Deadline Approaching: Diversity & Inclusion Committee RMASFAA Scholarship!

apply now
The RMASFAA Diversity and Inclusion Committee (DI) would like to remind you about the RMASFAA Conference Scholarship Application. The scholarship covers the RMASFAA Conference registration fee and assists recipients with travel expenses. This year’s RMASFAA Conference will take place in Billings, MT from October 20 through 23.


The deadline to submit the scholarship application is July 31, 2019.

You must be a current RMASFAA member to be considered for the scholarship.

If you have any questions or need assistance with the application process, please contact Beth Vollan at or Ashley Stevenson at



Diversity & Inclusion Committee Scholarship Application Now Available!

apply now

The RMASFAA Diversity and Inclusion Committee (DI) would like to announce the opening of the RMASFAA Conference Scholarship Application. The scholarship covers the RMASFAA Conference registration fee and assists recipients with travel expenses.  This year’s RMASFAA Conference will take place in Billings, MT from October 20 through 23.

The deadline to submit the scholarship application is July 31, 2019.

You must be a current RMASFAA member to be considered for the scholarship.

If you have any questions or need assistance with the application process, please contact Beth Vollan at or Ashley Stevenson at



June’s Training Tip: Counseling Students


What do I say? Thoughts on Counseling Students

                As Financial Aid Administrators we are often put in situations where students and their families confide personal information to us. Sometimes that information can help us to make decisions about a student’s eligibility, and sometimes we find ourselves at a loss for words. Aside from a counseling course taken to complete my degree, I have no formal education on how to advise students. So how do I help those students who impart sensitive information to me? There is no straight forward answer, but here are a few basics to start with.


  • Avoid body language that makes you look withdrawn

We want students to feel like they are in a welcoming environment where they can safely share their stories. Try to avoid crossing your arms and lean forward slightly when they are talking to you. These little gestures make you look like you are open and interested in what the student is sharing.

  • Repeat complex situations back to the student to ensure that you understand

This is pretty self-explanatory, but it is also something we don’t practice enough. It is easy to assume that we know what a student is going to say, because we often answer the same questions over and over. However, give the student a chance to speak and repeat back to them your understanding of the situation. It’s important to have clarification on both sides about delicate situations, and you may be required to report the situation to another department, so clarity is key.

  • Know when you need to report

If a student discloses sexual assault, discrimination, or an intent to harm him/herself or others – you need to know who to contact. It is also import to let the student know that you are required to report, but list offices or resources the student can access that are not required to report. This way the student can choose to tell you more knowing that it will be reported, or take the conversation to a professional who can keep it confidential.

  • Ask questions that require more than a one word answer

If you are needing more information from the student or clarification, ask open ended questions. Open ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a one word answer. For example, “Have you filled out a FAFSA?” vs. “What questions do you have about filling out the FAFSA?” The second question requires a more thoughtful answer than the first.

  • Use your feeling words

This may sound silly, but broadening your vocabulary to include more feeling words can help people feel understood. Sometimes you might feel “melancholy” instead of “sad” or “guarded” instead of “shy”. Words are powerful. Finding the right word to describe how someone feels can make a “cantankerous” person feel “emboldened”.


State of the State: South Dakota


SDASFAA held our 2019 Spring Conference at The Lodge at Deadwood April 15th through 17th, with a theme of “Where the Wild Meets the West.”

wild west

The conference kicked off on Monday afternoon with presentations from the South casinoDakota Board of Regents and the Office of Inspector General. Following those sessions, two of our own credentialed SDASFAA members presented the first part of the NASFAA Pell Grant authorized training. After committee meetings and dinner, we met up on Monday evening for a lively slot tournament.


Tuesday was a full day of great sessions, opportunities for networking, and visiting vendor booths. We were fortunate to have Megan Coval from NASFAA present two sessions, as did David Bartlett from the Department of Education. Our Pell Grant credential instructors concluded their training, and Ken Kocer provided a RMASFAA update. The SDASFAA annual business meeting was conducted as well.

During the SDASFAA awards banquet on Tuesday evening, 16 members were presented with years of service recognition plaques. The Douglas Steckler Professional Development Award was presented to Melinda Fedeler from Dakota State University. The Outstanding Service Award was presented to Marlene Seeklander from Lake Area Technical Institute.

On Wednesday, we concluded the conference with presentations from Mapping Your Future, South Dakota Army National Guard, and another session from David Bartlett. All of the presenters, vendors, and attendees made for a fantastic conference! We were grateful to have received sponsorship from 8 of our associate members in support of the conference.

SD group

Looking ahead, the SDASFAA Executive Council will be meeting in July at Mitchell Technical Institute. In September, SDASFAA will partner with the Council on College Admission in South Dakota to host counselor workshops at 6 locations across the state. Then in November, SDASFAA’s annual fall training event will be held in Chamberlain.

Submitted by Erin Richards, 2019 SDASFAA President

erin r

State of the State: Colorado

CAFAA logo (002)

2019 Conference Recap

It was another successful conference! The Hotel Talisa in Vail was a spectacular location and the conference was filled will lots of opportunity to learn, network, and be inspired.

