Grinchly Greetings

Grinch Kilt

Greetings RMASFAA. Tis the season as they say. Hope you have the opportunity to be refreshed with family and close friends during this slow (ha ha) time in financial aid.

Exciting news and if you read the previous blog from Electronic Initiatives, you know we have a new website in transition. Take a look at is now live.  The Electronic Initiatives Committee has done huge work on this over the last many months and I want to offer a big thank you to them, awesome work. Big box with bows on it under the tree. We have much work still to do in the transition so please be patient. Members will be contacted in December with instructions on how to get your membership profile set up so you can access features such as the membership directory, job postings, listserv and eventually event registration. 

Primary members, look for membership renewal early in 2020 if not sooner.

What we do: dating back to 1968, RMASFAA has been dedicated to supporting this profession by providing effective training and leadership development. This work can be hard and complex, and a supporting network of colleagues and peers is significant in complimenting what we can all do individually at our institutions. In your individual mission to serve students and families, this group serves to support you in making that more effective and efficient. We stand ready to serve member institutions and states by being actively engaged with you and additionally with our National Association (NASFAA).

The 2019-2020 Board of Directors is honored to serve you. Our board is dedicated to preserving the ideas and practices of those that have come before us and kept this organization strong. We want to hear from you. Reach out to me or anyone on the board in respect to ideas and collaboration and questions. We are here for you.

RMASFAA is planning wonderful training and conference opportunities for members to network and get involved in many different activities. Look for dates and announcements regarding our nationally recognized (and it is fair to say that) Summer Institute this summer. We will be back in Colorado Springs this June. Come October, we will be in Nebraska to wrap up the year. In between, stay tuned. We will have leadership available at each State Conference to relay relevant regional and national information.

The winter board meeting is coming up soon. If you have items you would like to be brought before the group, please let me know.

James Broscheit

RMASFAA President 2019/20 

President’s Update

Where has the time gone?  Seems like I just finished sending out an update on our winter board meeting and here we are in the heat of summer.  Here are some updates on what’s happening in this wonderful region we call RMASFAA:

State Conferences:  I had the pleasure, honor and I have to say an absolutely wonderful time, visiting the state conferences for MASFAA, KASFAA, NeASFAA, NDASFAA, WyASFAA, SDASFAA and CAFAA.   Each conference was unique in their own way, but all were well planned, informative and so welcoming and fun to be a part of.  This is truly one of the biggest perks of being RMASFAA President and one I will always treasure.   A special thank you to Past-President Vicki Kucera for attending the UASFAA conference on my behalf while I attended the North Dakota Conference, which fell on the same days.  I’m hoping to be able to travel to the Utah conference next year, God willing and Myra willing.

Electronic Initiatives Committee:  As reported in the last update, the RMASFAA Board approved an upgrade of our website.  Lisa Westendorf and the Electronic Initiatives Committee is hard at work in implementing the upgrade.  You will be seeing a new look for our website in the near future.

50th Anniversary Committee:  Our 50th Anniversary Committee has been working with our associate members and our RMASFAA Committees to compliment and make our RMASFAA Conference in Fargo one to remember.

Elections:  Great job Myra Pfannenstiel for putting together an excellent slate of talented candidates for the coming year.  A special “thank you” to all the candidates for stepping forward as leaders for our association.  If you are a voting member for your institution and have not already voted, please make sure to do so.  Best wishes to our candidates.

Summer Institute:  This year Summer Institute moved back to Colorado College in Colorado Springs and was an extremely successful training event.  Carolyn Halgerson, SI Chair and John Curl, Faculty Dean along with our dedicated faculty and staff reinforced the status of the RMASFAA Summer Institute as one of the premier training events in the country.

NASFAA Conference:  The NASFAA Conference in Austin was not only a great professional development opportunity, but a great opportunity for networking.  We had forty RMASFAA members attend our “RMASFAA Dinner Night Out”.   The room was filled with love, laughter and friendship and provided a nice opportunity for us to come together as a group.  It was also announced at the NASFAA Board meeting that NASFAA would continue to provide the free vouchers for NASFAAU Credential Courses provided through RMASFAA sponsored credential training, which is a great added benefit.

