New Leadership Conference Format Allows Greater Access, Targeted Experience

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff 

Attendees at next year’s NASFAA Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo will have their choice of two leadership pathways allowing them to receive a more targeted experience than at previous conferences.

The 2015 Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo, taking place March 1-3, 2015, in Washington, D.C., includes two days of sessions on various leadership and professional development topics, followed by a day on Capitol Hill where participants can advocate directly with their congressional delegation on behalf of their students. 

The conference provides NASFAA members with knowledge, perspective, and insight into management issues facing current and future financial aid leaders. Traditionally, the conference has targeted seasoned financial aid professionals and those who are volunteers at the state and regional association levels. 

And this year, NASFAA is expanding the conference to include a track focused on new and aspiring aid directors who want to expand their professional skills and develop their career. 

“The new format will provide session offerings that are more targeted than in past Leadership Conferences, resulting in the participants’ ability to obtain the information most relevant to what they are facing professionally,” said Rich Heath, director of student financial services at Anne Arundel Community College and chair of the Association Management Task Force.

“By opening the conference to rising aid administrators, NASFAA is creating an opportunity to address succession planning in financial aid offices,” stated Heather McDonnell, associate dean of financial aid and admission at Sarah Lawrence College and chair of the New and Aspiring Aid Directors Task Force. 

McDonnell said there has been a significant number of “founding fathers and mothers of financial aid who have retired” in the last five years, creating a need for well-trained successors.

“We have to leave a better trail behind us than ‘Here are the keys, do what you want to do,’” she said, noting the conference sessions will focus on the challenges new aid directors face and how to effectively lead an office. 

While the two tracks will enjoy separate session and networking opportunities, McDonnell and Heath said attendees will also be able to participate in several joint sessions, offering new aid directors and seasoned veterans an opportunity to collaborate and share best practices. 

Here’s a closer look at each track and what you can expect to gain from the experience:

The Association Management Pathway is designed for incoming and future state and regional leaders and those who aspire to a volunteer leadership role. The goal of the track is to help these volunteers prepare for a successful year in office, focusing on the following areas: 

  • Understanding legal, financial, and management issues every leader needs to know;
  • Identifying the characteristics of leadership;
  • Leading and managing change and transition within the association; and
  • Exchanging ideas with state and regional colleagues.

Developing leadership for the state and regional associations is “the key to the sustainability of the organizations and their ability to operate on solid business principles with a high level of professionalism,” Heath said. Participants in this track “will obtain firsthand how other institutions address the same challenges they do and gain an understanding of how cooperation and collaboration can benefit their own institutions.”

The New and Aspiring Aid Director Pathway targets first-year aid directors, as well as assistant or associate directors who are considering advancing their career but need more information or training before making the leap to director. 

The track sessions will be based on concepts from You’re The Director: A Guide to Leadership in Student Financial Aid and will be centered on four themes:  

  • There’s no one way that is best;
  • Recognizing and avoiding the mistakes and missteps from the past; 
  • How to know ‘when you don’t know what you need to know’; and 
  • Best practices and their implementation.

McDonnell said that participants in this track will walk away “with the confidence to step forward and take over a directorship.”

“I think this is an excellent direction for NASFAA to go, becoming even more supportive of people wanting to move forward in their careers,” she said.

Are you interested in attending the 2015 Leadership and Legislative Conference? Check out our website for information on registration and each of the pathways. 


Publication Date: 10/23/2014

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