Apply NOW for Leadership Pipeline 2018

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The application for the 2018 Leadership Pipeline class is available now on the RMASFAA website:

 Apply today to be connected with one of 10 mentors in the RMASFAA region for advice, coaching and leadership training.

 You get:

  • Kickoff training at the 2018 RMASFAA Conference in Fargo, ND (RMASFAA’s 50th!)
  • Monthly 1:1 calls with a seasoned financial aid professional.
  • Monthly calls with like-minded peers to discuss topics on leadership.
  • Access to a selective group of individuals for questions, advice and general support.
  • Special recognition as a LP Graduate during the 2019 RMASFAA Conference in Montana.

 If you have questions, please contact Brenda Hicks ( or 620-229-6387)

Leadership Pipeline: Carissa Koerner

Please welcome the 2017-2018 Leadership Pipeline class. The nine participants that make up this year’s class will share their experiences about participating in RMASFAA’s renowned professional development program.  It’s time to meet Carissa Koerner.


What is your current position and how long have you worked in financial aid?

I am the Associate Director of Financial Aid at the University of Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls, SD. I am just completing my fifth year at USF, with about two and half years in the Associate’s position.

Who is your Leadership Pipeline mentor and describe your relationship with them?

Sheelu Surender from Wichita State is my mentor. She has been a wonderful mentor to work with, always encouraging and supportive. Though we come from very different types of schools, small private vs. large public, she has already given me so much helpful advice. Our monthly conversations always leave me feeling inspired and ready to tackle new projects.

Why did you decide to join the Leadership Pipeline?

I heard about the Leadership Pipeline after a colleague in SDASFAA recommended it to me. Since I had no idea what it all entailed, I decided to do some research and started reading older blog posts from previous participants. Every single one talked about the wonderful experience they were having, the relationships they were building, and the confidence they were acquiring to be more involved and to take on more leadership roles. The reviews they were giving and the experience they described really encouraged me to pursue the application process for the program. Though I am perfectly content in my current position of Associate Director, and don’t see myself changing that anytime soon, I quickly realized that this program would be a wonderful opportunity for me to meet more people within the state and regional associations, to become more involved, and to hopefully lead to more opportunities to attend conferences and to someday ‘pay it forward’ by sharing my own knowledge and experience.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?

I don’t think anyone could attend a RMASFAA conference without immediately realizing that the people in this crazy world of financial aid are utterly amazing. The same thing was true from the moment I entered the first classroom for the Leadership Pipeline. Everyone was welcoming and excited, and I knew that this core group of people that I was meeting were going to become my new support network, my place to turn when I needed advice, and my friends. I think that is the most valuable thing that I’ve gotten from the Leadership Pipeline so far – that no one in this profession is alone. There are others who are in the same position you are, others who have gone through whatever situation you are going through, and all of them are there to advise, encourage, and support.

What is it that you are hoping to come away with at the end of the program?

I hope when this program is done, I am more confident about being a leader in my own office and in my state and regional associations, that I am renewed and excited about my profession, and encouraged so that I can encourage and support others. I hope to continue to become more involved with leadership and volunteer positions.

Why would you recommend the Leadership Pipeline program to others?

I would recommend the Leadership Pipeline to anyone who is hesitant to get involved in their state and regional associations. This program is an excellent way to “get your feet wet”. You will meet wonderful people who will encourage and mentor you and you will feel supported and encouraged in the work that you do.

Leadership Pipeline: Sarah Standley

Please welcome the 2017-2018 Leadership Pipeline class. The nine participants that make up this year’s class will share their experiences about participating in RMASFAA’s renowned professional development program.  It’s time to meet Sarah Standley.

Sarah Standley

What is your current position and how long have you worked in financial aid?

Hi! My name is Sarah Standley, and I am a Senior Financial Aid Advisor at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. I have worked in the Financial Aid office at UNL for four years. I am responsible for supervising the work study employees who work in our financial aid office. I do the hiring, training, and scheduling for these young professionals. I currently have 13 work study students, and they are responsible for answering student and parent questions on phones, at the front counter, and through email. We also do calling campaigns throughout the year to remind students about important deadlines.

Who is your Leadership Pipeline mentor and describe your relationship with them?

