Monday, August 14, 2017

Now is the time!

Now is the time!  It’s time to jump in and get involved contributing to your profession in new ways.  MASFAA is gearing up for a new year and your 2017-2018 MASFAA committee chairs are now starting to develop their plans and build their teams for the work that lies ahead.  Come be a part of it.  Volunteer today as our association needs your knowledge, creativity, insights and passions to help us make a difference for our students, organizations and peers throughout our nine state region.

Thomas Ratliff
MASFAA President

Volunteer today
Below are images to show you what to expect from the form.

"Make Every Moment Count" - Be A Moderator

Want to know how you can "Make Every Moment Count" in Dayton? VOLUNTEER! We are asking everyone to help the planning committee by signing up to be a session moderator. If you've never been a moderator before, go out on a limb and try it! Email Jennifer Schroeder at by August 31 stating your interest and if you have a specific session(s) you’d like to moderate.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer Institute 2017 Reflections

by Rachel Henry, Assistant Director, Cornell College

MASFAA Summer Institute--12 financial aid topics, 5 days, and 1 dynamic community of financial aid professionals! I attended the Summer Institute this past June and am so glad I did! As a newer financial aid professional, this experience was the boot camp that I needed to understand the essential components of financial aid as well as identify resources to dive deep into topics that apply directly to my work at Cornell College. My favorite part of the Summer Institute was the fast-paced, information packed content sessions. Our knowledgeable and fun Institute faculty provided core information on each financial aid topic, time to work through real-world examples, and space to discuss how the topics played out on our campuses. My only regret was wishing I had brought a print out of the NASFAA workbook on each topic (along with the slides I printed out) so that I could more easily have marked up the examples to include with my notes. 

After the Summer Institute was over, the learning and application didn’t stop there! I solidified my Institute knowledge by taking the NASFAA credential exams on the presented topics. I earned 9 of the credential exams after Institute, having already earned 2 previously. Taking the credential exams encouraged me to reflect back on my learning and to continue to identify how to apply these concepts in my role as an Assistant Director. Specifically, combining information I learned from the Needs Analysis session and reworking EFC hand calculations before the exam reinforced my understanding of the different factors that play into a student’s EFC figure—a helpful skill when speaking with students and families about the FAFSA and reviewing FAFSAs. 

Overall, it was a valuable professional experience and I would recommend it to anyone in the field, both newcomers and seasoned financial aid professionals alike—there is something for everyone at MASFAA Summer Institute!

MASFAA 2017 Summer Institute Success

This year 246 credentials were completed by Summer Institute participants within the 40 day window. We also had 6 participants complete 10 or more credentials within the 40 day window. That’s some serious test taking! 

Casey Herman from the University of Michigan is the recipient of the Summer Institute Credential Completion Scholarship.  This scholarship covers one MASFAA Conference registration in October 2017. 

We also want to recognize Vie Ward from the University of Illinois for completing all 12 credentials within the 40 day window.  Vie will also be attending the MASFAA conference as the Zina Haywood Scholarship recipient. 

Charlie Cox from Spoon River College will be receiving a prize for high credential completion, but already having credentials earned before Summer Institute.  Charlie has now earned all 12 credentials.  

The following individuals earned 10-12 credentials!

Krystal Wilson – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rachel Moser – Luther College
Rachel Henry – Cornell College
Antonio Junior-Robins – University of Michigan
Lesley Buse – Norther Iowa Community College

Monday, July 31, 2017

MASFAA 2017 Conference Registration Open

Greetings MASFAA!

On behalf of the entire MASFAA Executive Council, we would like to invite you to join us in Dayton, Ohio for the 2017 MASFAA Conference!

October 8th – 11th we will be coming together in the “Birthplace of Aviation” for our annual conference.  Making Every Moment Count is the 2017 theme and the program is certain to soar to new levels of fun and information!

Visit the link below to register for the conference, book your hotel room, view a tentative agenda and more!  And stay tuned as much more information will be coming soon!


MASFAA Local Arrangements Committee Co-Chairs:
Emily Haynam, The Ohio State University
Betsy Johnson, Bowling Green State University

Monday, July 24, 2017

What is a Bullet Journal (and why would I want to know)?

