Leadership Pipeline 2022/2023


Meet Delaney Vaccaro Bednar

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

I am currently a Financial Support Counselor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I have worked in this position for two years. Before working as a counselor, I was a Financial Support Federal Work-Study within the office for two years as well, before graduating with my bachelor’s degree.

Identify your mentor and describe your relationship with them.

My mentor for leadership pipeline is Brenda Hicks, the Director of Financial Aid at Southwestern College in Kansas. Although we have just met through the program and only just began our mentoring relationship, we have been able to have many different conversations. Some of these are as simple as home renovations or falling Iguanas while others are discussing office morale and how to be a solution. It is great to have the ability to have someone who is a great listener and can provide guidance on numerous topics when needed in financial aid. I know that she will be a great and valuable resource during my career within higher education and financial aid.

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

My co-worker, Nicole Casey, was a part of the last class previously and spoke highly of her experience. I have also heard of others within NeASFAA who spoke about the benefits of the program. This helped me to make the decision to join as I knew it would be something to help me grow within my career and allow me to learn from others while growing a strong network of financial aid administrators from all over the regional area! I was nervous to take the leap outside of my comfort zone but know that this will be a great opportunity.

Why would you recommend this program to others?

I would recommend this program to anyone who is new to financial aid as it is a great way to get in contact with your regional members and make connections with people who have the same goals and values as you. It is not often you get to be paired with a great group of people to bounce ideas off and learn about how to grow professionally and personally.

Leadership Pipeline Class 2022-2023 – Meet the Mentors


Meet Crystal Giordano – Director of Scholarships, Weber State University

I’m a selfish person. When an invitation comes to join a committee, provide feedback on a survey, or attend a meeting, I’m searching for ‘what’s in it for me?’ It might just be a coupon for Crumbl cookies, a free t-shirt, a sticker, or a chance to make a new friend. No matter the reward, you can bet that’s what I’m looking for when I evaluate any opportunity. So when a good friend asks a favor of you to serve as a mentor, you can bet I used this same method.

With only 30 months under my belt in my role as Director of Scholarships, you can guess I had a lot of hesitation and worry about what I could offer professionally. While I’ve served in various roles within higher education, the financial aid and scholarship world is new to me. What would I have to offer a mentee? I have fairly grand illusions of what a mentor looks like (think of Mr. Miyagi from the original Karate Kid); wise, calm, charismatic, and strategic…all traits I don’t count among my strengths. But then I thought back to all the mentors who have blessed my life, coached me, and helped me stretch beyond my comfort level. It felt like time to ‘pay it forward’ so I said yes.

My mentee, Kassi Hall from Western Wyoming Community College, and I meet monthly. We can talk shop (how are you handling this new change? Or what technology do you use to solve this?) or it can be a simple check-in. We get to tailor it to what we need…that’s the beauty of the Leadership Pipeline program. We get to adjust to our own schedule and what’s most important at that time. While we are still getting to know each other, I admire Kassi for all the roles she is playing as a financial aid professional, a student, and within her family. It’s a lot to juggle but she is setting an excellent example for those around her. I look forward to further developing our relationship and learning from her.

Kassi and other young professionals give me so much hope for the future. Their energy, enthusiasm, and passion for change reinvigorate me. After 15 years in higher education, I have come to accept that I am never the smartest, most data-savvy, most charismatic, or most anything in the room. I recognize the incredible talent around me. But I can help develop the smartest, most data-savvy, most charismatic professionals to build a brighter landscape for higher education. I can share my missteps, mistakes, triumphs, challenges, insecurities, and victories. I can share my leadership journey and smooth out the path for those coming up behind me. I have valuable insights and experience to share.

So back to, ‘what’s in it for me?’ Why would I consider being a mentor? – increased confidence, camaraderie, growth, an increased network, and a chance to shape the future – just to name a few. What can I say? I’m selfish.

Meet Your 2022-2023 RMASFAA Board – Part II


Continuing our series – here are a few more amazing RMASFAA Board members!