RMASFAA Conference in Fargo:  If you haven’t noticed yet, the 2018 RMASFAA Conference registration and the conference program are out on the RMASFAA Website.  Kudos to North Dakota for putting together an excellent program with a wide variety of sessions for attendees to choose from.     Make sure to attend RMASFAA’s 50th Anniversary Conference in Fargo and celebrate our past and future!

As we go through summer and into fall, know that your RMASFAA Board is hard at work for you.  I am truly blessed to be a part of this dedicated group of individuals and especially blessed to serve you.  If you have any questions or input you would like to provide, feel free to contact me by phone at (605) 668-1589 or email

Ken Kocer

All my best,

Ken Kocer

RMASFAA President

President’s Update

As 2017 comes to a close, I look back at many great RMASFAA memories. Here are some highlights:

• Summer Institute – Our SI Committee did an excellent job in continuing the reputation of this week of learning as being one of financial aid’s premier training opportunities. This year’s Summer Institute, to sum it up, was an outstanding, encompassing event. So exciting to see the dedication of the faculty and committee along with the enthusiasm of the attendees come together for another successful event. The NASFAA University materials provided a strong base for our faculty and the NASFAA credentialing options provided additional opportunities for our attendees. SI went completely electronic from the training materials to the e-newsletters. Mark your calendars for June 3-8, 2018 for next year’s Summer Institute located in the beautiful setting of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO.
• Annual Conference – The 2017 RMASFAA Conference in Wichita, KS hit near record attendance levels and was an amazing conference. The conference started out with a night of fun, laughter, entertainment and great food at the “Mosley Street Melodrama”. The conference was filled with a wide variety of sessions and great opportunities to network. Outstanding job Kansas! Mark your calendars for RMASFAA’s 50th Anniversary Conference in Fargo, ND October 7-10, 2018 where the conference theme is “North of Normal”!
• I held my transitional board meetings where the soon to be 2017-18 RMASFAA Board met for the first time. I was so impressed by the level of interaction, enthusiasm and volunteerism demonstrated by this dedicated group of individuals. I am so excited for the upcoming year of service with this board!
• In November I had the opportunity to attend the NASFAA Board Meeting as an observer. It was a tremendous experience and wonderful opportunity. I had the privilege to see in action our own Vicki Kucera (Past President) serving as RMASFAA Regional Representative and Brenda Hicks serving as Representative at Large. I was very impressed by the board proceedings and the dedication displayed by the board in NASFAA’s efforts to advocate for students. This was a wonderful opportunity for me as I prepare to become the RMASFAA Representative Board Member after the NASFAA 2018 Conference in Austin.

It is such an honor and privilege to be a part of this wonderful association and to serve you as RMASFAA President. Thank you for all your dedication and service which makes RMASFAA such an outstanding organization. I’m looking forward to all our events coming up in 2018.

All my best to you this Holiday Season and best wishes in the New Year!
Ken Kocer, RMASFAA President

Ken Kocer

President’s Report and Farewell

My very first thought this morning when Association News Chair Ellie Roberts asked me for my Farewell Post for the blog was “Oh my God, I’ve been impeached…”.  But my calendar tells me something different.  It’s been almost a full year since Joe Donlay passed the gavel to me and now it’s almost time to pass it on to the very capable hands of Ken Kocer.  When I threw my hat in the ring for this three-year stint on the Board, it sounded like such a long period of time to commit.  In reality it’s been more like a heartbeat…and truly an amazing experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Here are some highlights of the year:

Two, two, two treasurers in one!!  (I’m channeling an old breath mint commercial…remember Certs??)  After determining that only so much labor could be expected from one volunteer individual in the Treasurer position, the NASFAA Board last year voted to split this position into two individuals, serving in overlapping two year time frames.  The premise for the decision was to split up responsibilities to make the time commitment more manageable, and make the training process less burdensome for outgoing Treasurers.  Hopefully Donna Carter and Becca Dobry will be able to enlighten us at the upcoming board meeting as to how the first year went and what changes may be necessary in this split going forward.