Those that know me know I love organizational systems. I've tried them all. Some people even call me organized. It's not me, it's the system.  Those that know me also know my fondness for technology. You may be surprised to hear the system that has made the biggest difference for me only requires a notebook and a pen. It’s called a bullet journal.

Why Bullet Journal?

Is your desk covered in post-it notes?

Do you know you wrote something down, but just don’t know where?

Do ever get the nagging feeling you are forgetting something?

The bullet journal system has helped me to keep all my work to do lists in one place in order to have them on hand easily. The system of reviewing tasks that were not completed is a really helpful way to regularly reflect and prioritize what is most important going forward.

What is the Bullet Journal?

The Bullet Journal is a system created by Ryder Carroll.

The key to the bullet journal is using easy, quick, and short points to log what you need to do. This is called rapid logging.

Bullets represent tasks, events, notes, and signifiers. Signifiers are symbols to indicate the importance of an item. A typical key includes a bullet for a task, a circle for an event, and a dash for a note. It also includes indicators that a task is complete, that it has been moved forward to the next list, or moved forward to the further out future.

Pages in a journal are broken into modules. (These are more fun than R2T4 in modules!) Standard modules are usually and index, future log, monthly log, weekly log and/or a daily log. I tend to not use the index and prefer a weekly log rather than a daily log.

A future log is a place to note items for upcoming months. A monthly log lets you look at key points in the month at a glance and create a master list of tasks you would like to accomplish in the month. The daily or weekly log is the tasks and events that are actually going to take place on a given day.

Not just a task list.

The bullet journal isn’t just an organized task list. It is a system to ensure every task is dealt with. At the end of a day/week/month every task should be addressed. It is either marked as completed, migrated forward to the next day/week/month, moved to a future month, or determined to no longer be relevant.

This regular review of tasks is the key to the bullet journal’s productivity. It is a mindful way of ensuring you are focused on the right tasks to get you where you need to be.

The video below is from Ryder Carroll himself on how to bullet journal.

Stay tuned for a series of future blog posts on bullet journaling and productivity in the aid office! Please let me know what questions you have and they will be addressed in a future post!

Melissa Haberman
Financial Aid Director
University of Wisconsin Extension

Friday, July 21, 2017

MASFAA Registration? Of Course! It’s worth the short wait…

Greetings MASFAA!  Welcome to the heart of summer!  This is a special time of year that brings us reasons to celebrate like sunny days, vacation time and the opportunity to register for the upcoming MASFAA Conference.  Hopefully you have already had a chance to enjoy the first two.  That third one will be open very soon; it would have been available already except I slowed the process down.  I didn’t mean to create a bottleneck, but something just had to be fixed. 

For many years now I have believed the timing of MASFAA membership has been flawed in that current year membership was required in order to attend the annual conference, yet that membership year would end on October 31st, just a few weeks after the conference.  So annually those who waited to renew their memberships along with their annual conference registrations only received a month or two of MASFAA member benefit before it would expire.  That simply didn’t make sense as we want our members to both benefit from and contribute to MASFAA initiatives for a full year. 

I couldn’t accept having MASFAA members receive only limited value from their MASFAA dues any longer.  So I proposed a change to the MASFAA Board that would assure everyone attending our annual conference would be granted a full year of MASFAA membership benefits to follow.  I am grateful to say that your Board acknowledged the issue and responded by approving a positive change for our upcoming conference, giving even more improvement than I had asked for (at least for this year)! 

Our 2017 MASFAA Conference fee and 2017-2018 MASFAA membership dues are bundled together in a single total MASFAA Conference registration cost of just $400.  This is a $40 savings over costs that had already been approved!  Your Board and I want you to see that MASFAA is affordable, meaningful and focused on helping meet your professional needs.  With this reduced cost structure the 2017 MASFAA Conference will have the following charge options:

For Most of Us:
$400  Full Conference Registration and full 2017-2018 year MASFAA Membership
$220  One Day Conference Registration and full 2017-2018 year MASFAA Membership

For Retirees (except Ohio – our host state):
$195  Retirees Full Conference Registration and full 2017-2018 year MASFAA Membership
$105  Retirees One Day Conference Registration and full 2017-2018 year MASFAA Membership

