The Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RMASFAA) fall conference was held October 16-19th, in beautiful Missoula, MT. Missoula was a beautiful setting…a city nestled between tree lined mountains….where the blue skies WERE cloudy all day … at least during the conference. Despite the clouds however, it was a fantastic conference experience, filled with great learning experiences, camaraderie, and fun as well.
Before the official conference started, I was able to complete my year long experience in the RMASFAA Leadership Pipeline program. I will have to say as a participant it was quite the treat to be able to visit with Justin Draeger- NASFAA president, Pam Fowler- NASFAA national chair, and other regional association leaders such as Billie Jo Hamilton and Jeff Jacobs for a round table Q &A session. I would strongly encourage others to participate in this program in the future to not only hone your leadership development, but to foster lifelong financial aid networking opportunities and friendships with financial aid mentors and mentees.
A wide variety of training sessions were provided throughout the conference, including training sessions provided by the Department of Education and NASFAA. Information was available on a whole host of topics ranging from the technical aspects of dealing with verification changes, to consumer notification information, from program integrity regulations to SAP best practices and many others as well. We also learned who was smarter than a moose during a session provided by our notorious Jeanne Mott. In addition, I know I personally acquired some new strategies for effectively communicating and adapting marketing strategies to the parents of our students.
Never underestimate the generosity of financial aid professionals (CONTRARY TO SOME STUDENT’S BELIEFS). During this year’s conference, RMASFAA Conference Attendees collected books to help “Brew the Imagination” of local youths for the Charlo School in Charlo, MT. This is a K-12 school with approximately 319 students, 50% falling into the low-income category qualifying for free and reduced lunch rates. Through these efforts RMASFAA collected hundreds of books and raised the funds for the purchase of a color Nook for the library.
Several entertainment highlights come to mind, when I reflect on my conference experience as well. As an incoming new chair and Leadership Pipeline participant, we were treated to dinner and an evening of laughter at A Carousel for Missoula (www.carrousel.com). I had to chuckle to myself when we got on the carousel as we were asked to put on our safety belts as adults….after it started some of us were glad we did! It was the fastest carousel ride that I have ever been on.
I also enjoyed my first huckleberry tasting experience, and was treated to the comedic singing presence of the Singing Sons of Beaches (http://www.singingsobs.com/) on Sunday evening. What a Montana welcome!!
Missoula is also home to Montana’s oldest, the two largest, and the most microbreweries in the state of Montana (I will admit to doing a quick Wikipedia look up here) and is building a niche for the coffee brewing industry as well, and on Monday evening the conference planners highlighted these traditions by offering tours of either a brewery or a coffee tour. Not being one to pass up on old traditions, I personally went on the Big Sky Brewery Tour to experience the taste of Moose Drool and Scape Goat.
I always leave a financial aid conference feeling rejuvenated from the time spent with my peers, whether it was across the state or across our region. Not only is it a time for learning and training, but a time to collaborate, vent shared frustrations, and to share our triumphs with each other and our community. The relationships and connections fostered here, braces you for the challenges ahead with the knowledge and support of our regional financial aid community.
Thanks to all of the hard work by the RMASFAA conference planning committee for making it such a successful and worthwhile experience. Congratulations on Committee of the Year!!
If you attended the conference, and haven’t completed a Conference Evaluation, please do so today to help plan for future events!
Association News Chair