Thursday, July 5, 2018

Updates from the MASFAA President: NASFAA and Updates to Board Positions

Greetings MASFAA,

One of the ways the MASFAA president serves the association is as an observer to the NASFAA board of directors. I have spent the past year in the “peanut gallery” at the NASFAA board meetings. 

During that time I have become very close to the other regional presidents and we’ve exchanged a significant about of information related to association management and philosophies. As a regional president, it is nice to have a peer group to go to for all of those pesky association related topics. Over the year, I have learned a great deal about my peers, but I have also been able to observe the inner workings of NASFAA. 

One highlight of the conference was to see MASFAA’s own Lori Vedder assume the role as NASFAA national chair. In addition, the conclusion of the NASFAA conference was the beginning of my move to the “big table,” meaning I will not only have a voice in board discussions, but also a vote. That also means that Marvin will now be sitting in the “peanut gallery.” 

Your NASFAA board representatives are responsible for bringing your opinions on pressing legislative issues or concerns about NASFAA up for discussion. Through this representation, I’m happy to say that NASFAA will continue to offer free testing vouchers to states and regions who buy the NASFAA training package for the next year. Your voice makes a difference, so I do hope you continue to reach out to me or Marvin to share your thoughts, concerns, or feelings for all things NASFAA.

The conclusion of the NASFAA conference means the next big event on the MASFAA horizon is the conference in October. It is hard to believe that there are just over 3 months left in my term as MASFAA president. I can promise you that we have a great conference lined up and you do not want to miss out.

I also want to update you on some changes to the MASFAA board. Ted Malone has resigned his position as Treasurer-Elect. After an AGPC discussion and consideration by the executive board, Keri Gilbert has been appointed to the position of treasurer-elect. In other board news, David Vikander has stepped down from the remainder of his term as delegate at large. After discussion with AGPC, I have appointed Alex DeLonis to serve out the remainder of his term. Alex was elected as a delegate in our most recent election and he has agreed to start his term early. I want to extend my thanks to Ted and David for their service to MASFAA, and thank Alex and Keri for stepping in to support our association goals and mission.

Nick Prewett
MASFAA President

Friday, June 29, 2018

Thanks for the Memories

Jesse, Keely, Leo, Dave, Jeff, Aesha, Keri, me (Val), Jayme, and Nicole.  Summer Institute Faculty for 2018.

As we ended Summer Institute on Friday, June 8th, I had mixed feelings. After being away from my cats for five nights, I was really looking forward to getting home. I had a long drive ahead of me. And I was looking forward to the comforts of my own home, my own kitchen, and especially my own bed. The bunks at Capital University’s residence halls challenged the alpinist in me as I faced a bed in loft mode five feet off the floor. It was all part of the Summer Institute adventure!

I love SI for the chance I get to live and work with fellow professionals, to teach and to share insights, and to be on stage. I really enjoy leading folks through the NASFAA credential sessions, especially, but as I have told my students in the past, I don’t just teach to the test. Part of the fun is in using the topic to discuss real-life scenarios.  I found that learning SAP or PJ is easier if you can also talk about situations you have encountered. This is the opportunity to take advantage of the experts around you, and I enjoy hearing the stories of the folks in the class, whether students or faculty, as much as I enjoy talking about my experiences in 30+ years of aid. Thank you, so many of you, for the comments you made that added to the richness of the learning experience for all of us.

After two years of SI, I venture to say that I have (one of) the most famous cats in MASFAA. Many folks now know the story of Isis, who had her name before the terrorists, and who refused to change her name because that would mean “letting the terrorists win”. Instead, she basks in pride in being named for the Egyptian goddess, and is always happy when I come home and tell her that another sixty or seventy people now know all about her.

We had plenty of fun this time around, as well. Kudos to the MASFAA Co-chairs and the Delegate at Large (Aesha Engeldinger, David Peterson, and Emily Haynam, respectively) for the night at Pins Mechanical. Duckpin bowling is much more fun that standard bowling, and the pinball machines, jenga, and other diversions were pretty darn cool! The Summer Institute group was joined by members of the MASFAA Executive Board who were in town for their meeting, and it was great for me seeing many of these colleagues again.

All in all, Capitalizing on Community was a great summer vacation for me. I am looking forward to staying in touch with many of the folks who came forward to meet me, or asked for my card. I hope that all of the participants learned something about their profession and found new successful experience. 