For OASFAA Members (our host state for which we waive MASFAA Membership dues requirements):
$400  Full Conference Registration and full 2017-2018 year MASFAA Membership
$365  Full Conference Registration only
$220  One Day Conference Registration and full 2017-2018 year MASFAA Membership
$185  One Day Conference Registration only
$185  Ohio Retirees Full Registration only
$  95  Ohio Retirees One-Day Registration only

The newly remodeled Marriott at University of Dayton hotel room rate is just $129 per night for all attendees.  (This is nearly 30% less expensive per night than the FSA’s Swan and Dolphin conference site.  I’m just sayin’…)

It is my sincere hope that our 2017 MASFAA Conference cost structure is something you will be excited to see, find appealing and be beneficial to you.  MASFAA wants you.  We want your ideas, your passions and participation in our annual conference and even more in all we do during the year to make a positive difference for our students and our profession.  MASFAA is strong because of our members.  I’m thrilled that your Board committed to help your strength shine with us for a full year with this new structure for 2017. 

Registration for the conference will be available as soon as we get these costs updated on our website.  Watch for the announcement and jump on it in the coming week so you can attend the MASFAA Conference on October 8 – 11 in Dayton, Ohio!  We’ll be Making Every Moment Count!

Thomas Ratliff, MASFAA President

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dynamic Blog Layout

Have you noticed that the blog looks a little different? It has been redesigned to use a dynamic template. This template is suited to look best on smart phones and tablets to make it even easier for you to access blog content. The same great content is still there.

Old Look

New Look

We are looking for someone to resign the header banner to fit better with the new look and feel. Please let us know if that might be you! Contact Melissa Haberman or Jayme Jarrett for more info!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Make Plans to Attend Conference: Keynote Speakers Announced!

Prepare to Make Every Moment Count at the MASFAA Conference. Not only will there be an agenda packed with a wide variety of interest and business solution sessions but the keynote speakers and plenary sessions will offer opportunities for personal and professional growth as well.

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University will share their research. Since 2003, the Institute has been educating the public, building the capacity of allied social justice organizations, and investing in efforts that support equity and inclusion. Their mission is simple: we work to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.

Eve Rips, Director of Regional Strategy for Young Invincibles will join us to share YI’s story. Young Invincibles was founded in the summer of 2009, motivated by the recognition that young people’s voices were not being heard in the debate over health care reform. In a little more than a year, ‘YI’ went from a group run out of a law school cafeteria to a national organization, representing the interests of 18 to 34-year-olds. Today, 8 years after its founding, YI supports policies and programs that address economic challenges young people face in our country with a focus on education, jobs and healthcare.

No MASFAA conference would be complete without our NASFAA colleagues. President Justin Draeger and 2017-18 NASFAA Chair Billie Jo Hamilton will be stopping by to update us on what’s going on within our national organization and inside the beltway.

It is only three short months away. Mark your calendars and plan to join us in Dayton October 8-11. Information about registration will be coming shortly!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Financial Aid Reads for 2017-2018

by Melissa Haberman, University of Wisconsin Extension

July brings a new fiscal aid year for financial aid professionals. It's a great time to set professional development goals. Reading is a cost effective way to gain knowledge and perspective. Did you know that most staff members at universities and colleges may use the institution's library to borrow books. Also, my local library is fantastic and has all of these mentioned below. I love libraries!

Recommended reading for financial aid professionals for 2017-2018.

The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever
This book came up at the 2017 NASFAA Conference during NASFAA President Justin Draeger's update. I attended a fantastic session from him at a conference this last year where he shared key points from this book.The book is by the author of the "in plain English" videos from Common Craft, these were the first videos that explained emerging technology in a way that we could all understand when it was so new that no one knew what it was all about.

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George Thompson and Jerry Jenkins
I learned about this book during a session on leadership from MASFAA's Paula Luff (DePaul University) and Dan Mann (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) at the 2017 NASFAA Conference. (Leadership session PDF) Communicating complex regulations and consequences of policy decisions is key for anyone in financial aid.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
This book tells the stories of eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I often refer people to the 2009 Washington Post article The High Cost of Poverty: Why the Poor Pay More; this book looks to be a deep dive into the lives of those living in extreme poverty and the catastrophic impact of inadequate housing. Having lived in Milwaukee for 10 years, and having known people who were evicted and had to rebuild their lives as a result, this book holds a particular interest to me. However, I think this is important reading for anyone working in financial aid.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown

I can't recommend the work of Brene Brown enough. She addressing things like perfectionism, numbing, and foreboding joy that get in the way of living our best lives and being our best selves.

