I interviewed Peg Mason (mentor) and Monica Kopcow (mentee) who participated in RMASFAA’s Leadership Pipeline in 2012-13. Peg is Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Colorado School of Mines and Monica is Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Colorado State University. When I asked each of them to submit a photo, I got surprises: Monica is with “Marilyn Monroe” who attended the 2013 NASFAA conference, and Peg is pictured with her oldest grandson Malachi who is three years old. What fun!! (It shows you that financial aid administrators do lead interesting lives…)
What led to your decision to participate in the Leadership Pipeline program?
Peg: I have had many informal mentors over the 25+ years I’ve been in Financial Aid that have been invaluable in my career. I wanted to share what I have learned from my mentors to someone who wanted to grow in their profession.
Monica: As a first generation college student, I realized the immense value mentors have played in my life and career choices. After reading about the Leadership Pipeline and discussing it with a colleague who had previously gone through it, I applied. I felt the Leadership Pipeline program would be a great way to enhance communication skills, leadership skills and job satisfaction. Colleagues understand firsthand the complexities of the financial aid world and office structure. I realized there was more to growing professionally than attending meetings, seeing students, applying regulations etc. I wanted the opportunity to spend time with colleagues from all over the region learning from each other and to become more involved with RMASFAA.
What would you consider the most valuable take-away from this program?
Peg: I learned that when you share with others, you also learn from them. Being a mentor is definitely sharing/learning in both directions.
Monica: Learning from each other and having the ability to contact financial aid peers and mentors whenever you need advice or help. The connections and friendships gained through the experience are incredibly valuable.
How have you incorporated your RMASFAA Leadership Pipeline experience into your personal and/or professional life?
Peg: I enjoy keeping in touch with colleagues all over the country. You never know when you can help or receive help from a colleague when a ‘problem’ arises. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel.
Monica: When I was in the Leadership Pipeline Program, we discussed chapters from the NASFAA book: “You’re The Director: A Guide to Leadership in Student Financial Aid.” Each of the participants took a chapter of the book and led a discussion. I chose the chapter on efficiency written by Justin Draeger, NASFAA President. We were fortunate to have Justin attend the RMASFAA conference that year where I was able to talk with him about the efficiency concepts he wrote about. I later went on to do an efficiency presentation for my office and on our campus using examples of how I applied the concepts in my job. In July 2013, my presentation was chosen by the NASFAA Conference Committee where I got to present it at the Annual Conference. The experience of presenting and applying something I learned in Leadership Pipeline and the valuable tips from people I spoke with along the way, is forever memorable. I still apply many of the efficiency concepts I learned and spoke about in my personal and professional life. Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? I encourage you to learn about it. It will change the way you view your daily tasks.
In what ways do you think this program can benefit individuals as well as our professional associations as a whole?
Peg: We are a unique family. Connecting members of our family with each other is an amazing opportunity. It always puts a smile on my face when I walk into a room filled with colleagues from around the state, region, or country and I immediately feel a connection. You don’t have to be from the same kind of school/institution to appreciate what you each do every day to serve students and their families.
Monica: Have you ever watched the movie Groundhog Day? We get up around the same time each day, go to work around the same time, eat lunch, go home, make dinner, sleep, repeat etc. As a financial aid professional, I can say I have experienced Groundhog Day firsthand. However, Leadership Pipeline is a great opportunity for individuals needing a boost or a change from their everyday financial aid tasks. You have the opportunity to pick the brains of some of the most experienced and dedicated individuals in financial aid from across the region. When amazing participants/mentors get together in one room, there is no way you cannot grow as an Individual professionally and personally. Participants take that knowledge back to their home institutions and ideas flourish. RMASFAA as a whole benefits when individuals give back to the organization what they have learned through ideas, participation, collaboration and leadership.
What advice would you give a colleague who is considering being a mentor or mentee in the Leadership Pipeline program?
Peg: Whether you are an extrovert, an introvert or somewhere in between, there is always something to be shared/gained. Take the leap!
Monica: Just do it! You have ideas, you are smart (because you chose the financial aid profession, of course) and you have an opportunity to let that grow. Remember, you will get out of it what you put into it. Give it your all, share your ideas and learn from each other. Let RMASFAA benefit from what you have to offer. Your colleagues can’t wait to see you become the leader you are meant to be!
Brenda: All I can say is “WOW!”
–Brenda Murtha, Association News Committee Member, Augustana College, South Dakota