I came into Financial Aid later in life, accepting a position at Montana State University’s Office of Financial Aid Services in 2008 after spending almost 20 years in credit unions. The credit union movement offers plenty of opportunities to volunteer, and I had served a variety of roles at the chapter, state and national level.
Casting about for a way to volunteer in my new career, I stumbled on a call to serve on RMASFAA’s Leadership Pipeline Committee. Now normally a brand new financial aid administrator starts out by being accepted as a mentee in the Leadership Pipeline program, followed perhaps years later by a request to become a mentor or to serve on the committee. However, long-time Chairman Mary Sommers seemed to have no problem with me leapfrogging straight into the committee role, so with permission from my director, Brandi Payne, I served an exciting year on the Leadership Pipeline Committee learning financial aid from the top down.
This brought me to the attention of Joe Donlay, who recommended me to become RMASFAA’s Electronics Initiatives Chair for 2011-12. One of the goals for the Electronic Initiatives Committee was to set up a means to accept credit card payments through the RMASFAA website. This was an easy stretch for me, having helped set up ATM, Debit and Credit card programs in my credit union, and was made easier still by the fact that past E.I. Chair Shawna Savage had already done the legwork to research and recommend a payment system. I got the ball rolling on electronic payments, turned it over to RMASFAA Treasurer David Martin to finish up, and put my feet back up on the desk.
Imagine my shock later on that year when former RMASFAA President Brenda Hicks called my name as I sat daydreaming at the RMASFAA Annual Conference Awards Banquet. I had to be nudged to the podium, and didn’t have a word to say as I accepted the 2011 – 2012 Oscar R. “Jack” Hendrix “Rookie of the Year” award. It was quite an honor, especially considering the luminaries who have won the award in the past.
Volunteerism can actually be a selfish act. My favorite quote regarding this comes from Tom Parac, former winning Head Football Coach of the MSU Bobcats. He had taught his players that “You Get Out of It What You Put Into It”. I heard that same quote in his inaugural speech as President of the Bozeman Rotary Club. Tom was encouraging his fellow Rotarians to get more involved in Rotary, so they would get more out of it. I heard that call and served as Rotary Club Treasurer and later as Rotary District Treasurer, finding along the way I was getting a lot more out of Rotary.
The same holds true with our profession. If you go beyond doing your day-to-day job to involve yourself in our state associations and in RMASFAA and NASFAA, you gain knowledge and understanding of your profession, and you meet neat people who fill you with their dedication to the good work of Student Financial Aid. Find a committee or role that interests you, and try volunteering today. You’ll get out of it more then what you put into it.