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.
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!