Leadership Pipeline: Kelly Whittekiend

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 the Financial Aid Manager at Dixie Technical College (DX Tech) in St. George, UT. I have worked in financial aid since March 2014.

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

My mentor is Julie Wilson, previous Financial Aid Director of LCCC.

The committee couldn’t have picked a better mentor for me. I am a very direct person and some individuals aren’t sure how to handle me. Julie has the amazing ability to handle all my questions and craziness. I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to work with her.

Why did you decide to join Leadership Pipeline?

I learned about Leadership Pipeline from the RMASFAA newsletter.  I wanted to join Leadership Pipeline to know more about financial aid and feel more comfortable in my role at DX Tech. After speaking with the Student Services Director and explaining to him what the program was all about, he wanted me to apply so I grow in my position.

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

The most valuable thing that I have learned so far is that we all struggle with similar issues like communication, gainful employment, what department is in charge of specific tasks, programs making changes without letting the appropriate people know. By having our monthly meetings I have learned how other schools deal with these issues. I have also learned that if I ever need any information, the mentees and mentors will always be there for me.

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

I know this program will help me become more comfortable in my position and grow as person. I have learned to delegate and say no to projects that don’t really belong to me, organize my day, have a Zero Inbox philosophy and how to communicate with difficult people.

Why would you recommend the Leadership Pipeline program to others?

I would recommend the program to anyone that is new to financial aid and wants to grow in their position. This program has tons of valuable information and will introduce you to great contacts. Because of the monthly meetings with my mentor Julie, the monthly conference calls and the discussions that come from reading “You’re The Director” I have been able to grow in my position.

My Summer Institute Experience

Emily Lauritsen, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, was the second recipient of the DMCI Summer Institute Scholarship. Read on as she tells us about her experience. 


I was lucky enough to attend the 2017 Summer Institute on scholarship through the Diversity and Multi-cultural Initiatives Committee. The week was packed with networking, problem solving, and just good ol’ fashioned fun. The campus was breathtaking when we arrived to the School of Mines. My co-workers were in different groups than I was in, which encouraged us all to branch out of our comfort zones a little bit and make some connections. I had the pleasure of being in the Blue Macaw group and we were provided with the tools to test for the Student Eligibility and the SAP certification. There were after class activities like bingo and morning/evening walks (I didn’t participate in the walks because I went on a run each morning – running in the mountains is much more difficult than running in Topeka, KS; that is for sure! Hoofa!)

My favorite part about the summer institute was the ability to network and hear how other schools process their student financial aid. There are so many things that can be left to the discretion of the school and having the ability to hear how schools interpret certain guidelines to create their individual policies is so interesting. Everybody at SI is there with one goal – to learn as much as they can so they can return and provide better service to their student population. I was able to receive copies of forms that schools use to get ideas on how to streamline processes and I also received an excel sheet to help verify R2T4 calculations were being done correctly in our system.

While I was at the institute I was paying attention to the diversity among our financial aid community. It was so comforting to see that everybody came from different places, held different beliefs, and were in different stages of life but that every last one of the financial aid professionals that was in attendance is ultimately the same. We are all inclusive and we all want what is best for the student. Networking can be hard in some businesses, but I found that networking at the SI was so easy because everybody in attendance wants to know how my school does things just as much as I want to know about theirs. The wealth of knowledge that is available to a person at the SI is outstanding and I am so humbled by the connections I made. I know that I will be able to stay in contact with my fellow Blue Macaws and others that I met for years as sources of information and hopefully will be able to see them again at future conferences. Thank you DMCI for this opportunity!


Getting to Know You

Continuing with our blog series, ‘Getting to Know You’.  Throughout the year we will be getting to know a financial aid colleague from each state in the region a little better. Next up, Utah!


Jayson Matlock is a Financial Aid Counselor at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.



What is your background and how did you get into financial aid?

I started as a work-study student in the Financial Aid Office during my Sophomore year of college. I came to Southern Utah University to pursue my athletic career in track & field, and also to obtain a degree in exercise science. As I gained more experience working as a peer advisor for our office I was promoted to become a scholarship intern, which provided me with even more experience. The experience landed me a full-time position as a Financial Aid Counselor. I initially came to college on a completely separate track, and financial aid chose me. I have loved every second of my job when dealing with students and the intricacies of interpreting and adhering to federal regulations!

What’s one thing you couldn’t live without?

I could not live without my family, and most importantly my wife. They have been my rock and my support group. I am a first-generation, low- income student, and the amount of assistance that I received from them has helped me to advance myself in the best way possible.

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

The first summer that I went back home in college I was struggling to find a job that worked with my schedule. My Uncle ended up hooking me up with a part-time job through a close family friend. The job wasn’t as weird as it was difficult, but I managed to land a job as a sign twirler in Las Vegas. That summer the average temperature was about 107 degrees every day, and I was flipping away. Little did I know that individuals in that position typically get paid way more than minimum wage, but I was lucky enough to be the one that was paid minimum wage. It was always hot and uncomfortable, but my sign twirling skills are on point to this day!

What’s your favorite book?

My favorite book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’m a huge fan of dystopian literature, and this by far was one of the most interesting, disturbing, and suspenseful reads!

What do you do for fun?

In Southern Utah, I go on a lot of hikes and remain outdoors with my family. I was born and raised in Las Vegas, but I have acquired a great passion for being in nature. If I’m being completely honest, I like to spend a lot of my spare time playing video games as well!

Favorite line from a movie?

Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo.

Do you have an office nickname?

The student workers like to call me Jay-Shawn, because someone got my name wrong once and it has always stuck!

Most embarrassing moment at work?

