Leadership Pipeline Spotlight — Sally Schuman and Joe Donlay
In our third blog post about the Leadership Pipeline, highlighting past and present mentors and mentees, I had the opportunity to speak with Sally Schuman (mentor) (Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Colorado Mesa University) and Joe Donlay (mentee) (Associate Director of Operations for Student Financial Services at Colorado State University). Sally and Joe were part of 2007-2008 inaugural cohort of Leadership Pipeline participants.
What was one of the most helpful things that you learned from your mentor/mentee or from the leadership pipeline experience?
Sally: Every one of us who have financial aid careers have been trained, supported, and mentored by our peers. It is the nature of what we do, and the Leadership Pipeline formalizes those critical experiences.
Joe: The most helpful takeaway from Leadership Pipeline was, for me, the realization that this is a TOUGH line of work to be if you don’t have a strong support network. My experience very much reinforced that investing in the networking, training, and leadership opportunities RMASFAA provides is beyond worthwhile
If you were going to tell one story about your experience with the pipeline or mentoring, what would it be?
Sally: Mentors learn as much from the experience as their mentees. It is a two-way street that continues long after the Pipeline experience. I think the best of my pairing with Joe will come this June when we teach Summer Institute together!
Joe: I think there is a perception that Leadership Pipeline might focus exclusively on “association leadership”… while that is certainly an element of it, the program really is much more all-encompassing of leadership development – the mentee and mentor pairs examine what it takes to be a leader within your community, within your institution, and within your professional associations. Being paired with Sally was terrific; I loved our discussions and they were usually all over the board… ranging from how to navigate office politics, staff supervision challenges, how to frame or direct conversations and advocate… These are all skills which tie into leadership development, but are much more easily discussed with someone outside of one’s immediate office – or even one’s own state. While it’s been over 8 years since Sally and I were initially paired together, she very much remains a mentor to me… and in fact, we are even teaching together at this year’s Summer Institute!
How did participating in the pipeline affect or direct your professional development?
Sally: By formalizing the mentoring experience, we made RMASFAA a more visibly welcoming association. The path to expanded and continued leadership in RMASFAA is defined and a visible priority.
Joe: Leadership Pipeline, has definitely put me squarely “in the pipeline”, so to speak! Following my experience, I have served on several RMASFAA committees, including having served as Chair of the Electronic Initiatives and Chair of Summer Institute. I’ve also had the honor of serving as Vice-President in 2011 and President-Elect this year. Each of these roles have been incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth. The biggest benefit, however, is that each opportunity has truly made me a better and more effective aid administrator – and leader – on my campus. And THAT’S the whole point.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to an individual entering into a mentor/mentee experience?
Sally: DO IT!!! You will make life-long connections on both a professional and a personal level.
Joe: Do it. It’s an investment in yourself that will yield some pretty awesome dividends, not the least of which include lifelong mentors and incredible friendships.
–Sara Vancil, Association News Committee Chair, Kansas