Her Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability is a great place to start.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
This is a fantastic novel that I could not put down. First published in 1979 it is every bit as relevant and important today. I read this several months ago, but I would like to reread it again this year. It is a time travel story of a black women from 1976 who is pulled back in time to Maryland 1815 to meet her great-great-grandfather, a young white boy. Her experience of slavery from a modern perspective and her conflicting feelings about her ancestors are powerful and engaging. I will give a warning that there is some graphic violence, but it is necessary to the story and the depiction of slavery. The author herself is the first black female writer of science fiction during a time when most science fiction was written by white men (I'm not sure how different that is now). I am looking forward to reading her other works as well. 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This Pulitzer Prize winning novel, published in 2016, depicts the journey of young Cora as she seeks freedom from slavery by traveling north. I'm not sure what I'll think about the actual working railroad that the author uses here as it is not at all historically accurate, but I have otherwise heard good things about the themes confronted in the book.

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sustein

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

2017 NASFAA Conference presentation "A Little Nudge Goes A Long Way" with presenters Phillip Schuman (MASFAA member, Indiana Univeristy), Carissa Uhlman (Ineptia), and William J. Calvn (State University of New York System Administration) mentioned these three books. (Nudge session PDF) I've been hearing about Nudge for a while, first from Justin Chase Brown (former MASFAA member, now in Nebraska). It is important to consider how we are helping students with what we do and don't do.

"If anything you do influences the way people choose, then you are a choice architect" - Richard Thaler

What is on your list?! We'd love to hear from you.

For more ideas, take a look at this list of recommendations from 2015.

Monday, July 3, 2017

NASFAA 2017 Recap

NASFAA 2017 – San Diego

San Diego – what a beautiful place to hold NASFAA 2017.  The conference was a huge success, drawing close to 2,400 of our closest financial aid colleagues to discuss all things related to providing access and affordability to higher education.  The conference was held at the San Diego Convention center (middle of the photo above, just above Coronado Island).  A few themes emerged from the conference, with the hot topic of Year Round Pell, Are you doing it? How? Can I see your drawings of how you worked out the technical issues?  Arguably the one topic that caused a few standing ovations and a few tears was retirement of Jeff Baker. 
Now, what better way to recognize the retirement of the Director of Policy, than with a cake, with a copy of the DCL that announced his hire (of course, an FAA saved that).  That’s how the NASFAA board chose to celebrate Jeff’s last board visit. 

A common theme of the NASFAA conference was #Fight4FinAid, complete with a ralley led by Megan Coval.  President Trump’s budget proposal calls for significant reductions in financial aid, with NASFAA developing a tool to determine the impact on your campus.  I’d encourage you to calculate your number and share it with your campus adminstrators.  As Megan noted “budget cuts sting like a bee” hence the catchy web address.

For those of you that haven’t attended a national conference, it is reminiscent of your state and regional conference, but on a grand scale.  I’ve found it easy to know if I’m in the hot topic session based on who is there and how full the room might be.  Many sessions are standing room only and push some serious firecode limits.  Sessions were so packed with info that some presenters dominated the discussion and didn’t share with their panel, so work out those logistics before you hit the big stage.  For those number gurus, 20% of NASFAA attendees were first timers and 20% were also from California.  I met a number of people through the conference app, which encouraged you to scan other people’s badges.  It’s hard not to sound like a pick-up cliché when you say, “Hi, I’m Nick from Missouri, mind if I scan your badge?” 

At the conclusion of the conference is the passing of the gavel.  Dr. Lisa Blazer passed leadership to Billie Jo Hamilton of the University of South Florida.  Billie Jo got her start in financial aid at Pittsburg State University as a FWS student and has had stops at KU Med, Mizzou, and Missouri State, meaning she has deep ties to MASFAA and MASFAP.  I am sure you will also notice a familiar face on the board, as the Past MASFAA President Lori Vedder moves on to the board as National Chair Elect. 