I have hid behind a co-worker’s door (as a student worker) for a while intending to scare them, and they never showed up. I was really excited about it too! I ended up getting them later though.

If you had to eat one meal, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I wouldn’t choose a meal, but I would eat at a buffet with a range of option every day. I might put on a couple of pounds, but it would be worth it.

Do you have a secret talent?

No secret talents, but I can sing really well…helps to get me a lot of brownie points at home!

Do you have any phobias?

No, but camel spiders do terrify me to no end. I remember watching arachnophobia when I was little, and I have been traumatized ever since. 

Can you play any instruments?

I used to throw down on the violin, but I got super involved in sports. I plan to relearn that skill one day though.


Distinguished Service Award-Terri Gruba

Continuing with our RMASFAA Distinguished Service Award series. Throughout the series we will be asking past recipients of this award to share their stories and experiences with RMASFAA. The third post in this series features Terri Gruba, our favorite retiree!

Terri's picture

You know, it will be three years since I retired.  My family encouraged me (strongly!) to retire so we could do some traveling on our schedule–not my work schedule. I truly struggled with the decision because I thought (and still think) RMASFAA was so important to me. Our profession is an honorable one and it is so important to encourage talented people to join and continue in the profession.  RMASFAA is key to that knowledge basis and encouragement to others. I was so humbled and gratified by the Distinguished Service Award. I remember so clearly that night, and I carried it clutched to my bosom throughout the night (I was not going to have it snatched out of my hands!) I was told growing up that if you can “do” something for others, then you must “do” it. The award certainly encouraged me to continue “doing” for RMASFAA. However, I have received much more from RMASFAA and my colleagues than I ever gave. Fortunately (for me–maybe not for others), I still have cell phone numbers of my RMASFAA peeps, and I am on Facebook, so I am still in contact with so many. Truly, I am so lucky to have been (and still am) part of this wild and wonderful family called RMASFAA.

RMASFAA is so important to me that I am still a member!  We retirees can be members and get a great deal on the membership cost.  It is such a good deal that I certainly could not pass it up.  So there!

When I asked Terri if there was one piece of advice or insight that she would share with a future financial aid professional, she said the following:

Reach out. You are not on island–whether you are in a one-person office or in a big office with lots of bodies. To the day that I retired, I was in contact with folks in my office, in my state, in my region and across the nation. Heck, I am still in contact with my financial aid peeps to this day! We cannot do this job by ourselves, we need each other. Fortunately, I do not think anyone who asked advice, help, for a shoulder to lean on, were ever turned away.

Before this post, I had only ever heard of Terri in passing in which people would describe this charismatic woman who was retired, but still attended and participated in all things financial aid. People would tell me that she would have you laughing one second and the next she would have you convinced to participate on a committee, help plan an event or just have you participate in a fun ice breaker when a second ago you did not want to. Coincidentally Terri herself describes this is as her not so secret talent.

Alora Blue
Association News Committee-Montana

Colorado: State Update


This year CAFAA celebrated its 50th Anniversary Conference in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado. We had about 130 in attendance for our Spring Conference and this year we welcomed 41 first timers (largest group we can remember).  We honored nine Life Members at the banquet, where they shared their stories of what they were doing currently, gave us words of wisdom and shared their humorous financial aid stories.


Vicki, our Regional President, also graced us with her appearance at our conference to share a RMASFAA update . . . she was on her best behavior!

During the conference, we raised approximately $1000 through our silent auction – all proceeds were donated to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center of Summit County.

Key CAFAA updates include:

  • Revised our membership model-schools now have the option to pay a flat institutional fee for CAFAA membership, which allows institutions to add anyone on campus without paying an additional fee.
  • Survey monkey was utilized for our current member and our non-members to see how can better serve them-We are looking to see what we can do better!
  • Two Professional Development Workshops were offered-This year we offered CAFAA Nuts and Bolts Training in the fall and the CAFAA Professional Development Event in the spring.
  • Working with CESDA/TRIO Programs to continue to foster relationships-We are hoping to have our Financial Aid Awareness Committee put on a workshop for our CESDA/TRIO and High School Counselors yearly to keep them up-to-date on financial aid issues.
  • Monthly Blogs-CAFAA has monthly blogs available to both members and non-members. The blog is public, so if you would like to share on the CAFAA blog please email Cassandra Seamans.
  • Currently have FB, Instagram and Twitter pages-check it out!
  • New Website-Updates include a tiered membership directory, ease of registering for events, and a friendly view for non-members with access to view the board, the executive committee, and committee chairs.
  • Purchased a credit card square-This will allow members to pay at the conference with a credit card and can be used to bid on items for our Philanthropy project at the conference.
  • Purchased a music license-We can play music at our conference!
  • P&P and Bylaws have been updated-Our Past President and our Treasurer reviewed our P&P and Bylaws line by line to give them a good update.

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We have had a fun and productive year!

Eileen Griego
Emily Sams
Association News

emily sams

Officer Election Results

The 2017-18 RMASFAA Officer Election results are now official. Your new Board Members who will assume duties at the annual conference in Wichita, KS this fall are:

President-Elect,  Myra Pfannenstiel, Newman University (KS)

Vice President-Elect, Laurie Weber, Minot State University (ND)

Treasurer-Elect, Jed Spencer, Weber State University (UT)

Secretary, Leslie Olsen, Carroll College (MT)

Associate Member Delegate, Pat McTee, American Indian College Fund

Congratulations to all of our newly elected officers, and a special thank you to all of our candidates for stepping forward to run for office this year.  RMASFAA continues to be a strong and vital association due to our tremendous spirit of volunteerism.

Ken Kocer

2016-17 RMASFAA President Elect
Chair, Nominations & Elections Committee