Monday, June 1, 2015

MASFAA Leader Spotlight: Val Meyers

Welcome to the continuance 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. Next up is Val Meyers.Val Meyers is Associate Director at Michigan State University and the 2014-2015 MASFAA Treasurer and Michigan representative.

How did you get started in financial aid?
I always get a laugh when I introduce myself at a conference or presentation by telling people that I spent about 10 years in retail before I came to MSU to do financial aid. I explain that in retail, even though I was a manager, I was paid too little for the responsibilities that I had, and I didn’t like disgruntled customers yelling at me. So that is why I came to financial aid! Most people appreciate the irony.

But in truth, it was meant to be. I am one of seven kids in my family, and was not only first generation, but the only one to finish an undergraduate degree, let alone a graduate degree. For me, financial aid was crucial to a life change that none of the rest of my siblings have experienced.

How did you first become involved in your state and regional associations?
I work with Rick Shipman who hired me into the financial aid office at Michigan State and has been a leader and mentor for me for my entire career. He has not only been supportive, but really sets an expectation that the senior management need to give back to the profession in some way. He also served in both MSFAA (Michigan) as well as MASFAA and was very supportive of my interest in doing the same.

I am also fortunate in that I have been able to be a part of the Big Ten Associate Directors group, and knowing that some of the same folks were active in MASFAA gave me a further incentive to volunteer. They are great people to work with and I knew I would enjoy seeing them more often, so that was a bonus.

What advice do you have for someone new to financial aid?
There is a role for you no matter your skillset. One of the joys of this profession is that there is a need for the public speaker, the detail-oriented processor, the political scientist compliance officer, and the supportive and nurturing counselor. I have been fortunate to find so many ways to help students and parents, and still stretch myself to learn new things and to grow.

What advice do you have for someone interested in becoming more involved in MASFAA?
Don’t start by running for office. Begin by volunteering for a committee. I started with MASFAA by running for secretary and then getting asked to begin immediately due to the current secretary leaving financial aid. It was very disorienting to be thrown into the mix, not knowing more than a couple of people on the board or the job that I was supposed to be doing. I imagine that beginning by working on a committee would be a much easier transition into then running for office.

I also think that beginning as a Delegate-at-Large is a good first step once you begin to run for elected office. It plugs you into several committees at the outset, which allows you to get to know the structure of the board and the committees.

What did you learn during your leadership term?
I tried to do too much. I was already Treasurer-Elect when I accepted the nomination to be president of my state association. I didn’t realize how much each position would demand from me. If I had it to do over again, I would only do one thing at a time.

What do you enjoy doing when you are outside the aid office?
Reading, writing novels, and indulging the whims of my three cats.

Any final thoughts?
Financial aid can be a job, a career, or a calling. Regardless of the reason you choose it, keep in mind that you are doing good work. We support students and families to reach for futures that they would not have without our help. When I have a challenging day, it helps me to remember that.

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