One of the things that makes me proud is the continued presence of MASFAA on the NASFAA Board of Directors.  For the 2017-18 year MASFAA will be represented by: Lori Vedder, Angela Johnson, Jackie Kennedy-Fletcher, Kim Jenerette, Doug Levy, Thomas Ratliff, and myself.  If you have questions or concerns about NASFAA, feel free to reach out to our MASFAA members, and remember they are here to listen and pass along any concerns you may have. 
Up next for your MASFAA board is the President Elect retreat at the end of July.  If you have any concerns or causes you would like your MASFAA leaders to undertake for the next year, please let any board member know. 

This post submitted by Nick Prewett, MASFAA President-Elect.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Highlights from the 2017 MASFAA Summer Institute

Celebrate Your Peers - Nominate Them For an AWARD Today!

Move over, Oscar!  Take a seat, Grammy.  Emmy, you’ve got nothing on Allan W. Purdy!!  The MASFAA Awards celebration is on the horizon.  This is MASFAA’s annual opportunity to celebrate our colleagues for their hard work and dedication to financial aid.  The awards given out include: Allan W. Purdy Distinguished Service Award, Meritorious Service Award, Outstanding New Professional Award, State Leadership Award, and Award of Appreciation.  For further descriptions of each award and to find a list of past winners, please visit:

                Awards will be given out at the 2017 MASFAA Conference in Dayton Ohio, October 8-11; however, the nomination form is available now!!  Please take the opportunity today to help us recognize one of your peers and their special contributions.  2017 MASFAA Online Nomination Form

Monday, June 5, 2017

No Sleep ‘Till (DUM DUM DUM DUMMMMM) IRS Data Retrieval!*

*Read to the tune of the Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”

          The field of financial aid is filled with selfless people. We work hard to provide access and affordability in higher education, and while we all know what we signed up for (or maybe you didn’t, but you sure know now!), we forget that sometimes students can be grumpy, stressed, or just plain mean. Thank yous are rare from students, but we love what we do, and have a passion to make the financial aid process better (even if we complain endlessly to our significant others and/or mom). This has never been as prevalent as the last six or so months when this crazy, amazing financial aid horde banded together in the name of advocacy. The advocacy efforts made by financial aid administrators have been amazing to behold. Until this advocacy mob swept across the nation, I thought financial aid was static. Changes were made at the federal level, and then immediately embraced by our field without any fight. And then, there was a change. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool went down with no warning or information, but verification requirements stayed the same. We struggled to help students complete verification, and sent so many 4506-Ts that we could fill the form out in our sleep (get that line 5 filled in, baby!). I had phone calls with parents sobbing because they just didn’t know how they would be able to get us their tax return transcript, but their student had a 399 code with a deadline before aid would be cancelled. As these stories came up across the country, it was like a jet engine revving up. Calls to action were sent out across the country. #IRSDRT was tweeted out. I had students writing letters to their congressmen and women. I was writing letters, everybody was writing letters! Calls were made and we stood up as a profession and refused to let these burdens weigh on our students. 
            And let me tell you, before I realized that I could participate in this advocacy mob, I had NO interest in politics, and honestly, I was a little sketchy on how the government worked… Fifth grade was so long ago! But I jumped in, got the basics from listening to other people talk, said a few stupid things in big groups (once I asked how many Senators there are…SO embarrassing), but I have learned a ton in just the last few months about how not only legislation is proposed and passed, but also the best ways to advocate for my students. It starts with those stories! All of those people we have met, all of those students and families we have helped, and all of those ridiculous issues we have encountered really open legislators eyes to what we deal with on a daily basis. It also gives our positions and ideas clout: this needs to be changed because it is negatively impacting my students in this way, etc. And look what we accomplished! Getting to the bottom of the IRS DRT shutdown. Verification relief. Year-round Pell. I give credit to my mob friends with a shout out to our NASFAA godfather! Advocacy on the behalf of our students and their families has made a huge difference, and I am excited to see this horde of financial aid administrators continue to improve the federal aid process.

            Come join the advocacy mob! Reach out to your Legislative Committee. Google “how the government works” (or at least watch this quick video even if it’s a little outdated:).
 Read NASFAA’s daily newsletter. Ask questions. Write letters. Make calls. And definitely don’t sleep until the DRT is back online.

