forget about fun.

I commend the DMCI Committee for offering a Scholarship to attend the Institute and providing the chance to have this amazing experience to members. My hope is that I will be able to return to Summer Institute as a next level learner or as a volunteer in the coming years!


Cynthia at 2015 SI, Financial Aid’s Totally Tubular MixTape!

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight

June 18, 2015

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight — Michelle Massey and Elaine Henrie

lead word

Elaine Henrie is the Director of Financial, Scholarships and Veterans Services and Registrar at Emporia State (Go Hornets!)  Michelle Massey is a Financial Aid Technician at Laramie County Community College (Go Eagles!)  Elaine and Michelle are participating in the current class of Leadership Pipeline.

Elaine2 Michelle cropped

Have you ever been involved with Leadership Pipeline before?

Elaine: This is my first experience with the Leadership Pipeline.  I have mentored for many years, but more informally.

Michelle: No, since this is a relatively new program. But I’m happy to be involved with it now.

What drew you to the program?

Elaine: I was asked and I think assisting new members or members who are ready for a change in how they serve their institution or RMASFAA is not only important by necessary.  Our profession performs a valuable service to students and families, but often we do not think of the importance of serving one another through things like mentoring.

Michelle: Easy question! The phrase: you don’t have to be a director to be a leader. I’m learning that Leadership Pipeline can benefit anyone and everyone in the profession.

What has surprised you about the program?

Elaine: Good question.  I think I am surprised by very little, so I would use the word impressed.  I am impressed by the work being done by the mentees.  They are full of great ideas and insight.  I believe the future of RMASFAA is in good hands.

Michelle: I was very surprised that more people did not apply to the program. No matter what your level of expertise or experience, Leadership Pipeline will benefit you.

Name something, personal or professional, that has helped you with Leadership Pipeline.

Elaine: I work at an extremely supportive institution.  I am blessed to have always had support from the President, my boss and the folks in my office who work so well together.  I use the analogy that we are Hornets and the people I work with swarm to make things happen.  Without that support I recognize that I might not have the opportunity to participate in a program like Leadership Pipeline.

Michelle: I think coming into LP with an open mind has been the biggest help.  Simply believing that the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Which is probably applies to anything we do in life.

Training Tip of the Month — June

June 16, 2015

Did you Know

Are you planning your day or is your day planning you?

Our work lives can, at times, be overwhelming. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or recently started your career in the financial aid industry, we all have days where “Mission Impossible” is the theme. Here are a few ideas to get each day off to a good start:

E-mail: Friend or foe?
For those of you who fall into the more “seasoned” category (i.e., been in financial aid since the ice age…), do you ever long for the days where you discussed a work-related issue over the phone (it could even be a personal chat within your office!) and ended the conversation with “Send me a memo so we have it in writing?”

For the most part, those days are long gone. Conducting business on a daily basis is highly dependent upon reading e-mail, replying, reading the reply, replying to the reply….and the cycle continues. Avoid the temptation to give your in-box a quick scan at the start of the day, and avoid getting “in” the in-box without a way to quickly get out. Turn off the alerts that pop up and dings that sound off every time a new e-mail hits your in-box. Set one specific time to deal with all e-mails at once to cut down on the interruptions and increase your productivity. At the very least, block out some time where you will NOT check your e-mail.

What’s next?

Ever spent too much time trying to figure out what to do next rather than just starting with a bang and moving directly from task to task? At the end of each day, create a checklist of tasks for the next day so you can start working first thing in the morning. Consider the “one and done approach” —  if you can get something checked off the list, your day is off to a good start.

Organize your day

Review your to-do list for the day (that you made before you left work the day before), and mentally plan your approach so you are able to check all tasks off the list before the end of your day. Determine which tasks take priority and estimate how long each will take to complete complete. You know when you are most productive during the day, so use these times to complete the most important tasks, and proceed from there. Batch similar tasks and establish routines for projects you do over and over. Don’t forget to allow time for interruptions; these can’t be “scheduled,” of course, but you know they will happen, and if you allow leeway in your schedule for the unexpected, you can still get through your checklist in a day.

Don’t be afraid to put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign!

We are all very focused on customer service and want to help our students in the best way we can. Sometimes this means closing our doors to complete that stack of verifications or to slog through the pile of PJs. Is it so bad if students have to make an appointment later in the day to see you? Consider that if you are completing more paperwork and projects more quickly by shutting yourself off from the world for a few hours a day, you might be solving your students’ issues before they arise. The more you immediately answer their calls and e-mails, the less time you are giving yourself to finish what they are contacting you about in the first place (and we KNOW they will continue to call, and call, and call…).

Learn to say no and ask for help

Sometimes it’s impossible to get it all done. We often try to make everyone happy by saying “yes” to projects when we really don’t have time to do them. It’s ok to decline non-essential commitments not directly related to your job. It’s also not a failing to sometimes need assistance. Reach out to members of your team for help; you might be surprised how willing they are to contribute, and how that collaboration can make you a stronger team!

The last step?

Give yourself a break and clear your head.  This is the best time to re-assess your to-do list and determine if you will be able to complete the tasks for the day. If you can, congratulations! Keep it up! If not, no need to worry. Finish what you can. Take any uncompleted task, put it at the top of the list for the next day, and start a new list. The old adage that practice makes perfect is true if you can master organizing your day!


Next on your “To-Do” List: These 10 Time Management Tips for the Office

Ten applications of time management for the workplace

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 21 Time Management Tips to Hack Productivity

10 Easy Ways to Be More Productive at Work

How to Be More Efficient at Work

7 Productivity Power Ups for the Financial Aid Office

This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee