I was introduced into the financial aid world when I was hired as a work-study student at Emporia State University. I can’t remember the circumstances that led up to me applying and thinking that accepting the job was a good idea, but I do remember that I felt like a fish out of water. I was hired about two weeks before the fall semester started, the phones were ringing off the hook, and the most I could really do is put the caller on hold and go ask for help. I remember going home mentally exhausted and not sure what I committed myself to, but I remained employed in that office through my whole undergraduate career.
After earning my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, I went to work for a local bank as a funds management clerk. It was an interesting job, but I was having difficulty finding where I could utilize my computer and coding skills. Sometime in 2004, Wilma Kasnic, retiring director of the Financial Aid Office, called me up and asked me if I’d be interested in applying for the Assistant Director position, noting that they were transitioning to a system called Banner and it might give me an opportunity to use my computing skills. I had already established a good working relationship with the staff in that office when I was a work-study student, and so it seemed like a natural fit. I was hired in 2005 and continue to provide functional and technological solutions for our office.
Shortly after I was hired, I became involved in KASFAA starting with being co-chair of the Electronic Resources committee and was privileged to be introduced to so many colleagues. I was struck by the camaraderie of a large group of professionals who, I believe, really wanted to see each other grow and be successful at serving students and their families. This was further proven to be true as I received an email from Cristi Easton asking if I’d be interested in chairing RMASFAA’s Electronic Initiatives committee and that I was recommended by Chris Johnson. At first I was very hesitant to commit to this as we were about to go live with Banner and I had developed a lot more gray hair from that whole ordeal; however, with the support of my coworkers in my office as well as Chris’ recommendation, I was really encouraged to step out and serve and I was very glad I did. I found that the same camaraderie I experienced at KASFAA was the same in RMASFAA, and my introduction to the region was a very positive one. I made many more connections which continue to this day, and received a lot of valuable teaching and wisdom. While it is admittedly harder to remain involved in the region, it is definitely worth it just for these aspects alone.
After serving two years as EIC chair, the next opportunity I received to serve the region was to co-teach at Summer Institute in 2012. This was, by far, the most challenging thing I have ever done in my career. I was completely out of my comfort zone, and had some sleepless nights trying to prepare. However, as I have learned over time, nothing will teach you more than teaching others. This brings me to my closing thought: if I were to offer one single point of advice for someone new to RMASFAA or the profession in general, it would be to step out of your comfort zone and be willing to make mistakes. When you are feeling uncomfortable or you feel like you may have absolutely nothing to offer, that is the perfect place for you to be in order to step out and serve. I think those kinds of sentiments are evidences of humility – a pre-requisite, in my estimation, to receiving (and giving) teaching and wisdom. Along the way, you will most likely make mistakes, but you cannot learn anything without making them, and you certainly won’t learn anything standing still. One of my favorite preachers, Charles Spurgeon, once said “humble men are those who think themselves so little, they do not think it worthwhile to stop to serve themselves.” Step out and go serve your colleagues to the best of your ability.
Thad received the Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix Award in 2007.