My Summer Institute Experience

Shajia Donecker, a financial aid advisor at Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas,  was one of the recipients of the DMCI Summer Institute Scholarship. Read on as she tells us about her experience. 

It’s been just over a week since I emerged from the jungle (i.e. RMASFAA’s Summer Institute), armed with new tools, ideas, and confidence about how to navigate the strange, unknown, and sometimes dark and dangerous terrain that we know as the field of financial aid! After a year in this profession, I’ve learned that the terrain can be complex and confusing more often than not – it’s very easy to get lost in the jungle! However, with the right resources, network, and positive attitude, it is possible to wade through the wild vegetation (i.e. federal regulations) to find your clearing or a place to camp for the night (i.e., the best answers and policies)!

Along with the Bushmaster Class (ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!) we journeyed deep into the jungle to explore new concepts that I had only limited exposure to previously: Return to Title IV, how to hand calculate an EFC, elements of campus-based aid programs, etc. We also heard from directors, volunteers, and other financial aid gurus who work hard not only within their institutions but beyond – offering their time and sweat to advocate for numerous college students, fellow financial aid professionals, and other institutions of higher education. The message was clear – we’re all in it together! Having the opportunity to network and socialize (and also commiserate of course) with others who have faced similar obstacles in the jungle was fun, informative, and revitalizing! I walked away with an entire address book of professionals on whom to lean whenever I lose my way within the dense forest or get tangled in the tropical overgrowth.

What’s more, RMASFAA made it possible for me to attend thanks to a RMASFAA Diversity and Multi-Cultural Initiatives Scholarship, which covered registration and $500 worth of travel expenses. With our ever-tightening budgets at the institution-level, the scholarship was absolutely essential to my participation and performance at the training – as I develop my skills in financial aid, I hope to be able to return on RMASFAA’s investment by volunteering at the committee level or at a conference. Overall, I highly recommend the RMASFAA Summer Institute to anyone (financial aid peon or vice president) because, as we all know, what we do in financial aid has ripple effects throughout our campuses! I hope to return a few years from now and relive the Summer Institute Experience!

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