Vice-President:  And in a continued effort to more fairly distribute workload between executive board members, this elected position has moved to a two-year commitment, with current VP Stephanie Covington graciously agreeing to be the first VP to serve the two years even though when she was voted in for the current year it was for a one-year term!!  I’m always impressed with the service that so many of our members give to RMASFAA and their willingness to go above and beyond.  Thank you Stephanie for voluntarily doubling the commitment and the fun!!

Ad Hoc Archive Committee:  Out with the old and in with the new!  After years of batting this topic around and not being able to answer that burning question “What should we do with all of this old stuff?”, VP Stephanie Covington and her ad hoc committee has formulated a game plan for disposal of old and archiving of new.  Thank you to Stephanie and her crew for all of the crazy amount of work that went into this process!  For those of you who will be at the Business Meeting in Wichita, Stephanie will be updating us all on the game plan.

Summer Institute, oh Summer Institute…wherefore art though??   Knowing that 2017 was our last year on the Colorado School of Mines contract for SI, two sets of individuals (Joe Donlay and Rob Drybread in Colorado and Beth Sisk and myself in Nebraska) set about the task of visiting several locations to see if there was a better, more cost effective location for SI out there.  The end result is a move to Colorado Springs beginning 2018!  We’re excited to be bringing this popular event to Colorado College with another breathtaking view and a wonderful facility.  Mark your calendars people, because Carolyn Halgerson and her SI crew are already making plans for a fantastic event the week of June 3rd!!

Training:   It was only a couple of years ago that RMASFAA offered its first Webinar in the training realm.  Now this year, starting with seven opportunities for Credentialing and many more sessions for training outside of the credentialing realm, it’s been a crazy year for the Training Committee.  The number of individuals that these training offerings have reached is staggering.  Congrats to Janet Dodson and her committee for an incredibly successful year!!

NASFAA Thought Force:  Participating in the NASFAA alignment thought force conversation about the possibility of aligning vision and function among the national, regional and state associations were four brave souls (Art Young, Brenda Hicks, Mary Sommers and myself).  This coming together of national and regional representatives spawned some interesting and sometimes provocative conversation.  Unfortunately because the needs and wants across the regions appear to be so vastly different, the conversation has somewhat stalled.  But the conversations aren’t over and the work of the Thought Force is certainly appreciable, and I am confident that at least parts of the conversation will take root and eventually result in organizational efficiencies down the road.

So it is with mixed emotions that I write my final farewell post for the year.  I wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything, but I am happy to see what the next BOD has in store for this amazing organization.  There are no better financial aid folk than RMASFAA folk, and I have cherished my trips around the region to state conferences and my interactions with this amazing Board. I hope to see a lot of you in Wichita here in a couple of weeks, but if not, I wish you a fruitful and satisfying year!!

Vicki Kucera
RMASFAA President



President’s Update

It’s 11:30 a.m. on Solar Eclipse day as I write this.  It’s also the first week of classes here at my school.  I keep thinking the phone will stop ringing and students will stop walking in the door any second, so that they can find their spot in a parking lot or pasture to view this amazing spectacle…so that I can find a spot in the parking lot to view this amazing spectacle!!  I’m blessed to be in the middle of Nebraska where we are right in the thick of things.  I’m thinking Mother Nature could have planned a better day than a Monday for this event, but who am I to question. I was reading a fun article comparing how we view the total solar eclipse now as to how it was viewed in centuries past.  Some cultures thought the sun was being swallowed by a dragon or wolves and banged drums to scare the creatures away.  Other cultures saw it as an omen of some kind…sometimes good; sometimes bad.  I think any time Mother Nature sends us a gift of The Unusual, we need to stop and take notice.