Post written by Keri Gilbert, Financial Aid Advisor at University of Missouri-Columbia
Keri was the recipient of the NASFAA regional scholarship - and as you can see, she's still "Weirdly Passionate." -jj

Monday, May 22, 2017

My experience as a MASFAA Exchange Participant by Gisella Baker

I had the privilege of attending the Minnesota State Conference at the Madden’s On Gull Lake in Brainerd, MN recently and I can only say “Wow!” to that experience.  Even before getting to the conference, Meredith Hauer and Dick Battig made sure I was ready to go and experience their awesome northern hospitalityJ  Then Gayle Yamry, as MAFAA President, and her association members made me feel very welcomed and not as an ‘outsider’ during my entire visit.  Thus to all of you, Thank you so much!

The MASFAA Exchange Program allows State Presidents (or state representatives) to experience how another MASFAA state conducts its conferences.  This is not just as a way to “spy” and “borrow” ideas on how to enhance our own state association conference programs, but also as a way to network with other fellow colleagues, absorb more financial aid knowledge, expand leadership relationships and have fun while at it!

I have to congratulate the MAFAA Program and Site committees for putting together a great conference!  The location was so beautiful, relaxed and made the conference flow so well.  The presenters did a great job, including those that did their first NASFAA Credential Course as the pre-conference agenda.  David Bartnicki, the federal trainer, made his presentations very unique and loved how personable, knowledgeable and funny he was.  He even sang and performed for us twice at the end of his general sessions (not to also mention he incorporated financial aid related jokes into his presentations).  A true southern personality!

This visit is another perk that I got to enjoy because once upon a time I had the courage to say “Yes!” to volunteering for my state association and then for MASFAA.  I strongly encourage you to consider volunteering first at whatever you feel comfortable with, and then taking a leap of faith and say “Yes!” when being asked to be put on an elected ballot.  What you receive in return far outweighs the additional time you spend fulfilling volunteering duties, especially the long lasting relationships and friendships near and far.

Thank you IASFAA for electing me as your 2017-18 president!  Thank you MASFAA for sponsoring me to participate in this Exchange Program!  It was a very memorable experience <3

Gisella Baker 
Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo, Iowa
2017-18 IASFAA President
2016-17 MASFAA Awards Chair

Monday, May 15, 2017

President-Elect Tour Blog

by Nick Prewett

One of the pleasures of serving as MASFAA President-elect is attending state conferences outside of my home association of MASFAP.  Meeting new individuals, making new connections, and learning from engaging speakers is important and what our profession is about.  Sharing ideas, learning how to navigate grey rules, and hopefully make connections for the future.  As President-elect, I have the opportunity to meet state leaders and to compare state organization and structure.   Thus far my travels have taken me to Indiana, Illinois, and lovely Brainerd, Mn.  For those curious, the flight from Minneapolis to Brainerd was 22 mins wheels up to wheels down and if you do not turn off your cell phone, you seem to get data the entire flight at 11,000 feet in the sky (or so someone told me).  

Attending a new conference brings me back to my early days as a financial aid professional.  At the time, I had no idea what being a financial aid professional meant, but I will always remember attending my first KASFAA conference in Topeka.  I admit this was prior to the social media days where you could keep up with colleagues around the country with a simple scan of your newsfeed.  I was amazed at how people seemed to know each other, specific family details, and exchange numerous long lost friend hugs.  I soon found that after a few conferences I transformed into one of those individuals.  My personal connections helped me with the transition from KASFAA/RMASFAA to MASFAP/MASFAA.  I truly believe connections around the country help me focus on my career as a financial aid professional. 

After years of working in financial aid, attending a new conference of any kind still gives me a bit of anxiety: Who will I know?  Where will I sit with at lunch?  Will anyone take me along with them to dinner? Will I end up alone in my room early at night?  Are people going to attend my session?
If you have ever had any of these feelings then you have been to a conference.  If you have overcome these feelings then you have conferenced.  If you met someone and followed up after the conference or at another conference, then you have done it well.   If you built a boat out of cardboard and beat Sarah Edward’s team in a pool boat race, while accidently hitting Lori Vedder in the shin with a paddle, then you have excelled. 