Thanks, MASFAA, for Summer Institute.
            --- Val Meyers

How to Advocate for the HEA

Tensions in higher education are running high. For the first time ever, society is beginning to question its value. College enrollment is down. And, with the anticipated reduction in high school graduates, schools will continue to have to fight harder for each new student. Disruption of the education and funding models is no longer a question of if, but instead when, it will occur. With the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) on the table, now is an ideal time to make sure your voice is being heard.

A Topic Too Important for Our Insecurities
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and speak with staff members on Capitol Hill about the future of financial aid. This was a completely new experience for me—and one that I never thought I would take part in. You can ask my husband: Politics and the legislative process have always been his thing; not mine. If you are more like me, the idea of advocating in Washington may be overwhelming, nerve-racking, and even cause you to have self-doubt. A bit of a perfectionist—as I think most financial aid professionals are—it’s hard to go into new situations where there are so many unknowns.

However, it is my hope that you will overcome those feelings—as I did—to help advocate for students and to continue to shape the future. Here are five things I learned during my visit that I think (hope) will help you find the courage to speak up in D.C.

1.      This Is Just the First Step in Building a Relationship   
No relationship of value has only one interaction. This was probably the single-best piece of advice I received (Thank you, NASFAA President, Justin Draeger!). You are not looking to sway opinion in a single meeting. Instead, you are working to build relationships—and future opportunities—with staff members and elected officials. The purpose is to introduce yourself as a relevant and credible leader in your area.

Your goal for that first meeting is to have this interaction be the first of many; to be someone who comes to mind in the future as a subject matter expert and resource. In doing this, know your audience and its agenda. Try to use your alignment with them in your favor and frame your talking points around things that are important to both of you.

2.      You Know More Than They Do
Part of relationship-building is about credibility-building. Remember that you are the expert. You know a thousand times more than the person you are talking to about financial aid, college affordability, and the student experience.

Yes, I know that many people who sit on education committees have previously worked in higher education. But I would challenge you to find a single one who has experience in the Financial Aid Office. They need professionals like you to share insights on what is going on in your world—so they know what is, and is not, working.

You have a responsibility to your students and your institution to share your knowledge with the individuals who are developing policy that shapes our industry. As the expert, it is your responsibility to frame your opinions in a nice, neat gift box—topped with a bow. Remember to keep things at a relatively high level. Otherwise, you will lose people—and that doesn’t help you build those all-important relationships.

No matter how excited you get about calculating R2T4 or the intricacies of a credit hour, your excitement will be lost on those you are meeting with. Talk to them in a way that makes your insights easy to digest.

3.      They Work for You
Those people you’re meeting with? They’re elected officials—and they have an obligation to listen to their bosses. You are one of those bosses. At work, we have an obligation meet with our employees to ensure that they are staying on track. Your meetings in Washington should be no different.

Elected officials need to be reminded of, and educated on, the expectations of their constituents. Even under the best circumstances, elected officials can get it wrong. Though well-intentioned, poor interactions with representatives of the industries they are regulating can lead to unintended consequences that are long-lasting.

4.      Take Comfort in Numbers
Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of attending meetings like this by myself was daunting. I worried that I was not going to connect quickly—or that I would forget what I wanted to say and there would be awkward silence. Finding someone willing to attend meetings with you can alleviate some of this stress.

Ensure that you pick your partner wisely. Knowing that there is a second person to lean on for ideas, examples, and support can significantly reduce your anxiety level. Identify someone whom you mesh well with and who holds similar opinions and ideas. Doing this will give you a partner and a source of feedback for improving your interactions in the future.

Besides the emotional support and backup, it’s nice to have someone to talk to while waiting on security and traveling between appointments. Navigating Capitol Hill can be a little overwhelming.

5.      You Are in the Driver’s Seat
You asked for a meeting because you have something to say. There is a concern, point of view, or opinion you want to make sure is expressed. You are the one who is in control of the agenda of this meeting and others are there to listen and ask questions.

Just remember that your meeting will be relatively short, normally 15–30 minutes, so your agenda does not need to be long or overly formal. Go into it with two or three key things you want to articulate. If this is an initial relationship-building meeting, make sure you are discussing the things that are important to you—and are most likely to be supported by the individuals you are talking to.

And, when all else fails, make sure you keep it simple. Politicians do not care about the minutia of aid administration. You need to instead speak to them in terms they will understand and appreciate. Get out of the forest so you can see the trees (and the cherry blossoms!) and you will be fine.

A proven leader in higher education, Amy Glynn spent more than a decade in financial aid, ensuring products and services were in compliance with Federal Title IV regulations while meeting the highest service levels possible. Today she is the Vice President of Financial Aid & Community Initiatives at CampusLogic.  She earned her Master of Science in Higher Education from Walden University