Monday, April 6, 2015

2015 West Virginia Spring Conference

(by Kathy Bialk, WVASFAA Conference Program Co-Chair)

The theme “Marking a New Trail” of the WVASFAA Spring Conference precisely described the experience of all those who attended the conference at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, WV, March 31 – April 2, 2015. This year’s spring conference hit record attendance having 108 registrants (typically 60 to 70 persons attend the WVASFAA conferences). Just before the conference opened, the 2014-15 and 2015-16 WVASFAA Executive Committee members greeted and became acquainted with 28 new members!

The conference opened with the session “Washington’s Trail: Update from the Capital” given by our guest keynote speaker, Megan McClean, Managing Director of Policy & Federal Relations, NASFAA. We were honored and pleased to have Megan join us at our conference, who in addition to providing the opening session, offered two additional outstanding sessions.

We were also fortunate to have Craig Rorie, Training Officer (Region II), Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, participate heavily at the conference. Craig provided a general Federal Update session and several other sessions meeting the specific federal student aid training needs of our state. As always, we can count on our “own” WV colleague and leader, Brian Weingart, Senior Financial Aid Director, WV Higher Education Policy Commission, to contribute heavily in meeting the training needs of the WVASFAA membership. Brian presented the “Don’t Take the Wrong Path – Get Your State Update Here” session and two additional sessions.

We kindly welcomed Susan Teerink, Director of Financial Aid, Marquette University, as our MASFAA state-exchange guest from Wisconsin. Susan joined us at the WVASFAA Executive Committee meeting preceding the conference; she graciously presented the session, “Developing Effective Counselors to Meet the Needs of 21st Century Students;” and attended many of the session offerings. I heard many comments from individuals who said that Susan was “such a pleasure to meet and to get to know” and I couldn’t agree more.

Conference Co-chairs Kathy Bialk (Program), Marshall University, and Candi Frazier (Site), West Virginia University, thanked Megan, Craig, Brian, Susan, affiliate Veteran’s Affairs and Vocational Rehabilitation professionals, business partners, and all of the other WVASFAA members who presented and moderated sessions at the conference. We also expressed gratitude to our sponsors (Citizens One, EdFinancial Services, Great Lakes, KHEAA, Incpetia, PNC Bank Education Lending, SallieMae, and Wells Fargo), who not only contributed financially to the conference, but have given ongoing time and assistance to the members of WVASFAA. Finally, we expressed great appreciation to the entire WVASFAA Conference Committee and other WVASFAA chairs and committee members who worked so hard and collaboratively to put together a first-class conference that we believe met the training and professional development needs of our members.

Awards were presented to members for their years of service in the financial aid profession: Janet Ruge, WV Higher Education Policy Commission, was recognized for 45 years, Nadine Hamrick, Marshall University, for 40 years, Patricia Harmon, New River Community & Technical College, for 35 years, as well as several others, who served from 20 to 45 years (in increments of five years).

Karen Lay, Glenville State College, who is retiring, was acknowledged and recognized for her service in the profession. Sandra Oerly-Bennett, West Virginia University, was presented with the MASFAA Leadership Award that she was previously given at the 2014 MASFAA Fall Conference. Amanda Sites, WVASFAA President, presented the President’s Award, which recognizes service and leadership within the Association, to Carla Strawn, PNC Bank Education Lending, and the Neil E. Bolyard Meritorious Award, which recognizes service to the Association and the larger community, to Kathy Bialk, Marshall University.

2015 Fall Conference Co-chairs Katie Cooper, West Liberty University, and Sharon Howard, WV School of Osteopathic Medicine, announced the plans in place for the “Financial Aid Survivor WVASFAA Style” Conference, which will be held at The Resort at Glade Springs, Daniels, WV, October 28 – 30, 2015.

Candi Frazier also asked us to look forward to WVASFAA’s 50th Anniversary in 2017 and recommended we set a goal for ourselves to have at least one half of our membership to have at least one NASFAA Professional Credential by the year of our 50th Anniversary.

During the WVASFAA Business Meeting, Kathy Bialk, WVASFAA President-elect, presented Amanda Sites an award recognizing her service and dedication as WVASFAA President for the past year and half, and Amanda transitioned the WVASFAA presidency to Kathy. Kathy re-emphasized WVASFAA’s mission and the desire to widen her passion (vocational calling in the financial aid profession) by encouraging others to bring out their abilities, ideas, and skills to the financial aid profession collectively and collaboratively. Kathy stated that “if we help one another, we are going to be in a much greater positon to do what we want to do – that is, help our students achieve their higher education aspirations.”

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