MVP: Most Valuable Professional is an occasional series that features a brief Q&A with a different NASFAA member. Do you know a financial aid colleague with something interesting to say? Send the names of potential future MVPs and a short note about why you're nominating them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Mendy Schmerer. She has worked in the financial aid profession for nearly 15 years. She started working at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) 18 years ago after accepting her first full-time job after graduation in the OneCard Office taking ID card pictures. "That got boring quickly, so when the loan coordinator position opened in financial aid, I jumped at the chance for the change," Mendy said. "Needless to say, I’ve not been bored since."
As a first-generation college graduate, Mendy realized when she was working on her undergraduate degree that her educational path would have looked very different had she not received financial aid. "It made all the difference to help me succeed," Mendy said. "All those years ago, I never would have guessed that I would have a career in financial aid, but now I wouldn’t change a thing," she added. When Mendy made the decision to pursue a master’s degree, she chose Higher Education Administration as her focus because while working in financial aid wasn't initially her intended career path, she can now confidently say she's "in it to stay!"
She has previously served on NASFAA's Grad/Professional Liaison Task Force, Graduate & Professional Loan Limits Task Force, Task Force Examining NASFAA U Certification, Examining the Lack of Graduate-Specific Data Task Force, Leadership Conference Invitees Task Force, and as both a member and the chair of NASFAA's Conference Mentor Task Force. She is currently a member of NASFAA's Advocacy Network.
Something I wish I knew my first year working in financial aid:
I wish I had gotten involved in state, regional, and national associational work earlier. Each and every volunteer opportunity I have had has made me better at my job. Sometimes it is difficult to schedule one more thing into the day, but they have been absolutely worth the time and energy, so every chance I get, I encourage others to get involved.
What was the best thing that happened to you this past week?
My oldest daughter, who is finishing up second grade, was selected by her teacher for the Epsilon Sigma Alpha Outstanding Youth Award for “outstanding leadership, personality, and courtesy at school.” Knowing she is making good choices, even when I’m not there to remind her, makes me think we’re doing something right!
If you could learn any skill, what would it be?
I’m terrible at learning a foreign language, so I would love to become fluent in another language. Any language.
What’s one thing you love about working at the University of Oklahoma?
I am surrounded by the best team – my staff is invaluable and the working relationships I have with others across campus makes our ability to serve the students (almost) easy.
What’s the biggest financial aid change you’ve seen during your career?
The amount of compliance is growing to an almost untenable level and if anything ever discourages me about this job, it’s trying to keep up with compliance issues.
If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit?
Wait, if it only works once, does that mean I can’t come back here? I would visit Abraham Lincoln, shake his hand, and plead with him to not go to the theater April 14, 1865.
What book/movie have you read/seen recently that you would recommend and why?
"Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin (hence the Abraham Lincoln reference above.) Lincoln was a great man who held a tremendous amount of authority and power, but acted selflessly, diplomatically, extended grace to those who wronged him with their personal agendas, and surrounded himself with people who would be honest with him, and did a tremendous job of guiding our country through one of the worst crises we’ve ever endured as Americans.
One thing working in financial aid has taught me:
Mental flexibility and dexterity is a necessary ability to survive in this job.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cake. Hands down. I can make it in so many different ways, surely I’d never get bored!
My most motivating financial aid experience was:
Every time I take advantage of or create an opportunity to advocate for our students and the aid programs they need, I’m motivated and reminded why this job is so very important. Education changes the paths of people's lives, but unfortunately, with our current model, that education is out of financial reach for many students – if not for aid programs. When those aid programs are in jeopardy or eligibility is narrowed, and students can no longer afford the training and education they are chasing after, the entire face of the nation is at risk to change.
Want to say hello to Mendy or reply to something she said? Please leave your remarks in the comments section below. You can also take a look back at our past MVPs to read any you missed the first time around.
Do you know a financial aid colleague with something interesting to say? Send the names of potential future MVPs and a short note about why you're nominating them to email@example.com.
Publication Date: 5/22/2018