Angela Karlin – Past President

Angela Karlin is currently the Assistant Vice Provost of Financial Aid and Scholarships at the University of Kansas.  Angela has 20 years of experience in financial aid and has served at the state and regional levels.  She will serve NASFAA as the RMASFAA regional representative for the 2022-23 year.  Angela has served in many capacities at the state level, including president of MASFAP (Missouri) and as a state delegate to MASFAA. Her career in higher education has spanned 28 years and includes service at private and public institutions in the Midwest. 

  1. What are you currently watching, reading, or listening to that has you excited? The Crown Season 5
  2. What is your favorite vacation destination? Orange Beach, Alabama
  3. What is the worst Christmas or Birthday gift you ever received?  Windshield wiper fluid from my parents.  My brother and sister both got big gifts (too big to wrap) and their notes said look in Mom’s car or Dad’s car.  My sister got a stereo (think 1980’s) and my brother got a Nintendo.  They didn’t want me to miss out running to the garage, so off I ran to find wiper fluid.  After the disappointment, I did have other gifts under the tree.
  4. Other than Financial Aid, what’s the most unique or interesting job you have had? Working at a daycare with 1 year olds
  5. If someone gave you $5,000 to splurge on anything you wanted, what totally frivolous thing(s) would you buy?   A new wardrobe and purses.

Brenda Haseman – Vice President Elect

Brenda was the Scholarship Coordinator for NWCCD – Sheridan, Gillette, and Johnson County campuses from 2013-2022. She became the Assistant Director of Financial Aid in August. Prior to joining financial aid, she worked at the University of Wyoming in Laramie in the Registrar’s Office, was a faculty admin at George Mason University – Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington, VA, and was the administrative assistant to the Dean of Students and the Dean of Enrollment at Sheridan College (NWCCD). Brenda graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in 2002 and earned a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at the University of Wyoming this past May.

Brenda is currently the President of WyASFAA. She served as WyASFAA treasurer from April 2017 to April 2019. She is a 2017 graduate of RMASFAA’s Leadership Pipeline and was a mentor for the Class of 2020. Brenda was Chair for RMASFAA’s Association News Committee in 2017-2018 and just ended her tenure as Leadership Pipeline’s Chair in October.

Brenda enjoys reading, gardening, running, live music, traveling, and spending time with her husband Jake, 10-year-old Silver Lab Izzy, and 4-month-old English Cream Retriever Murphy. She is currently watching Dead To Me on Netflix, reading Verity by Colleen Hoover, and listening to lots of true crime podcasts. Her favorite vacation destination is tied between Walt Disney World in Florida and Puerto Morelos, Mexico for Strings and Sol.

Becca Dobry – President

Hello RMASFAA! I am Becca Dobry, the current RMASFAA President. I have been active in RMASFAA for numerous years serving on various committees and elected positions, participating in Leadership Pipeline and teaching at SI. Volunteering and being part of the RMASFAA family is one of the best professional growth opportunities I have had.

As for my everyday job, I am the Area-Wide Director of Central Community College (CCC) in Nebraska. As the Area-Wide Director I oversee the aid offices that CCC has at its four campuses and centers. I have been with CCC since September 2022.  Before CCC I was the Assistant Director at the University of Nebraska – Kearney. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Economics from Chadron State College and master’s degree in School Counseling-Student Affairs from the University of Nebraska – Kearney.

During my downtime, I spend time with my four dogs, reading, and avoiding any type of gardening/mowing that I can. Of my four dogs three of them are 11+ years old. I promise not to show you dog pictures unless you ask or show me a picture of your child or fur child. As for reading, according to Kindle I have read at least once a week for 190 consecutive weeks. For the avoiding gardening/lawn maintenance, well it combines two of the things I hate – hot weather and bugs.

Other than Financial Aid, what’s the most unique or interesting job you have had? 

I bartended during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally throughout college. 

If someone gave you $5,000 to splurge on anything you wanted, what totally frivolous thing(s) would you buy? 

Underground sprinklers for my yard. 

Leadership Pipeline Class 2022/2023


Meet Kassi Hall, a mentee in the Leadership Pipeline.

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

I am currently the Financial Aid Assistant at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, WY. I started in May of 2021 as the Financial Aid Process Assistant handling scholarships. In August of 2021 I moved into my current position handling Packaging, R2T4’s, and Verification.

Identify your mentor and describe your relationship with them.