It’s now 11:59 a.m. and I just stepped outside with my special handy dandy Central Community College Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses and got to see the very beginning of the eclipse!!  Nothing ominous, no dragon-biting, just pure excitement for what is about to happen.  I’m trying to imagine how this would play out without social media and the hype that has led up to it.  No wonder ancient civilizations were afraid when it happened…no blog posts, snapchats, tv news updates or anything at all to excite/warn them ahead of time!  Can you imagine what our lives would be like if we didn’t have any of the many communications we have available these days??

1:07 pm.  I have experienced Totality and the sun is slowly coming back to us.  I could hear cheers from the high school across the street and the University of Nebraska campus here in Kearney.  Fireworks went off in the middle of the day.  My husband, the “what’s the hype all about” killjoy, calls me and I can hear the wonder and excitement now that he’s witnessed it.

Then I step back into my office and I read a few emails, check out the NSLDS to see the status of a new student’s prior loans, watch the tv monitor outside my office for a news update, and text my kids to see what they thought of the experience.  Mother Nature is a gift, as are our students, technology, these crazy careers, and life.

And speaking of gifts, have you registered for the fall conference in Wichita???  If you haven’t, you must.  Seriously…the Conference Planning Committee has put together a fantastic opportunity for all of you and you are not going to want to miss it.  Before the day is done, give yourself the gift of learning and camaraderie and register for this October 18-22 event.  Go to the website right now!

Very grateful for the excitement of the day and the financial aid community I get to be a part of.  CANNOT WAIT to see you in Wichita in October!

And now it’s time to retire my handy dandy solar eclipse glasses and get back to the craziness that is the first week of classes…



Vicki Kucera
RMASFAA President


President’s Update

Oh sweet mother of sunshine, it’s June.  When did that happen?!  (And if anybody emails me and says something cute like “midnight May 31st” I swear I’ll…”)

But alas, here we all are, getting ready to close out another academic year and start a new one.  It’s not like closing out a calendar year, is it.  In December we celebrate the end of a year with Christmas and sugar plums and champagne toasts.  When we close out an academic year we celebrate by answering a bunch of crazy audit inquiries and closing out our work study accounts and trying to figure out why the physical plant shut off the air conditioning in our building when it’s 95 degrees outside.  But such is the life we financial aid folk have chosen for ourselves, and the reality is we wouldn’t change a thing.  And working with a fresh group of new freshmen?  Awesome.  If only they’d leave their parents at home…  Plus, there is no law that says we can’t have champagne toasts in June!!

So what’s been happening here in this magnificent world we call the Rocky Mountain Region?  Well here are some highlights since my last update in March…

  • State Conferences:  Truly the highlight of my Presidency has been my travels to the state conferences.  I had so much fun at every single one of them that I’m going to talk President-Elect Ken Kocer into letting me tag along next year.  (Except the treasurer might have something to say about that…)  I made it to seven of our eight states and drove to every single conference except Montana.  Not only did I enjoy the company and expertise of the conference attendees and contributors, but took in some great scenery as well.  Thank you to Past-President Joe Donlay for making it to the Utah conference on my behalf which fell during the same week as the Kansas conference.  I am forever impressed by the amazing work our state associations do to keep their members tuned in and educated.  Thanks so much to each and every state for making me feel so welcome!!
  • Training Committee:  This amazing committee could have sat on their laurels after providing seven NASFAA U Credentialing Webinars, which were incredibly well attended and appreciated.  But no, like the energizer bunny, they just keep going!  Now they have scheduled five summer and fall webcasts on topics including SAP, Verification, Consumer Information, Enrollment, and R2T4.  Check out the RMASFAA Blog for full information on these webcasts, and hats off to Janet Dodson and her team for all of their hard work!
  • Elections:  Kudos to Ken Kocer for putting together a fantastic slate of candidates for the coming year!!  If you have not voted already, get that vote in now!!  We are all waiting with baited breath for the results.  Thank you so much to those of you who threw your name into the hat.  Good luck to all!
  • Summer Institute:  It’s almost here!  Looking forward to seeing all of you signed up to attend, and working with all of you on the committee.  Jenny Leigh Adler, SI Chair, and Susan Stephenson, Faculty Dean, along with their amazing crew, have put together what will be an amazing experience for all of us.  I’m ready to hit the road!
  • NASFAA Conference:  Hope to see some of you in San Diego June 25-29!  I am planning a RMASFAA get together on Monday evening, so if you are interested in coming with, pop me an email at  Would love to have you with us.
  • RMASFAA Conference Wichita:  Mark your calendars for October 15-18 in Wichita, Kansas!  Myra Pfannenstiel and Tony Lubbers are putting together a great program and I for one can’t wait to head south.  Don’t miss this opportunity.  Seriously.

