Monday, February 15, 2016

Connection, Collaboration and Compliance... with a dash of Congressional Spice

Submitted by Krissy Bhaumik, MSFAA President

Michigan's winter conference was held in our state's capital, Lansing, January 31-February 3. MSFAA President Val Meyers called upon the Michigan aid community to come together at the conference and "Share Solutions to Keep Students First through Connections, Collaborations and Compliance." We had over 175 aid professionals and partners answer that call.

The program was packed with sessions that rang true to the theme. We were pleased to welcome Kevin Campbell, a Department of Education Training Officer out of their Dallas office. Kevin presented five sessions, including a Federal Update, a One-on-All with the Federal Trainer and the always popular Gainful Employment Requirements. We were inspired by Paul Artale, a compelling speaker who was born "limb different" but perservered to play Canadian college football and "Hit Hard!" to overcome adversity. Breakout sessions offered topics on professional health and personal wellness. NASFAA President Justin Draeger spoke about work-life balance and 2015 Michigan State Leadership Award recipient Jim Eddy spoke about wellness and simplification strategy within our overly complex lives. The program also included sessions on collaborating across campus to remove barriers for unaccompanied homeless youth and advocating LGBT Inclusion in Higher Education and much much more.

We were pleased to host Chris Ditter, the President Elect of IASFAA, at the conference as part of the MASFAA State President's Exchange Program. Chris may have had to miss the Iowa Caucuses to be with us, but we tried to keep it exciting that Monday with a surprise guest.

Also a great addition to the conference, but in no way an expected one, was the appearance of Michigan's senior US Senator, Debbie Stabenow. Senator Stabenow was spotted in the hotel restaurant having breakfast. She graciously agreed to stop into our general session to say hello to our membership. Half-way through his "Inside the Beltway" update, Justin Draeger stepped aside for Senator Stabenow. As it turns out, she was having coffee with leaders from Michigan's real estate community and they had been discussing the pressure student loan repayment was placing on potential young homebuyers! We were provided with a true insider's "Inside the Beltway" update before Senator Stabenow, much to the pleasrue of her aide, continued with her morning plans and Justin continued on with his updates. Many of us were left asking, "did that just happen?"

The conference ended as a great success. Participants made new connections within the MSFAA family, they found new ways to collaborate on their campuses and around the state and they learned more deeply the expectations and responsibilities placed on us by the Department of Education. As the gavel passed to me, I challenged the membership to think about their own stories and the paths that brought them to financial aid. I asked them to share those diverse stories over the next year. It is that diversity that builds a strong association and a stronger profession. In 2016, MSFAA will be celebrating our Unity in Diversity and all of the ways that enables us to better help students and families!

MSFAA's summer conference is scheduled for June 26-29 on beautiful Mackinaw Island. We would welcome you there!

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