My mentor is Crystal Giordano from Weber State University in Ogden Utah. I first met Crystal at Summer Institute in June 2022. I am still getting to know Crystal, but so far, she has been a wonderful mentor. She is very friendly and easy to talk to and a great listener and has a lot of knowledge about Financial Aid. While we are still new into this program, I already know we will have a lasting relationship even after we complete this program.

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

I honestly did not know this program existed being so new to Financial Aid until one day my Financial Aid Director approached me and asked if I would be interested in applying.  After we spoke I went to the RMASFAA website and looked up the Leadership Pipeline and thought what could it hurt? I enjoy working in Financial Aid and this program is a great way to build knowledge and leadership skills.

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

I am hoping to gain more knowledge about Financial Aid and Leadership. While I am still very new to Financial Aid, I know there is always so much to learn. This program will help me gain the knowledge and also help me create network of knowledgeable people to reach out to if I ever need help. With this program it will allow me to step out of my comfort zone and gain the confidence and to become a successful leader and Financial Aid Administrator.

Meet Your 2022-2023 RMASFAA Board


Let’s meet a few of the members from your 2022-2023 RMASFA Executive Board. These wonderful people volunteer their time and talents to help keep RMASFAA moving forward and fulfilling our strategic goals!

Susan Collins – Secretary

Susan is the Director of Financial Aid at Capitol Beauty School located in Omaha, NE.  She has worked in financial aid for over 25 years starting her financial aid career by accident while her family was stationed overseas at Incirlik AB Turkey. Her biggest passion is empowering student to incur the least amount of student loan debt possible through education and counseling. Susan is an active member of NeASFAA, RMASFAA, and NASFAA. 

Before starting her career in financial aid, she worked in the banking industry, working with home mortgages and credit cards.  Susan was born the last of 11 children and originated in Sacramento CA. Coming from a military family she moved a lot, but considers Salt Lake City, UT to be home. Susan has a blended family of 8 kids and 18 grand-kids she loves spending time with and watching grow. She enjoys traveling, painting and anything gnomes in her spare time.

Other than Financial Aid, what’s the most unique or interesting job you have had?

I owned a Bail Enforcement Company when I lived in Salt Lake City, UT prior to moving to Turkey and when I moved to Iowa in 2010 I become a license bondsman, bail bond agent, to be correct. I handled a 6 county area where I would bond people out of jail and put them back in. The biggest reward for me was getting clients that are messing up their lives to turn them around because you made a difference in their life. There are quite a few that have even gone on to finish their education with little to no student loan debt. 😊

Daisha Holmes – Treasurer Elect

Hey, y’all! My name is Daisha Holmes. I am a Financial Aid Coordinator at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas and I am also serving as the RMASFAA Treasurer-Elect! I began my journey in Financial Aid almost 2 years ago and I have been smitten ever since. I am passionate about serving underrepresented populations and I believe that through financial aid I am able to help students reach their educational goals. Now on to the fun stuff! 😊

What are you currently watching, reading, or listening to that has you excited?

One thing about me is that I LOVE true crime everything! I am a true crime girly and I am officially a “Weirdo” as I listen to the Morbid podcast DAILY! I enjoy listening to the hosts’ commentary and sharing a good laugh while unpacking the psychology behind true crime.

If someone gave you $5,000 to splurge on anything you wanted, what totally frivolous thing(s) would you buy? 

Another thing about me is that I love to shop! (Material Gourl) If I had $5,000 I would totally spend it on Starbucks, clothes from Shein, and Target! I LOVE TARGET, their home décor and dollar spot has an unbreakable hold on me!

I hope this gave you some fun insight about me and thank you for taking the time to get to know me! If you see me in person don’t be shy, say Hi! 😊

