Monday, January 30, 2017

Leadership Spotlight - Gena Boling

Name, title, school, role in MASFAA
Gena Boling, Associate Director of Financial Aid, University of Missouri, Co-Chair of 2017 Conference Program
(You might know me as the one who turned lip-syncing into a contact sport)

How did you get started in financial aid?
I’d been working in higher education for several years but in Student Affairs, both in Student Life and Residence Life. I worked with student organizations, Greek Life, student conduct, student activities, and then I lived on campus as a Residence Hall Director doing all of that at once. I got married, my husband moved into my Residence Hall apartment with me, later we had a child. I decided when our son was two that I was finished taking 3am calls to deal with boys and their bodily functions and began to look for a change. I’d always been fascinated by federal regulations and conversations I had with students about Satisfactory Academic Progress and aid eligibility and thought I’d give financial aid a whirl. I had no idea I’d love it as much as I do! But, just know – you can take the girl out of Student Affairs but you can’t take the Student Affairs out the girl. Ice breakers, anyone??

How did you first become involved in your state and regional associations?
I met with an Associate Member during their school visit and they suggested I get involved. I had no idea where to even get started, so he walked me through the state association’s website and showed me where to learn more about committees and how to fill out a volunteer form. But I didn’t hear anything! I wasn’t about to give up on getting involved, so when I went to my first conference I tracked down the committee chair for the committee I wanted to join and introduced myself. I also volunteered to work the registration table and moderate a session – I wasn’t waiting for anyone to discover me, I kind of pushed my way into it all! On our first conference call with my committee, I volunteered to take on a project. It wasn’t enough for me to just get my name on a committee list, I wanted to work. That eventually led to chairing a committee, running for office, and being elected as my state association’s President within five years of joining the profession. I set several goals for the association during my Presidency, two of which I’m particularly proud of: 1. to implement NASFAA Credentialing in the state (which we did and have been the leader in the country for the state with the greatest number of credentialed professionals…until the past month – dang you, Georgia! We’re coming after you!); and 2. To develop a leadership development program to identify potential future leaders of the state, regional or national associations and train them on association governance (we have now roughly 15 members who have graduated from the program, a number of them have run for office or are in committee chair positions within the state association). It’s so exciting to see a group of people work together to achieve goals for a common good! My regional involvement began when I volunteered for the MASFAA Awards committee. I then served as the Missouri representative during my year as President-Elect and I’m excited to be back on the board this year as the Conference Program Co-Chair with my good friend Laura Rogers! Dayton is going to rock! I’ve also served on the MASFAA Legislative committee, and have had the great opportunity to participate in two trips to DC to advocate for student aid – a true passion of mine. Additionally, I’ve assisted with the Professional Development committee by being an instructor at Summer Institute – one of the highlights of my involvement thus far!
What advice do you have for someone new to financial aid, and may be interested in becoming more involved in state and regional associations?
Find something you enjoy, volunteer, and then take an active role in your committee work! If you fill out a volunteer form and you don’t hear from anyone, reach out! Sometimes those can get lost in the shuffle of our everyday work lives, it definitely doesn’t mean you’re not wanted!

What financial aid issue is keeping you from falling asleep at night?
My major work projects have been the transition to PPY and Early FAFSA and the transition out of the Quality Assurance program. I’ll be lying in bed and have an idea. I need a dream book, except I’d like to call it my ‘Things to Implement to Avoid Nightmares’ book. Also, sort of related, I’ve had a fair amount of leg pain which stems from a financial aid issue – has been keeping me awake at night since MASFAA 2016. ;)

What do you enjoy doing when you are outside the aid office?
My son is a cub scout and I’m his den leader, so we spend a lot of time doing cub scout things, though I don’t enjoy camping in a tent. I’m an avid reader and enjoy participating in our financial aid book club, though no one took me seriously when I suggested the Federal Student Aid Handbook as our August book suggestion J. My family enjoys traveling so we try to do that as much as possible. We’re history and politics nerds, so wherever we go we try to find something to learn – we love visiting Presidential Libraries and enjoy seeing historic towns and thinking about life as it was for our ancestors.

If you could have lunch with someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

I just finished reading First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower for our financial aid book club and found the backstories of Lady Bird Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, and Hillary Clinton particularly fascinating (sorry Pat Nixon and Michelle Obama – I’m sure you were/are both really cool, too). I’d love to have lunch with any of them, or all at once, to discuss their legacies, hear about all they were able to accomplish and dive into how they were impacted by society and social order of their given eras.

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