My mentor is Dori Roth. Dori is the Associate Director of Financial Aid at Hesston College in Hesston, KS. When I met Dori, I knew right away that we would get along very well! She is easy going, sharp, direct, and hilarious. Dori’s financial aid office consists of herself and one other person. In contrast, my office has 30 staff members. One of my professional goals is to learn about other areas of financial aid administration. Although my role is important to the functioning in my office, I’m also limited as to what I do every day since it’s primarily customer service based. Since Dori’s office is so small, she is responsible for a lot of different areas of financial aid processing. I’m grateful that she has all of this knowledge that she is willing to share with me, and I’m looking forward to learning from her. Dori also gives great advice, and she has helped me through a few tough situations already. I’m hopeful that we will be able to continue our relationship even after the program ends.

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

I was fortunate enough to attend the RMASFAA Conference in October 2016, and that was the first time I heard about the Leadership Pipeline program. During the conference, I started asking questions about the program and what kind of things the mentees were learning. I heard nothing but good things about the program from the participants. After I got home from the conference, I also had some strong encouragement and support from staff members in my own office. I look up to the leaders in the financial aid office on my campus, and I admire the way they are continuously trying to improve processing and our service to students. They have implemented a lot of innovative ideas, and I hope that I can someday do that same thing and bring ideas that will help our office serve students better.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?

One of the most insightful things I have taken away so far has been the difference between leading a team vs managing a team. I am new to leading a team, so this is something I’m still learning. My goal as a leader is to lead by building relationships with my team members. I want to help each of them grow personally through coaching and help them build skills that will be useful to them in their career someday. If I can help them develop these skills, it will not only help our office functioning, but it will also help them for their future.

Also, I sometimes tend to get overwhelmed with the day-to-day duties in the office, and I forget to take a step back to remember why I first started in this industry. Student service is important to me, and it helps me to remember that my primary responsibility is to make college financing possible for all students. When I think about that, it helps me to feel refreshed so I can dive back into my work with a renewed sense of purpose.

What is it that you are hoping to come away with at the end of the program?

I am relatively new to my position supervising the work study students in our office. I have never supervised anyone before this, so I know there are a lot of areas in which I can improve. Specifically, I am hoping to learn how to train my staff more efficiently and effectively and how to coach employees to have better performance. I would also like to get more ideas on how to train my staff to work more independently so they can feel more empowered in their positions and develop their own professional skills. I want to become a better leader myself, but I also want to help my own staff to be the best they can be.

Why would you recommend the Leadership Pipeline program to others?

Although I’ve only been in this program for a few months, I have already learned so many things that I feel I can implement. One of the most exciting things I’ve learned is the importance of setting strategic goals. I’ve been in my “new” position for about a year now, but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never really thought about how I can make changes to improve the way my team functions. I’m realizing that there are so many simple things I can do with my team to improve customer service as a whole.

I would recommend this program because I know there are going to be so many other things like this that I will be learning how to implement. I really believe that I will be able to make many other positive changes to the office as a result of what I’m learning here. I would also recommend Leadership Pipeline because of all the awesome people I have had the opportunity to meet!

Leadership Pipeline: Shelby Garner

This post concludes the Leadership Pipeline series. The eight participants that made up this year’s class, including Shelby, graduated from the Leadership Pipeline program during the annual conference in Wichita, Kansas. Congratulations!



What is your current position and how long have you’ve worked in financial aid?

I am an Enrollment Services Specialist at Casper College in Casper, Wyoming.  I started working in the financial aid office in 2011 as a work study student after the customer service center that I worked in for 6 years closed.  I officially became a full-time financial aid processor 3 years ago in 2014.

Who is your mentor and describe your relationship with them.

My mentor is Pat McTee, the director of student success services at American Indian College Fund. Pat has been a great person to bounce questions off of and just learn from.  We have talked many times about customer service experiences and different ways of handling student situations that may arise in our office.  One of the first times we spoke, he recommended that I watch “Who Moved My Cheese?”  I had seen the book in the past and always wondered what it was about so I went home and watched it.  What a great example of how your attitude and the way you look at things can make a huge difference!  It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of our year-long journey with Leadership Pipeline, I am glad that I have had the chance to get to know Pat!

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

I had first heard about Leadership Pipeline through the RMASFAA Exchange Blog, and then again at the RMASFAA conference in Colorado.  I am an extreme introvert and was looking for ways to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone and have the courage to take on roles first at the state level and eventually the regional level.  This is the first job I’ve ever had that has allowed me so many opportunities for professional development and with the encouragement of my boss at the time (thank you Darry!) I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?