So I’m sitting here on this sunny June Wednesday morning, indulging in a Barista’s Skinny Spiced Chai Dirty (with a shot of caramel) thinking about how fast this year has gone as President.  In just a few short months it will be almost over, and I suppose that should sound good to me, but I’m already feeling a sense of loss.  Working with this Board and with all of you is the icing on the cake for a financial aid lifer.  Those of you fortunate enough to win this election are in for a treat (especially getting to work under the likes of Ken Kocer our President-Elect).  What an amazing association we are!

So enjoy your summer, enjoy each other, and always know that if you have any questions or concerns, I’m just a phone call or email away (402-461-2414 or

Vicki Kucera
RMASFAA President


President’s Update

Happy Valentines to all of RMASFAA!!  And having said that, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should tell you that by nature, I am the Ebenezer Scrooge of February 14th.  I’ve been married to my husband for almost 40 years now, and I can count on one hand the Valentines gifts we’ve given each other since we were married.  When my children were in elementary school, they would come home from school on Valentine’s Day with scores of cute little cards with those obnoxious little hearts with words on them, and would look at me wide-eyed and say “why didn’t we get to make valentines for our classmates??”  So then I would go out and buy cheap valentines in the after February 14th sales and put them away for next year, but would forget I had bought them and we would go through it all over again 365 days later.  Yes, I am pathetic.  (Except of course where my grandsons are concerned…they get massive Valentine packages every year from me.  And when my son sees them, he cocks his head to one side, looks at me with a puzzled expression on his face, and then steals half of their candy.)

But if any group of people was ever worthy of my love and admiration, it’s RMASFAA.  Here are some noteworthy Valentine Shout-Outs for you:


Training Committee:  For Janet Dodson and her training committee I send big cyber hugs and kudos!  You have all seen the NASFAA Credentialing training opportunities that they have put together for all of you to potentially take advantage of.  No less than eight sessions will be offered via the web, free of charge for our membership.  We are still working out some kinks with NASFAA in terms of the nuts and bolts, and we apologize for that, but the response has been amazing, and I cannot thank enough the members who have given of their valuable time to prepare for and present these sessions.  I sincerely hope that we see a big jump in credentialing numbers in our states.  We have the best of the best here in the Rocky Mountain Region, and it warms my heart to see how many of you are taking advantage of these opportunities.


Summer Institute:  For SI Chair Jenny Leigh Adler and Faculty Chair Susan Stephenson, I owe you a big boxed heart full of chocolates.  An incredible faculty group has already been recruited, and the entire committee is coming together in Denver February 22nd for a planning session.  I am confident that with these crazy ladies at the helm, you will all want to mark your calendars for June 11-16 to either attend or send staff members.  Nobody does Summer Institute like RMASFAA!!


2018 Ballot Preparation:  President-elect Ken Kocer is already busy soliciting nominations for next year’s ballot!  For his diligence, support and friendship this year, I send big bear hugs South Dakota way!  There is a wealth of talent and expertise here in our association and we would love to see your nominations for Board positions.  Watch for requests from Ken, put your thinking caps on, and send nominations his way, either for yourself or for colleagues.