Passing the Gavel

The conference kicked off with the epic ‘passing of the gavel’ to the new president. Unfortunately, due to the resignation of President-Elect, Heidi Markey, I literally just passed the gavel from my right hand to my left hand, as I will be your CAFAA President for another year. Here are the lucky folks who were elected to serve with me on the next board:

  • President-Elect: Jill Robertson, Colorado School of Mines
  • Vice President: Dean Wilson, Community College of Denver
  • Treasurer-Elect: Barb Marshall, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Secretary: Gina Wenzel-Garza, Arapahoe Community College
  • 4 Year Public Sector Rep: Anum Siddiqui, Metro State University
  • 2 Year Public Sector Rep: Brent Edwards, Front Range Community College
  • 4 Year Private Sector Rep: Aubrey Rapacz, University of Denver
  • Proprietary Sector Rep: Kirsten DeSart, Paul Mitchell the School
  • Service Sector Rep: Shawn Murphy, Sallie Mae

Programming, Philanthropy & Award Recipients

Emily Burns with CDHE, and NASFAA’s Megan McClean provided virtual presentations at the conference covering state and federal legislative updates. We also had a federal update presented by David Bartlett with the Department of Education. And of course, the conference would not have been complete without an update from our RMASFAA President, Myra Pfannenstiel!

We also had an inspiring keynote speaker, Amy Charity, who challenged us all to be our authentic selves. My favorite part of the conference each year is when we announce how much money we raised for our designated charity. This year, we held a silent auction and raised $1,500 for A Precious Child. I’m in awe of CAFAA’s generosity.

A Precious Child Donation

On Thursday night, we all got dressed up for the Gala, where the following CAFAA award recipients were honored:

  • Student Success Champion of the Year: Shannon Webber, Red Rocks Community College
  • Lifetime Membership: Eileen Griego, Colorado State University
  • President’s Service Award: Erica Norris, FATV

Ofelia and Eileen_Lifetime_MembershipCongratulations to these very deserving women!





Thank you to the CAFAA membership for supporting me as I served as president last year, part of this year and next year. I’m truly honored to serve in this very important role!

Ofelia Morales

Ofelia_Morales 17Director of Financial Aid

University of Colorado Boulder

CAFAA President

State of the State: Montana

top secret

MASFAA held its Annual Conference in Bozeman, MT from March 20th to 22nd. The team from Montana State University put together a wonderful Mystery themed conference. Throughout the conference attendees played a financial aid based game of clue. This went along with the Murder Mystery dinner Thursday night. It was a fun night trying to figure out who killed the nightclub owner played by James Broscheit.


As usual, our conference started Wednesday after the Director’s and Board meeting. MASFAA was welcomed to Bozeman by MSU President Cruzado. From there the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education provided their annual update. We then heard from Superintendent Watson from the Gallatin County Schools. To end the first day of the conference, we did our traditional round table discussion. Shauna Savage shocked the room when she said her school has been using Banner to send text messages for quite some time.

Day two started with the RMASFAA update from our fabulous president Myra Pfannenstiel. From there David Bartlett led us into the first DOE topic, Year Round Pell. Mary Sommers lovingly came from Nebraska to share with MASFAA her knowledge on Data Sharing. To end our morning Megan Coval from NASFAA did a virtual update. When we returned from lunch our three corporate sponsors, Bank of North Dakota, Commonbond and Elmresources provided updates. Betsy and Brian from MSU Counseling & Psychological Services provided an informative session on Students in Distress. To end day two of the conference, Myra presented a session on connecting with your customers and Mary shared how to advocate for impact as financial aid professionals.

questionsOur Thursday evening dinner is where we were finally introduced to the characters of the Murder Mystery. The dinner was also in conjunction with raffle items as a fundraiser for the Mick Hansen Scholarship. The Mick Hansen Scholarship is used to help MASFAA members who are part of Leadership Pipeline attend the RMASFAA conference. I think everyone had a blast trying to figure out who killed Felix (James), and wouldn’t you know, it was the man having an affair with his wife! This gentleman was played by MSU’s new associate director, Ryan. What a way to start your new job! Besides all the murder mayhem that took place, several awards were giving out to membership as well.

To wrap up the conference, day three brought the last two federal sessions with David Bartlett, as always the Federal Update and well-loved Adds, Drops & Withdrawals. This brought us to the Business Meeting, where membership passed a by-law change that added treasure-elect to the officers of the board. At that time I officially passed the stress foam gavel to Julie Watson of Montana State University as the 2019-2020 President of MASFAA.


Submitted by Danielle Dinges, Miles Community College

danielle d


Faces of Leadership Pipeline: Class of 2019

This month’s Leadership Pipeline mentee blog post comes from Ellen Smith of the University of Montana.Smith Ellen - Picture

Your current position and how long you’ve worked in FA.

I was initially hired as an administrative assistant at the University of Montana’s financial aid office in 2014. I am currently a senior evaluator (specialist II) at UM.

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

Every personality test I’ve ever taken has determined one thing: I’m an optimist. I see the best in others and want the best for others. I don’t want to settle for less than great for my students, coworkers, and institution which has naturally drawn me to leadership roles. I want to hone every skill I have to serve others whether in an official leadership capacity or not.

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

Leadership Pipeline builds a community that emboldens me. I know I am not alone in my field, my situation, my doubts, my hopes. I can candidly ask for feedback and receive gentle but constructive criticism or understanding and advice.

What is it that you are hoping to gain at the end of the program? Personal goal? Skill set?

I mentioned the value of the Pipeline community and I truly intend to use and abuse the contact information I now possess. All jokes aside, it is easy for me to appreciate the immeasurable gift that connecting with these bright individuals has been. No one year can teach everything you need to know to be a leader in financial aid. We covered a good amount of ground, but the connections are the resource I want to walk away with.

Why would you recommend this program to others?

Leadership Pipeline involves mentoring, discussing, teaching, and learning. Each aspect of the program plays a role in your development, although you may find one more helpful wherever you are in your journey. If you want to learn about yourself and the true challenges of leading, this is an excellent space to do it.