Welcome to our first in a series of MASFAA Leader Spotlight posts. Throughout the year, we'll try to interview some of the leaders on the MASFAA Executive Council. First up is MASFAA Delegate at Large, Nick Prewett. Nick is the Director of Student Financial Aid at the University of Missouri.
Could you briefly describe the route you took to becoming active in a MASFAA leadership role? What is your background with MASFAA involvement?
I think my participation is a bit outside of the norm. I moved to Missouri from Kansas, where I was active in KASFAA and RMASFAA. Changing regions after 9 years was a bit tough, but I was surprised at how many people I knew in MASFAA and how many people knew me. I think it also helped that when I moved, my Director was serving as MASFAA president. I was asked to serve on the Conference Program Committee for the Milwaukee conference and, while there, I met a few people and was asked to run for an office during the next election cycle. I would say this is not typical of most MASFAA leaders.
Why were you interested in a MASFAA leadership role?
I really liked the idea of a two year term on the board as a Delegate at Large. The DAL is responsible for 4-5 committees and serves at the pleasure of the president. I really enjoy the ability to work directly with committee chairs and sit on committee conference calls. I feel like I am gaining a broader understanding of MASFAA, its purposes, goals, and future direction.
What recommendations do you have for someone who is interested in holding a MASFAA elected position? Where should they get started?
I think my first bit of advice is that if you are interested, make your interest known. Now, doing that is a bit more complicated. MASFAA comprises 9 states and really the only time you get to see people from all the states is at some type of regional or national conference. My advice is to meet new people, have conversations over beverages, spend little time in your room. You’d be surprised what you learn and who you meet. The second part is volunteer for a committee. Now when I say volunteer, that means participate on the committee, don’t just take up a slot to build a resume. It takes work, but committees, chairs, and officers notice. MASFAA is very interested in developing leaders and putting together the best election slate possible each year.
What advice do you have for someone who was just elected to a MASFAA leadership role?
Be part of the conversation, but don’t dominate the conversation. Everyone can have an opinion on each issue, but that leads to wasted time. Focus on what is important to you, your state, and your association. Remember as an officer you support the association first and your state or your institution's interests second. Sometimes difficult decisions must be made for the good of the organization. Don’t be afraid to make them.
What have you learned from your leadership role that you were not expecting?
I've learned that the leaders of the organization are caring individuals who not only serve on the board of the organization, but they also forge relationships that extend beyond board service. I’m amazed at how many emails get traded between past, present, and future board members on the “how to” or “what if” or “I have an issue I don’t know how to handle” which help with everyone’s real job as financial aid administrators. Board members form some bonds that can be perceived by the membership is cliquey, but when you forge solid friendships with people you want to spend time with, it is hard to avoid that perception. I will say it is a perception.
I always enjoy taking a step back from a meeting or call just to think about the big picture. I’m a fan of understanding the dynamics that lead people or groups to make a decision and from a peanut gallery perspective, I enjoy every moment of serving on the board.
What tips do you have for being an effective leader?
I’m not sure how to answer this question. A leader needs to set an example, listen, and not be afraid to do the work. A leader always needs to credit those around them, because without followers, one can’t lead. A leader needs to set a professional example, but a leader also needs to be willing to have fun. Without fun, our jobs and leadership roles would be pointless.
Any final thoughts?
I think my best advice is to meet people. We like to think that people on the executive board should be approachable. When there is a blanket invite to an after-hours event/reception/get together, take that as an opportunity to meet people. I think I have as many stories that begin with “Hey, remember that time we were playing LRC with sugar packets and bottle caps….” as I do, “Remember that kick ass session on ….”