NASFAA Regional Thought Force:  Just this past weekend saw Brenda Hicks (Southwestern College, Winfield, KS), Art Young (Brigham Young University, Provo, UT , Mary Sommers (University of Nebraska at Kearney, NE) and yours truly headed to Washington DC to meet with delegations from all six regions to discuss alignment between state, regional and national organizations.  While we have no idea what that looks like yet, the conversations are headed in a positive direction, and I hope to share more with you at the State Conferences.


State Conferences:  I’ve already received several invitations to state conferences coming up this spring, and Joe Donlay and I look forward to seeing you all there!  If I haven’t done so already, I will be in touch with your state presidents to make arrangements, but they are all on my calendar and I’m looking forward to traveling your direction soon!


Winter Board Meeting:  Our next Board of Directors Meeting is scheduled for March 10th in Denver and I look forward to seeing those of you serving on the board this year there.  As always, my heartfelt thanks for giving of your time and talent for our Association!


Lots more people to recognize and things to be grateful for, but you will just have to wait for my next blog post.  So again, HAPPY VALENTINES DAY to the greatest group of financial aid professionals in existence!!


Vicki Kucera, RMASFAA President


President’s Update

Well my RMASFAA friends, it appears that 2016 is nearing its close.  I really could swear that it was just yesterday that I was making my 2016 New Year’s resolutions, none of which were actually sustainable, but hey, ancient history…right?  In a few short weeks I’ll have the chance to start over. The beauty of a new year is always that spirit of hope and renewal.

There are a few things I won’t miss about 2016 (the election, recertification for yet another GE program, the election…).  But overall, it’s been a pretty amazing year. Here are some of my highlights:

  • Summer Institute – Once again the SI Committee put on an incredible week of training that as a faculty member, always regenerates my enthusiasm for this industry. We rolled out the new NASFAA University materials replacing the old CORE, met an incredible new group of neophytes in the industry as well as some individuals who have been around awhile, did some credentialing, and as always had a ridiculous amount of fun!  If you haven’t done so already, put Summer Institute on your calendar for this coming June…either for yourself or for one of your staff.  No region in this country does SI like RMASFAA does!!
  • Annual Conference – We rocked Rapid City!! What an amazing conference it was! The South Dakota crew treated us to an amazing opening night at Mount Rushmore, complete with Joe Massman singing America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner with those amazing heads in the background. What an inspirational way to start a conference!  I had my first Transitional Board Meetings with a great group, which left me confident that this coming year as RMASFAA President will be productive, rewarding, and exciting. The Conference itself was amazing, and hats off to the Conference Committee for a job well done.  Between board meetings, conference, and the post-conference Leadership Pipeline activity, I spent seven days in Rapid City, but wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.
  • Committee Construction – President-Elect Ken Kocer has been putting the finishing touches on recruiting Vice-Chairs for all of our committees and the full committees will be updated on the RMASFAA website soon. As always, RMASFAA never falls short in the volunteerism department.  We are the smallest region in the nation, but the mightiest in terms of member participation. Hats off to all of you for your spirit of commitment and service!!
  • Regional Presidents Meeting Washington DC – in October I had the privilege of attending a meeting with all of the Regional Presidents and the NASFAA leadership to have a conversation about Alignment between our professional associations. We’ve been having conversations for years about delineating the roles of the state, regional and national associations so that we aren’t duplicating efforts between them.  We all agreed that it was time for the rubber to hit the road, so each region has now set up their own four-member task force to put together their thoughts and ideas regarding this topic, and we will all convene on February 6th in Washington DC to bring our regional thoughts together and move the conversation forward.  This task force is a minimum three-year commitment, therefore providing continuity to this movement rather than re-starting the conversation every year when the Boards turn over.  The four RMASFAA members who have been assigned to this Task Force are:  Brenda Hicks, Southwestern College, Winfield, KS; Art Young, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT;  Mary Sommers, University of Nebraska at Kearney, NE; and me, Vicki Kucera, Central Community College, NE. We’ve already met and put together what we believe to be a very insightful position paper, and we are very excited about sharing this with the other regions and the NASFAA staff. I hope to be able to share the progress of this Thought Force with you when I see you at your State Conferences in the spring!
  • In November I attended my first NASFAA Board Meeting as an observer. Past-President Joe Donlay serves as our Regional Representative during this coming year, and after the NASFAA Conference in San Diego, I will become an actual board member and move out of the peanut gallery!!  Justin Draeger and his crew of professionals are doing an amazing job representing us and voicing the concerns of our industry during this transitional period.  None of us know what post-election changes may be in store for us, but I feel confident that as we move into the new administration, the NASFAA staff will keep the needs of our students at the forefront.