There are so many takeaways that I have from being involved in this program, it’s hard to pick just one. I think that the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that there is a wealth of knowledge in our region, and it’s so easy to reach out to others to gain insight and different perspectives on issues that we may encounter in our day to day lives. (And my experience so far is, no one bites when you ask!)

What is it that you are hoping to come away with at the end of the program? 

I am hoping to graduate the program with a greater level of self-confidence to take on projects or leadership roles that mean something to me, rather than just saying yes to say yes.

When I applied for the Leadership Pipeline program, I had listed that one of my goals was to grow and finesse our current work-study program on our campus; I have been working closely with my director at Casper College and feel that we are starting to take steps toward making this goal a reality.  I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to pursue this as vigorously were it not for my involvement in Leadership Pipeline.

Why would you recommend this program to others?

I would recommend this program to others as a way to get familiar with RMASFAA on a smaller level. I will admit that I was a bit overwhelmed attending my first conference and felt a little out of place because everyone seemed to know everyone else. This program helps to plant the seeds of networking and makes it less scary to reach out to others in the region with questions. Plus, I’ve met some amazing people that I otherwise may not have met without being part of the program.


Leadership Pipeline: Beth Vollan

Continuing the Leadership Pipeline series. The eight participants that make up this year’s class will share their experiences about participating in RMASFAA’s professional development program.




What is your current position and how long have you worked in financial aid?

I am an assistant director of financial aid at South Dakota State University.  I started out 23 years ago at NSLP (now Inceptia) as a claim reviewer.  I held positions as a loan discharge specialist and student loan ombudsman before making the switch to the school-side 7 years ago.

Who is your Leadership Pipeline mentor and describe your relationship with them?

My mentor is Joe Donlay. Joe exemplifies great leadership.  He is approachable, self-sacrificing, and a great listener.  Joe and I have monthly phone conversations, and I am always grateful for his perspective and candor.  Having a mentor to go to for guidance and advice is one of the best things about Leadership Pipeline.

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

I was asked to take on a leadership role in my state organization, and I didn’t feel prepared for the task.  I thought Leadership Pipeline would provide me with the tools and resources that I needed to be a more effective contributor and help me feel comfortable in a leadership role.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?

In one of our first meetings, we talked about servant leadership.  The conversation really helped me see leadership is less about being assertive, decisive, and a good public speaker and more about listening and giving back.

What is it that you are hoping to come away with at the end of the program?

I have met some amazing people through this program, and I hope to have a lasting network of peers and mentors who I can connect with in the future.

Why would you recommend the Leadership Pipeline program to others?

Leadership Pipeline is a great way to learn about our profession, meet people, and develop leadership skills.  It is also a lot of fun!  I think we are really lucky that our regional association provides a leadership/mentoring program.

Our Outstanding Committees – Leadership Pipeline

Amazing!  That is the word that I would use to describe the 2016-2017 RMASFAA Leadership Pipeline mentors, mentees, and committee members.

Leadership Pipeline 2016

Our journey with the current Leadership Pipeline group began in Rapid City, SD with a welcome that ended up being very impromptu but so fun also!  The mentees and mentors attended one session together and had a few meet up times to help get to know one another and to do some networking together.  The full program started off just as the conference ended with great sessions on leadership skills, advocating for students, managing and organizing personal technology and so much more!

After the conference the mentees and mentors had assignments to complete each month.  They could choose to meet once per month or twice per month whichever worked better for them.  Each mentee facilitated a discussion on one of the chapters from the “You’re the Director” NASFAA book with the entire group.  Every mentee was so well prepared and the discussions were so informative!  Along with these assignments, every mentee also contributed to the RMASFAA blog in the “Getting to Know You” series.

It will be a proud moment to honor each of the mentees when they graduate from Leadership Pipeline during the Fall Conference 2017 in Wichita, KS.  The 2016-2017 graduates are:

Shelby Garner, Casper College, WY
Brenda Haseman, Northern Wyoming Community College District, WY
Darcy Johnson, Emporia State University, KS
Katie Nelson, Black Hills State University, SD
Dani Reynolds, Newman University, KS
Hayley Shipton, University of Utah, UT
Beth Vollan, South Dakota State, SD
Kelly Whittekiend, Dixie Applied Technology College

Before we get to honor these graduates, we will be welcoming our new 2017-2018 Leadership Pipeline mentors and mentees.  They are in for an equally exciting ride through the next year when they attend the Fall Conference in Wichita and begin their journey.  The new 2017-2018 RMASFAA Leadership Pipeline mentors and mentees are:

