Attending graduate school in the late 1990’s at the University of Texas as an international student from India, my connection with Student Financial Aid was non-existent. After working as a software developer in Dallas and subsequently in California, it was coincidence that brought me to ND in 2003-04 while the state was implementing PeopleSoft and to the UND SFA office which was hiring a PeopleSoft query writer to create comparable legacy reports in PeopleSoft.
I signed a one-year commitment to work with SFAO on PeopleSoft conversion. Only a few weeks after I started, the state systems office decided to push back the PeopleSoft go-live by a year. I ended up staying for the contracted year and worked on several other technical projects including one to create a web-based “Early Award Estimator.” (All schools are now required to host this and is now called Net Price Calculator.) That project gave me an in-depth introduction to the financial aid world. Ten years later and a few changes to my job title, I continue to learn something new every day and contribute towards the common goal of disbursing financial aid accurately, efficiently and on-time.
This profession has allowed me to interact and learn from many knowledgeable people who are always willing to share their experiences and help others to understand and comply with the ever changing regulations. Where just the financial aid acronyms can scare some, this skillful group of professionals absorb the complex concepts behind those acronyms, deal with the software challenges and process a valid disbursement. I believe that the biggest motivator is in knowing that the work contributes, in some small scale, towards a successful student graduation and in their lives.
I have served on several committees in the state association and enjoyed being on each one of them. When I got a call from Deb Byers, then RMASFAA president, I volunteered to be on the electronics initiatives committee. It was satisfying to be able to contribute back to the regional association and it was a very good learning opportunity for me as well. I am thankful to the RMASFAA Board, committees and the volunteers who backed the electronics initiatives and allowed us to venture out and attempt new projects.
My advice to new members is to volunteer in any capacity that works for you from the variety of opportunities available. It is truly a remarkable learning experience and a great opportunity to work with some amazing people. The association and the colleagues are very supportive. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone just during this past conference and failed very publically. True to its character, this team helped me to get up, dust off and try again with a little more success in the second attempt.
I am honored to have received the Oscar R. ‘Jack’ Hendrix award in 2014. Thank you.