I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:  I am incredibly honored to have been chosen to represent RMASFAA as your regional President, and I am looking forward to the amazing year that lies ahead.  Thank you all for your commitment to this industry and to our students.  I am so very proud of our region and can’t imagine this industry without all of the wonderful connections I’ve made with all of you.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and best wishes to all of you!!!

Vicki Kucera, RMASFAA President


Presidential Address

Mycollege advisor, Steve Heller, always said “write about what you know.”  When preparing my remarks to you tonight, I thought a lot about that statement.  I started cataloguing the things I know – financial aid (blech), kids (overdone), books (too nerdy), Star Wars (too weird) – and then I thought about something from my past that fit pretty well – pigs. 

Now.  If you would have told me when I was a junior in high school that my job feeding, watering and taking care of the 100 or so hogs on our family farm was a terrific training ground for a service oriented career, I’m not sure what I would have said.  I would probably have told you that you didn’t know what you were talking about because I was going to be an editor for the New York Times – or at the very least the Kansas City Star.  None the less, as I think back on my experience with these animals, I find that I was being trained for a career in financial aid.

Pigs, with a few exceptions and intermittent moments of fame, are not counted amongst your more cute and fuzzy animals.  Pigs are dirty, smelly and loud.  They fight each other for first digs at the food and one unexpected move can spook a pile of resting hogs into anxious, unbridled panic.

You wouldn’t think this to look at them, but hogs really are very smart. In fact, in 2009, a New York Times article reported “that Pig A can almost instantly learn to follow Pig B when the second pig shows signs of knowing where good food is stored, and that Pig B will try to deceive the pursuing pig and throw it off the trail so that Pig B can hog its food in peace.” 

Pigs are constantly opening gates they are not supposed to open, getting out and wandering places that they aren’t supposed to wander, and eating things they aren’t supposed to eat.  Herding hogs to get them to move from pen A to pen B takes planning, preparation, sometimes a whip, and good sturdy gates to shove them in the direction they are supposed to go.

Another little known fact about pigs is that they don’t sweat.  Consequently, part of a caretaker’s job when the temperature’s reach into the 90’s and 100’s is to regularly fill mud holes so they have somewhere to cool off from the heat.  This task requires a strong will, quick thinking, and physical endurance.  If the farm has long stretches to walk between pens, the minute you are done with the last mud hole, the first one needs attention again. 

Some hogs appreciate this regular, cool stream of water from the hose.  Others get up out of the mud hole, shake, and, if you aren’t careful, cover your entire person with an interesting light brown mixture of unidentified composition and origin.

And yet, even though it’s 100 degrees outside, even though you’d rather stay inside and watch Happy Days re-runs on TV, even though you know with absolute certainty that you will come back smelling like a sewer, you go.  Because you know that if you don’t do it, no one else will.  You know you are providing those hogs with something they need.  And there is always the incredible satisfaction you receive when that unfriendly or shy hog finally comes to greet you with a happy grunt when you show up with the hose.