Justin Brown – Vice President

My name is Justin and I serve as the Vice-President for RMASFAA, which also includes chairing the Finance and Audit Committee. I am the Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid as well as the Interim Director of Husker Hub (our One-Stop shop) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am a first-generation college graduate of Texas A&M University and earned my Master’s degree at the University of Kansas. I finished my PhD at the University of Nebraska earlier this year – my dissertation focused on state policies that require the FAFSA for high school graduation. I am a past winner of the NASFAA Gold Star Award for innovation and regularly participate in the state, regional, and national associations, presentation, and publications on student financial aid policy and advocacy. I am the Past President for NeASFAA and also Chair of the NASFAA Benchmarking and Staffing Task Force. I have had a lot more going on this year than normal. In January, my wife and I welcomed our new baby girl, Zhenya to the family and her brothers, Garytt and Westyn, love her very much! I was at Summer Institute last year in Kearney, Nebraska when we found out my wife was pregnant. A little fun trivia about our family is that we were all born in a different state! This year I also played a lead role on stage in a musical called Tuck Everlasting, after my two boys auditioned and wanted me to audition as well. Unfortunately, that conflicted with the Utah conference, which is why I wasn’t able to make it and see all of you! But, I will see you in Colorado next year! I also turned 40 this year! Whew!

What are you currently watching, reading, or listening to that has you excited? 

I am currently reading Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil and I don’t want to die poor: essays by Michael Arceneaux.

Weapons of Math Destruction is written by a former Wall Street quantitative analyst who sounds an alarm on mathematical modeling, a pervasive new force in society that threatens to undermine democracy and widen inequality. We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives– where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance–are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as O’Neil reveals in this book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues.

In I Don’t Want to Die Poor, Arceneaux reveals the extent to which debt has an impact on every facet of his life–how he dates; how he seeks medical care (or in some cases, is unable to); how he wrestles with the question of whether or not he should have chosen a more financially secure path; and finally, how he has dealt with his ‘dream’ turning into an ongoing nightmare as he realizes one bad decision could unravel all that he’s earned. I Don’t Want to Die Poor is an unforgettable and relatable examination about what it’s like leading a life that often feels out of your control.

What is your favorite vacation destination? 

My favorite vacation destination so far is probably Hawaii and especially the Big Island where you can experience all climates in one day! My family and I visited shortly before COVID started and I’m hoping we can get back there again someday. I’m not much for tropical vacationing, but the Big Island was peaceful with a lot of history and was very family friendly! My mom is a homebody and I even got her to join us and kayak across a bay and snorkel, so it’s an experience I don’t think she’ll ever forget!

Calling All Volunteers!


Hello RMASFAA!!

We are pleased to announce the RMASFAA conference October 8th through the 11th will be held in beautiful Fort Collins Colorado in 2023. It takes a village to coordinate, prepare and deliver a high quality conference so we NEED YOU!!  No experience required.  All you need is the desire to work as a team and pride in producing a great conference.  Outlined below is a listing of conference teams you can be a part of. We need you all RMASFAA! If interested please reach out to Jill Robertson (jirobert@mines.edu) or complete the Committee Volunteer form on the RMASFAA website. We look forward to an amazing event and working with all of you.

Here are the teams (alphabetical). I have listed basic responsibilities of each team for your reference. 

Corporate Development:

  • Identify and solicit local, state and regional vendors
  • Coordinate vendor set-up and space
  • Coordinate sign design and promotion

Electronics/Technology:

  • Coordinate with program committee and site committee regarding electronic needs of speakers and presenters
  • Be on site to assist with any technology needs before or during the presentations such as laptop, clicker set-up and trouble-shooting
  • Monitor sound and AV equipment during general sessions

Entertainment and Hospitality:

  • Coordinate all extra-conference events, including after hours, group outing or gatherings
  • Plan a variety of social events
  • Collect info from local restaurants, places of interest or community activities.

Program:

  • Planning a robust program and solicit ideas for interest sessions
  • Identify and invite possible speakers and presenters
  • Inform outside speakers of goals and objectives of RMASFAA

Publicity:

  • Creative!!
  • Plan and develop promotional materials before and during the conference
  • Design signs for conference sessions, sponsors, events and breaks
  • Design and print final agenda for packets

Registration:

  • Manage online registration
  • Staff and operate registration table
  • Develop and prepare name tags, packets and registration database.

Site/Decorations:

  • Coordinate space and planning with hotel management
  • Review hotel menu and assist chairs in planning meals and breaks
  • Coordinate all decoration including linens, centerpieces and decorations within venue policies
  • Be first contact for any room/venue question or issues

Transportation:

  • Research and publicize transportation options and instructions
  • Ensure VIPs have all available information necessary for travel plans
  • For any group activity off-site, coordinate transportation with the entertainment chair

Thanks so much! 

