10 Things I Learned as NASFAA's Policy Intern
Here it is folks, the last Memo from Margot. I’m sure my beloved followers are devastated that they will no longer be hearing about my daily tasks, meetings, and most importantly, my food intake. I hope that my blogs have kept the readers entertained and informed on what is going on at NASFAA and in Washington, DC. Today, instead of just telling everyone about the delicious Chopt’ Santa Fe salad I had for lunch, I will try to stick to the more important matters.
First of all, I want to say thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Thank you to all of the wonderful staff members at NASFAA that worked with me all summer and positively influenced me both as a professional, and as a person. I have learned a tremendous amount from all of the staff here, especially the Policy Team. The opportunities that have been offered to me throughout this internship have been one in a million and I could not be more appreciative.
Another thank you goes out to all of the Dallas Martin Fund supporters. Developing the next generation of financial aid advocates is crucial to the success of the programs the the future competitiveness of the U.S. Your contributions are providing opportunities, like this Policy Internship, to the next generation of advocates, which ensures that financial aid programs will have passionate, young advocates behind them for a long time to come.
Finally, thank you to all of the financial aid administrators out there, because you are the ones that are directly making a difference in students’ lives. The work NASFAA does would be meaningless if administrators weren’t there to follow through and implement the programs effectively. The Financial Aid Office at the institution I attend has greatly impacted my life, and I can’t begin to express the gratitude I feel for those that work there. I know students across the country feel the same way about their own financial aid offices, and it is important that financial aid administrators remember that because we all know that the work can get tiresome and difficult, but it makes a huge difference!
To prove that this internship has not been the standard copy making, paper filing, coffee brewing experience that so many other interns endure, I would like to provide a list of the top 10 skills that I have learned this summer.
- The DC metro is not as hard to navigate as I thought it would be when I first came to DC. Minus one incident of getting on a train going the wrong way, I was able to adequately get around the city! I also learned that when taking a taxi, wearing your seat belt is imperative!
- Trying to make a two hour presentation on Federal Student Aid for congressional staffers entertaining is pretty difficult, but keeping them informed on current programs and issues is crucial to being an effective advocate. The briefing of the National Profile on the Hill greatly improved my time management, organizational, and presentation skill sets.
- Keeping a book review from becoming a book report proved to be challenging, but forced me to utilize critical thinking and analysis. These skills are both invaluable.
- Legislative Staffers are caring, personable people that want to hear from their constituents and learn about issues so they can develop representative, effective policy. They are not the intimidating, scary people that I had nightmares about before my first meeting on the Hill. However, preparedness and professionalism are both required to make the meetings purposeful.
- Copy-editing makes me want to rip my eyes out and I definitely do not have a future in writing books or editing for a magazine or newspaper. However, it is an extremely useful skill, and despite the headaches it may have caused, I really appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the copy-editing process and witness firsthand the work that goes into getting the Journal of Student Financial Aid ready for publishing.
- As much as I like the role of the government, I really don’t like the politics behind it. Why can’t we all just get along?! Unfortunately, I’m not naïve enough to really believe that is realistic or even best. People all have different opinions and perspectives and those differences are what make government effective and representative. Compromise is crucial to reaching a favorable outcome, meaning that open minds and rational thinking are necessary.
- Communication among staff members in an office is extremely important. While each department and position is responsible for specific tasks, many times projects overlap and require team work. I have found that group collaboration often results in the best work. Keeping office members informed and up-to-date on projects and activities creates better cohesiveness and a more productive office.
- Financial Aid Administrators know how to work, but they also know how to play! In Chicago the conference attendees worked hard all day, attending sessions and meals, but come 5 o’clock, all bets were off. Being able to find that balance is crucial to having a happy, successful life! For me the consumption of chocolate is a must!
- Education associations and advocates work hard to represent the interests of their own members, as well as the entire education community as a whole. There is a lot of overlap regarding education policy, meaning that we are often a united front, whether it be K-12, Technical or Vocational education, or Higher Education. These relationships and alliances are extremely important to ensure a bright future for education.
- The work that NASFAA or any other association accomplishes would not be possible without a strong, active membership. The committees and taskforces that NASFAA convenes are the fires that fuel our advocacy work here in DC. The government is reliant on NASFAA and other associations to help form policy, NASFAA is reliant on our members to provide input on the efficiencies and inefficiencies of financial aid programs, Financial Aid Administrators are reliant on students that are directly impacted by the programs, and students are reliant on all of the levels working together to provide them with the best opportunities possible to gain access and succeed in higher education.
As this chapter of my life closes, a new one begins. In a short couple of weeks I will be leaving for a semester abroad in Oxford, England studying European history. Then I will return to complete my undergraduate degrees in Economics and Public Policy and graduate in May 2013. I look forward to my upcoming adventures, but will surely miss my time in DC with NASFAA. This is only farewell for now, as I can definitely see myself returning to the world of Higher Education in the future! As many professionals have told me, once you’re in this industry it’s not easy to get out, and that is alright by me.
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