Living through a financial aid career today is a bit like wallowing through a pig pen.  It’s messy, it smells bad, it sometimes feels like your boots are stuck in the mud and will never come out, and 9 times out of 10 you look like hell when you walk in your house at the end of the day.  But I think this conference has reminded us all once again that what we do is important – is vital, to student survival, amen?

Working to provide a seamless link between regulations that constantly change and students and parents is challenging.  No one can deny that. But the challenge is the reason we are here, correct?  The reason that I get up and go to work is so that I can be there to help when a student comes in after both his parents just died and he doesn’t know what to do.  The reason I go to work is so I can help brainstorm to remove a financial barrier for a first generation student who has a dream to complete an internship in Washington DC.  The reason I go to work is so I can be there to support a student who is yelling, angry and frustrated about having to do loan entrance counseling and to sit and work with him to discover that he is really just afraid to admit that he can’t read the words on the screen, is terrified he won’t be able to get out of a cultural cycle he is desperate to leave, and hasn’t ever had anyone willing to sit long enough to give him the help that he needs to eventually graduate from college.  THAT, folks, is why I do what I do.

Like we’ve heard from others at this conference, it is my colleagues at KASFAA, RMASFAA and NASFAA who keep me energized, who keep me sane and who provide me with countless amounts of advice and best practices.  I am honored to serve this organization and its members who have given me so much.

And we have much to do.  I am excited and you should be excited about the people you have elected as your Board representatives as well as the people who have volunteered to serve as committee chairs for the 2011-2012 year. 

Past President – Janet Riis
President Elect – Jeff Jacobs
Vice President – James Broscheit
Secretary – Leeann Hoffman
Treasurer – David Martin
Associate Member Delegate – Alan Ishida
Colorado – Cindy Heijl
Kansas – Donna Carter
Montana – Valerie Curtain
Nebraska – Peggy Tvrdy
North Dakota – Nathan Stratton
South Dakota – Kristy O’Krief
Utah – Amy Capps
Wyoming – Kelly Svenkesen
Association News – April Keim
Conference – Jodi Vanden Berge & Bailey Jorgensen
Corporate Support – Robb Cummings
DMCI – Marge Michael
Electronic Initiatives – Roger Matthew
Finance & Audit – Thad Spaulding
Leadership Pipeline – Mary Sommers
Membership – Lisa Goss
Summer Institute – Pat McTee
Training – Cindy Ostert 

These volunteers on your behalf spent three days prior to the conference doing important work for the membership and I am encouraged about the direction in which we are headed.  Thanks to your outgoing board, RMASFAA has adopted a series of strategic directions relating to the mission and goals.  These directions are what will guide our work over the next three years and will be posted to the web soon for all members to view.  These directions are designed to strengthen the services RMASFAA provides to its members, to provide accountability and transparency, and to do some big picture thinking about our board composition and structure to ensure that the organization can sustain itself far into the future. 

 We expect to finish 2011 in the black for the first time in four years.  I am looking forward to hearing this good news at our winter board meeting in March.  I view this as a positive indicator that we are turning a corner from where we have been since the elimination of our FFEL partners and friends.  The past few boards that have had to weather this change have done an excellent job judiciously saving your money and getting the most bang for every dollar in income that has been received.  But it is a fact the revenue stream that counted so heavily on corporate sponsorship is changed and we can no longer “get by” trying to scrimp and save our way to a balanced budget.  We are going to have to think outside the box to ensure that we are doing all we can to ensure a budget that will continue to invest in our connection to the NASFAA organization, develop our new leadership, provide our members with the kind of quality training that they have come to expect from us and continue to support and enhance the ways that RMASFAA links NASFAA to our member states and our member states to NASFAA.

 Through these changes, the Board and I need two things from you, the membership.  1) We want to know what you think.  Tell us.  2) We need your involvement.  Volunteer.  Again, thank you for the honor and opportunity you have given me to serve you.  Together, we can and will move this organization forward to bigger and better things.

Brenda Hicks
RMASFAA President