So on to these questions:

Who will I know?  Actually lots of people it turns out.  At ISFAA and ILASFAA I knew a fair number of the people there.  For Indiana I drove in, getting up at 5 am to be to Indy to present a credentialing session at 1pm.  Alex and Heidi welcomed me immediately upon arrival.  It was great getting to know the new leaders of ISFAA.  At ILASFAA due to a time commitment I flew, arriving at the hotel at 8:15 am.  Bill met me at the front desk and gave me a rundown of the day.  As I investigated the hotel layout, I continually bumped into people I knew.  Tim, an SI participant came up to me and said he had had great success using red solo cups to practice packaging.  (I guess people do pay attention) At MAFAA I arrived after dark to a sandwhich and sweet tea waiting in my room for me and quickly connected with Gale and Dick the next morning. 

Where will I sit for lunch?  This is always tricky, I often find the table game of where to sit and when to sit to be a challenge.  No one wants to be the first person or the last person through a buffet line.  At ISFAA I was encouraged to sit at the reserved tables up front, which takes the pressure off because I know many in the leadership.  At ILASFAA I found a number on the back of my name badge that told me where to sit so I could “network.”  As part of an ice breaker they distributed bouncy balls with random questions written on them.  We would toss it around the table and where your thumb landed, you had to answer that question.  (For the record, I would prefer a broken arm to a broken leg).  MAFAA did things just a bit different with most meals in a restaurant, it is always tough to pick a 4, 6, 8 or 10 top table to sit at.  For me, I just take a leap of faith and sit to meet someone new. 

Will anyone take me along for dinner?  Both ISFAA and ILASFAA had an evenings on your own.  At ISFAA on the first night Marvin took me out to dinner for ISFAA, he was an expert on Indy and took me to the places that I would find enjoyable (he chose wisely).  One the second night Alex took me in his lovely vanilla smelling car to a BBQ place in a fluffy snowstorm.  For ILASFAA a number of people checked in with me to ensure I had a ride and I ended up in the third row seating with Katie Cooper (a state president exchanger from WV) in Michelle Trame’s Ford Explorer.  (For the record, it is advisable to put the 3rd row head rests up before sitting in the very back, else it feels like a medieval torture device for your back.) 

Will I end up in my room early?  One of my beliefs about any conference is that people should NEVER go to their room before the late nightly news.  While I get the idea that people need down time, just think that you have put time into getting somewhere to meet people and learn stuff and the last thing should be doing is watching Scandal in your room alone.  For me that is not how you conference.  ISFAA had an evening reception that turned into dinner out and the opportunity to make new friends.  MAFAA had a night of bingo (Howdy Gary my MAFAA bingo buddy!) and a night of glow in the dark golf that sadly was canceled due to the monsoon rains.  At ILASFAA there were minute to win it type game (my team won for the record), a dance floor and card games.  One new activity for a conference was the obsession of ILASFAA folks putting together puzzles, but at least people were socializing. 

Are people going to attend my session?  I think anyone presenting hopes that people show up.  At a conference, I always look at the schedule, find my time, and then see what I am up against.  Honestly, no one wants to go up against an Ask a Fed, a town hall, or NASFAA credentialing, but you take what you can get to expand your profession.  I always review the presentation schedules balancing content and presenter ability when I pick a session, the last thing you want is to be in a session with someone reading slides.  MAFAA had one session for me and based on a solid crowd in my room, I’m guessing I wasn’t up against a federal session.  At ISFAA I had one session + a credentialing and at ILASFAA I presented two sessions.  I thought the material flowed and the questions were good.  I hope people learned from what I had to say and I will be eagerly awaiting those follow-up email questions.  (tip-great way to add to your network is to send a thank you or follow-up questions).

On my tour around MASFAA I’ve completed 3 states of the 3 I’s, 3 M’s, and WOW roadshow.  Based on what I’ve seen thus far I am excited to report the future is bright for financial aid administrators in our region and I look forward to seeing new faces in the MASFAA leadership.   I consider financial aid a profession, so networking is part of that.  I challenge everyone to attend a conference and get out of your comfort zone, remember we all have that new kid in school feeling sometimes, let’s do all we can to welcome our fellow FAA’s.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Summer Institute Experience