Conference Chairs,

Joe Donlay and Jill Robertson

Introducing Vendors for the 2022 RMASFAA Fall Conference: Earnest


Last year students and parents have faced unprecedented challenges, and they have looked to college financial aid officers for answers. The question of paying for college can determine a child’s future, and there is one crucial document that can help – an updated lender list.

Many large lenders have left the student loan business due to challenges of doing business in a difficult year, or perhaps, for other reasons. Meanwhile, small start-ups have introduced new features and benefits, helping to drive down pricing on student loans. The industry is shifting, and it can be hard to discern which new lenders are reputable and place the students’ best interest at the core of their business.

A student loan officer can provide critical guidance that can counter the advertising and marketing tactics of loan providers. These tactics have evolved to be more sophisticated. Digital marketing on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and other search engines bombard families with ads. Student loan companies can bid on keywords to get to the top of search engine results. Seeing a company at the top of a Google result can give a false impression that the content is reputable – often, it is an ad. This unclarity leaves families at the mercy of a Google search, but a thoroughly vetted list of trusted and reputable student loan companies can help level the playing field.

The traditional practice of mailing student loan offers directly to families has expanded significantly. Between the third quarter o f2019 and the same quarter in 2020, more than 130 million direct mail pieces went out across the country. Families who don’t have financial aid officers to guide them must rely on these mail advertisements to provide education for financing their child’s education. Another recent changes comes from various comparison websites that offer evaluations of student loan lenders. Once more, the families are at the mercy of unvetted information unless a financial aid office can step in to help.

The good news is that creating a lender list is fairly straightforward. We compiled a list of the top ten tips to make this task a little easier for financial aid offices.

10 Tips for Making a Strong Lender List

Try an RFI

We estimate more than 200 schools build their recommended lender
list through an RFI (Request For Information) process. This
documented process allows schools to evaluate student loan
providers on an equal scale. A simple questionnaire completed by the
lenders can allow a financial aid office the ability to choose the right
lenders for their students. Issuing an RFI through an association
ListServ can provide the perfect distribution avenue.

Check the Reviews

Using unbiased review sites can provide insight into what consumers
think about lenders. With TrustPilot it is easy to search a company’s
information and is a good source for unbiased reviews. Simply type in
“Trust pilot reviews of ‘insert company name’” and you’ll get back
great information.

Be Aware of Referral Relationships

Some banks have referral relationships with other student loan
providers. By adding them to your list, you’re adding the same
student loan provider two or more times and not providing unique
choices to families.

Keep the List Tight

Adding too many options/lenders may not provide families with great
guidance. Federal guidance says that schools are required to have a
minimum of two unaffiliated lenders on any given list.

Check the Financial Stability and Commitment

There have recently been financially strong lenders that have decided
to leave the space. Their business models and offering of other types
of products allow them to come and go. Also, new start-ups may not
have the financial stability to weather the long term. Knowing a
provider’s stance on both of these can be crucial to ensuring the right
ones are being selected.

Price Matters

Many long-term lenders have not kept pace with the pricing
competitiveness of new entrants. Ensuring that families are getting
the best possible deal is one big comparative item.

What else do they offer?

Those having financial literacy tools, debt management programs,
and unique features and benefits can offer up the best options for

Do they work within the parameters of your office?

Some lenders and providers work with all third-party entities and
others do not. Knowing who can work within the parameters of your
office can ensure a smoother process.

Use a Truly Lender-neutral Site

Leveraging what ELM and Great Lakes have to offer can ensure your
financial aid office is not only providing a truly neutral site, but these
are also tools that make it really easy to manage a list without
needing internal IT resources.

Is the lender in the 21st century?

Much has changed with online technology. More and more students
are using their mobile devices. Many student loan providers have
offered no innovation In the last decade. Choosing those that have
kept up with technology ensures families are being provided with the
best choices.

About Earnest

Earnest is a technology company using technology, data, design, and exceptional service to build more affordable financial products, deliver them to more people, and engage through more human experiences. Founded in 2013 on the belief that financially responsible people deserve better options and access to credit, Earnest’s lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life’s milestones. The company’s mission is to empower people with the financial capital they need to live better lives. Earnest is a subsidiary of Navient. Learn more at earnest.com.