Jessica Francisschetti (MT) – Crystal Roach (KS)
Kent McGowan (MT) – Micah Hansen (SD)
Jenny Lee Adler (CO) – Steve Enriquez (KS)
Rob Drybread (CO) – Ashley Stevenson (UT)
Sara Vancil (KS) – Karina Moulton (MT)
Cindy Hejl (CO) – Justin Beach (MT)
Lois Madsen (KS) – Bailey Jorgensen (NE)
Art Young (UT) – Jana Parks (KS)
Dori Roth (KS) – Sarah Standley (NE)
Sheelu Surender (KS) – Carissa Koerner (SD)

Shauna Savage
Shauna Savage
Assistant Director, Financial Aid
Montana Tech

Leadership Pipeline: Katie Nelson

Continuing the Leadership Pipeline series. The eight participants that make up this year’s class will share their experiences about participating in RMASFAA’s professional development program.

Leadership Pipeline

When I was looking through my folder of assorted notes, instructions, and schedules from Leadership Pipeline, I found the handout I received on my first day at the RMASFAA Conference in 2016, with my mentor’s picture, biography, and quote. The quote that Brenda Hicks had chosen: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” by Winston Churchill. That quote really resonated with me this morning, as I drink my coffee and attempt to complete some work before the students wake up, start calling, and try pushing down the door to get into the office. It is the courage to continue that counts. We come in to work every day, not only because we love our jobs, but because we have the courage to continue. We all know that our jobs can be challenge at times. The most valuable thing Leadership Pipeline has given me is a network of colleagues, who have become friends, who can relate to the busy times with students and can provide support. Ironically, most of these people also drink coffee.

I am starting my 5th academic year as a financial aid counselor at Black Hills State University. My path to Leadership Pipeline started at the 2016 SDASFAA Spring Conference. Our Executive Board was really advocating volunteerism. They put these colorful little papers on all the tables, so you could sign up for what committees you wanted to be on. Then they spoke again about what Board positions would be opening up that fall. Up until that point, I had been involved with the regional association, but hadn’t done much at the state level. As the conference went on, I observed that the Treasurer seems to have to speak in front of everyone the least. I thought, I could probably do that job, since it was one of the open positions. I spoke with a couple people about it, and they were incredibly supportive, so I thought I’d send the email after the conference. At the Business Meeting portion of the conference, I actually paid attention, and discovered that SDASFAA offers a scholarship for Leadership Pipeline participants, and mentioned that South Dakota hadn’t had any participants in some time. After listening to Joe Donlay speak about the program during the RMASFAA update, I thought it might be a good learning opportunity, with a potentially new treasurer position. To conclude my already long story, I was offered the Treasurer position on interim in July, and started my official term and my year in Leadership Pipeline in October.  It has been an exciting ride of volunteerism. (I also learned that the Treasurer position is quite a bit of work, along with minimal public speaking J )

Brenda Hicks has been a wonderful mentor throughout this process. I give huge kudos to the Leadership Pipeline committee for their ability to match up mentors and mentees. Brenda and I first met in January 2013 at the Summer Institute planning session. We were paired together as roommates, and she helped me create my financial aid super hero name, which sadly, I cannot remember. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and utilizing her expertise. We have many things in common, we are both efficient, sarcastic, and enjoy red wine. I was also fortunate enough to have Brenda as the thought leader for the Association Management Pathway of the NASFAA Leadership & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. this past March. We were able to meet before the conference, and enjoy an evening tour of the monuments, and discuss the upcoming sessions. Even though she had a lot going on with her role in the conference, she was always sure to touch base with me about previous sessions, and to see what I had learned.

I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is newly getting involved in their state or regional association, or to anyone who has no idea what to do to get involved. Leadership Pipeline is the platform to see what kind of involvement opportunities are out there. You can hear from mentors who have held every leadership position ever created. Even if you don’t see yourself as the next president-elect, Leadership Pipeline can help you to get more involved on your campus, or even within your own office, heading a financial literacy movement. There is something for everyone, and you will only find yourself wanting to do more. I think that was the biggest thing I was looking to come away with at the end of Leadership Pipeline. I wanted to learn from the best, how to do it all, their full-time jobs, their volunteerism, and their families. The Leadership Pipeline class of 2016-17 did not disappoint.