What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas: The NASFAA 2013 Conference!

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Whew! I’ve just returned from what proved to be an amazing NASFAA 2013 Conference! I arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday and headed towards the excitement already taking place in the Aria. While standing in line to check-in, my anticipation was building as I could see members walking around with their conference nametags proudly displayed and NASFAA tote bags in hand. Everyone was eagerly chatting about which sessions they would be attending, what they were most looking forward to learning about, and how great the opening session with Dr. Hrabowski had been.

When I arrived at the convention center I was greeted by the smiling faces at the NASFAA information booth and then I headed over to my home for the next three days: the exhibit hall! The hall was buzzing with lots of exhibitor booths, the first-timer and retiree areas, and the NASFAA booth. This was such a perfect place to be, as I got to interact with so many NASFAA members. I had the opportunity to chat with aid administrators, meet lots of first-timers, retirees, board members, Dallas Martin Fund for Education (DME) advisory committee members, and more. It was especially great to see what a genuinely fantastic time everyone was having. More often than I can count attendees stopped by to share how much they were enjoying the conference and how informative and helpful they found their sessions. It was also very humbling to hear many people say they recognized me, and once I introduced myself, hear they had been following my blog! The members were all wonderful, and many shared their career history and gave me very positive and encouraging advice for the future and my hopes of working in financial aid.

Sunday night was fun, as we broke out the NASFAA temporary tattoos during the welcome reception! I became the official conference tattoo-er, and it was a blast! I’m not sure how many tattoos we put on that night (in lots of fun places!) but it was great to see members enjoying themselves so much! Many posed for fun pictures with Gary Edmunds, NASFAA creative services manager and Micah Jordan, NASFAA training support specialist, and proudly sported their NASFAA ‘tat’ around for the rest of the conference. While tattoo-ing people I had the chance to chat with lots of members and see what a large representation of the country was at our conference. I met aid administrators from almost every state and sector and each told me about their institutions. After the reception ended I headed out with a great group of first-time attendees for an evening at the Dueling Piano Bar at the New York, New York Hotel (the one time I actually left the Aria!) As a fellow first-timer, it was interesting to hear others’ thoughts on the conference and what they were taking away, and planning to take away, from their attendance.

Tuesday’s annual business meeting was another great highlight of the conference. Ron Day, 2012-13 national chair, gave a moving speech about the past year at NASFAA, and shared how truly meaningful the experience had been to him. After he officially passed the gavel, it was great to hear new 2013-14 National Chair Craig Munier discuss his plans for NASFAA over the next year and what he hoped to accomplish. I can’t wait to continue my involvement with NASFAA after my internship ends in a few weeks and see Craig, the Board of Directors, and the NASFAA staff accomplish all of these goals.

Overall the conference was incredible and I feel so lucky to have attended. The NASFAA members care so deeply about the students they serve and I’m happy there is a venue for them to get together, learn, and share with each other.

Now that I’m back, it has hit me that I only have three weeks left in my time here at NASFAA before I return to Connecticut and finish my master’s degree in student development in higher education. While I can’t wait to return home, I wish I could freeze time each day to extend my experience a bit longer. There’s so much left for me to do, including a book review for the Journal of Student Financial Aid, and more--I have no doubt time is going to start flying by!

Charlotte

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