Monday, June 22, 2015

MASFAA Summer Institute Faculty Experience

This post was originally published on the Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators blog, submitted by Ryan Gebler at Lawrence University.

The first week of June I had the pleasure of attending the MASFAA Summer Institute in Indianapolis. Although this was my first Summer Institute (SI), I was there as a faculty member. SI was hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, which is a short walk or drive northwest of downtown Indianapolis. (From what I gathered, people associated with IUPUI don’t like it when you refer to their school as “ou-ee poo-ee.”)

My journey to Indianapolis began in November 2014… at lunch… at the Fall WASFAA Conference in Appleton. I sat next to Karla Weber from UW-Madison, who happened to be a chair for SI. She asked me if I was interested in teaching at SI and—without much hesitation—I said, “sure!” First lesson learned: be careful who you sit next to at lunch during a conference. Or, better yet, be intentional with who you sit next to. Conferences are a great opportunity to network and make connections, which will lead to new opportunities. I’m grateful that Karla asked me about SI and that I said yes.

There were some great benefits to being a SI faculty member. First, as a college administrator, I thought it was pretty cool to be a “faculty” member. Second, in preparation for SI, I was given access to NASFAA’s CORE materials—helpful references and guides to understanding financial aid fundamentals. Over the winter and spring months, I studied NASFAA’s CORE materials and, as a requirement to teach at SI, passed 4 NASFAA credentialed exams. Not only do I have handy materials to help me with my job (which I’ve already used), I also now have some NASFAA credentials. Another benefit was meeting and getting to know the other faculty, who are experienced professionals and leaders among MASFAA. I felt very fortunate to make these connections. Also, getting to know people at schools outside of Wisconsin was rewarding and fun. As someone at a Banner school, I was thrilled to see about half of those in my classroom were at Banner schools.

Fun and learning at MASFAA SIMASFAA SI was a new professional development experience for me. I haven’t presented at a conference before, so being in front of the audience for 4 days changed my focus and approach to the week. I still had a ton of fun at SI with all the games and activities planned for us; however, I retired early to my room each night so I could go over PowerPoint slides and prepare for the next day’s sessions.

Financial aid is an amazingly diverse and rewarding profession. I feel fortunate that MASFAA SI provided me with an opportunity to get in front of a classroom and teach (I missed my calling as a math teacher). SI gave me a reason to step back, retrain, retool, network, and do something completely different than my normal routine by teaching in a classroom.

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