by Keri Gilbert, Financial Aid Advisor, University of Missouri

I remember when my supervisor came bouncing into my office to tell me I was going to Summer Institute. “Oh yeah, it’ll be great! It’s a week in a dorm and going through NASFAA Credential courses!” I was so hesitant at first. What if everyone is mean? What if the dorms are crawling with spiders and mice? What if the material is too hard? After my first few hours, I realized that everyone was super nice and very outgoing (which is nice for people like me that are a little introverted…) and I didn’t see a spider, mouse, or anything terrifying in the dorms. As for the material? I learned a ton! It was a great week learning the foundations of financial aid and how all of the different pieces fit together. I loved getting to know my fellow financial aid administrators and it was so interesting to discuss how different things are at other schools. And I have got to say, earning NASFAA Credentials is awesome! Not only are you learning things that help you advise families, process aid, or whatever you do in your office, but passing a test and having your name added to the Credential Honor Roll feels great! So far I have earned 16 NASFAA Credentials, and from each subject I have gained at least one (usually it is more like 100) thing that has helped me in my job.

Summer Institute is a great way to ease into association activities and really see what this crazy profession is all about. You meet people that are from different schools, different regions, and follow different procedures in their office, but you all have one thing in common: financial aid! I found that starting a conversation with a group of people I didn’t know was as easy as asking “what is the craziest student interaction you have ever had?” Everyone is so nice and welcoming, and the faculty were awesome! Many of the connections I made at Summer Institute have helped me get involved in my state association (MASFAP) and MASFAA.

 I can honestly say that the week at Summer Institute changed how I think about my job, and helped me discover a passion for financial aid. If you can go, you gotta do it! If you have people in your office that you think would benefit from attending (which they will), make them go! I promise they will thank you later (Thanks, Nick!)

Find out more about the Summer Institute at

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Make a Great Choice - Make Every Moment Count

The upshot of a recent article on the internet suggested that having choices increases our motivation and has a positive effect on our learning. When choices are used properly, they can be used to combat two common challenges: the feeling that things are boring and mundane and the feeling that situations are hard and daunting.

While we know our profession can be daunting at times, the MASFAA conference will be neither boring nor mundane. Offering an abundance of choices the conference include tracks on Best Practices, Innovation/New Ideas, Financial Literacy, Back to the Basics and “Awesome” Sessions.  See the tentative list of sessions here.

From Manager to Advisor - anyone looking to help their office advance to the next level of thinking and technology will find something of interest.  Make Every Moment Count and plan to attend the MASFAA conference in Dayton October 8-11, 2017.

Monday, April 17, 2017

MASFAA Summer Institute Experience by Felicia Drayton, Haywood Legacy Scholarship Recipient

My MASFAA Summer Institute Experience 

About the program…
MASFAA Summer Institute gave me an experience beyond my expectations. It was like a Financial Aid 101 Intensive and I LOVED every minute of it.
My goals were to meet as many people as possible, collect as many business cards as I could and to leave without any of my own. I wanted to learn and generate as many relationships as possible AND I did!
I also unexpectedly received the Haywood Legacy Scholarship as a result of my goals to learn, connect and have fun which paid for my attendance at the 2016 Fall MASFAA Conference. I was speechless.
The Summer Institute expanded my understanding of the Financial Aid world on the local, state and national levels. My mind was blown to realize the various ways you can have an impact on the future of financial aid through your participation in our local, state and national financial aid associations.

The things I learned…
I learned that though there are concretes and non-negotiables within the realm of financial aid, there are also so many ways to come up with the same result to best serve our students. I learned that depending on the school and population, processes and procedures may be different from another school and this is OKAY.
I learned that I can always reach out to a colleague from another institution because we’re not in competition, we’re in partnership for the greater good of financial aid as a whole. 

How much fun I had…
I am truly thankful for the thoughtful evening events that made me step out and enjoy the company of my peers after a long day of learning. I had so much fun not only experiencing this new place, but new experiences with people I would’ve otherwise never had such an experience with. It was like experiencing the best parts of college all over again; learning, growing and collaborating. 

People I met/relationships made…
I have at least 30 business cards from people I’ve emailed at least once. When events come up, I reach out to them to see if they’ll be in the area so we can catch up with one another. The great thing is…now if I’m anywhere in the Midwest, I have a colleague in the area I can reach out to. 

Credentials I earned…
I walked away with the knowledge to achieve all 12 credentials and managed to complete two more! Now I have 14 credentials and a year ago, I didn’t even know there were such a thing.

Submitted by Felicia Drayton, Senior Financial Aid Administrator, University of Michigan, MASFAA Summer Institute Haywood Legacy Scholarship Recipient