by Betsy Henkel, Illinois State University
I recently attended NASFAA’s Leadership and Legislative Conference under the New and Aspiring Aid Directors track. I was encouraged by my office’s current Director of Financial Aid to attend the conference so that I could learn more about what being an aid director meant and to see if it was for me. Prior to the conference, I thought Directors of Financial Aid had to be the ultimate Financial Aid guru—an expert in federal regulations, compliance, and systems. Within the first session with Ron Day, I was surprised to learn that this is actually a very small portion of a Director’s responsibility. Throughout the rest of the sessions, I had the opportunity to listen to new and experienced aid directors and discuss how to manage employees, how to offer better service to our students, and how to foster a positive relationship with other offices on campus. I currently have limited supervising experience so I found the sessions regarding an aid director's role as a boss particularly insightful and valuable for my career’s path. My biggest takeaways from the conference are:
- If I wish to see change in my office or on my campus, I must lead by example.
- Being a good DFA isn’t achieved through micromanaging or focusing on making the office perfect; its more about creating an environment where all people—students, employees, and colleagues—can feel comfortable and able to focus on what really matters: our students.
Overall, I enjoyed not only the opportunity to learn and set career goals for myself but also the opportunity to network and visit with my colleagues.