Hello again! It is hard to believe it, but this week marks the end of my internship with NASFAA! Over the past 10 weeks I have made many memories that I wish to share with you all. I can't capture all of the experiences that I've had since my first blog post in June, so instead I have curated a list of highlights from both my work experiences and my adventures in Washington, D.C.!
The Conference: It was a blast participating in this year's NASFAA National Conference. Not only were the speakers at the sessions great and informative, but I also got to meet various financial aid administrators and learn about larger financial aid-related issues that I had not thought of before, such as the role of financial aid in strategic enrollment management plans. So far, I've gone back and watched seven live-streamed sessions that I was unable to sit in. I have about 17 more to go, so there's still a lot of information out there for me to soak up!
National Student Aid Profile: Having the opportunity to present with other policy team members on the release of NASFAA's National Student Aid Profile was a great chance for me to practice my public speaking skills. I also got to talk about my favorite piece of Title IV aid (the Pell Grant). While working at NASFAA, I have realized that public speaking is an invaluable skill to have. As a result, I have been inspired to enroll in a public speaking course for this upcoming fall semester!
Hearings and Briefings: Attending both hearings and briefings has been a wonderful opportunity. I had never attended a congressional hearing before, so this was an entirely new experience for me. Not only did I learn more about the purpose of hearings, but I also began to familiarize myself with the various committees and subcommittees which were involved in higher education policy. On the other hand, briefings hosted by policy organizations were a great way for me to familiarize myself with other groups that worked in higher education policy. As I heard from groups such as The Education Trust, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), among others, I gained a more holistic idea of the issues discussed in the higher education policy landscape.
PNPI Bootcamp: The Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI) is a professional development resource for current and prospective policymakers who work on federal higher education issues. Some of the great work they do includes hosting bootcamps, congressional seminars, and publishing primers on higher education research.
I recently attended their intensive two-day bootcamp on federal student aid. At first, I thought that I would already know most of the material, given that I work in a financial aid office and I've taken courses on higher education policy. However, the speakers gave such an in-depth review of Title IV aid, the student debt portfolio, and loan servicing that I found myself taking notes during every panel. My favorite session was with Colleen Campbell from the Center for American Progress on loan servicing. Although I knew who loan servicers were and what their function was, I did not know how they were evaluated and paid, nor did I know about their loan portfolios. The session illuminated a step in the financial aid process that might be considered a “black box.” Although I would not handle loan repayment in a financial aid office, it was really useful to gain a more in-depth picture of the entire financial aid process.
Policy Retreat: Participating in the policy team's annual retreat was a great experience because I was able to gain more insight into how NASFAA functions as an organization. During this time, the policy team set long-term goals and discussed some of the upcoming projects that they will be working on over the next year. (Sorry I can't tell you what projects are coming up, it's a secret!)
Jazz in the Garden: I was in for quite a treat when I discovered this annual concert series. Imagine my delight when the band (Black Masala) covered my favorite Romani punk song, “Start Wearing Purple” by Gorgol Bordello. The sousaphone player even came down to the audience and joined our dancing party. I have gone twice so far and may make a third trip during my last evening in D.C. I highly suggest checking it out if you're ever in the area during the summer!
Hillwood Estate: The Hillwood Estate was owned by the late socialite Marjorie Post. After she passed, she had her estate opened up to the public as a museum so people could tour the mansion and gardens. It was definitely interesting to step foot inside the house and explore the grounds. Walking around gave me a sense of what a lavish lifestyle would be like!
National Harbor: It was a trek, but I traveled to the National Harbor in Maryland to watch “Coco” on their outdoor movie screen. This is the second time I've seen Coco. Each time I watched it outdoors. Each time I cried at the ending. However, this time I was wearing sunglasses so I played it cool and no one could see.
U.S. National Arboretum: I did not make my way to the Arboretum until late July. Had I known better, I would have gone straight there in early June to beat some of the heat. Regardless, I really enjoyed spending an entire day walking around the nearly 450 acres of gardens. I have a love for all things miniature, so I made a beeline to the Bonsai trees. The work that goes into the ancient art of training Bonsai trees to mimic the growing patterns of regular trees is astounding! Spending my time here was a fantastic way to clear my head and just enjoy nature for a bit.
Smithsonian Summer Solstice Event: I regularly explored the Smithsonian museums throughout my time here, however the best time was during their Summer Solstice event. Various Smithsonians were open until midnight and held special events respective to the theme of their museum. During this time, I got to experience a Chinese Opera performance, sample food from Chinese Dynasty recipes, learn more about space, and (safely) gaze at the sun through a telescope!
I would like to close my blog by giving a big thank you to the various people who made this opportunity possible! I would like to thank the NASFAA staff, NASFAA membership, and Dallas Martin Endowment supporters! Either through in-person meetings or by email, you all have provided continuous encouragement as I embarked on this journey! I cannot thank you enough for that!
As I leave the city with new memories and an entire notebook filled with information about financial aid and the policy process, I look forward to returning to my financial aid peer advisor position so I can share all that I've learned with my coworkers! My time at NASFAA has reaffirmed my career interest in the financial aid profession, so keep an eye out because you'll likely see me again someday!
Publication Date: 8/2/2019