Meet Brenda Hicks, NASFAA's 2020-21 National Chair!
Since 1991, Brenda has served Southwestern College in both college admissions and financial aid and is currently the director of financial aid.
Over the years she has been active in state, regional, and national professional associations as a trainer, board member, and committee chair. She has been a recipient of the NASFAA Regional Leadership award and the KASFAA Meritorious Achievement award.
Brenda is a former RMASFAA and KASFAA president and has also previously served on NASFAA's Board of Directors as a regional representative and representative-at-large. She has also been a member of the NASFAA Association Governance Committee and has served on several task forces, including the NASFAA 50th Anniversary task force, the state and regional alliance task force, and the Enhanced Loan Counseling task force.
As she begins her tenure as 2020-21 National Chair, Brenda took some time to discuss with Today's News her goals for the next year and what inspires her as a financial aid professional.
TN: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the federal aid programs right now?
BH: At this point we have a lot of families who are struggling to afford college, and so I think access is big. That's really the big one on my mind.
TN: What are your top three goals for your tenure as National Chair of NASFAA?
BH: My goals are really to keep the ship moving, thinking about volunteers and how that needs to look, and diversity — continuing my commitment to diversity of opinion, thoughts, and habits across the board.
TN: Who has been the biggest professional influence for you over the years, and why?
BH: I've been influenced by a lot of people and it's been a wonderful profession to grow up in, to be honest.
When I think about everyone, there are a lot of people that I have leaned on. One of the things I found about this profession when I wandered in from admissions is that it's kind of like finally finding your tribe. I have run into so many people in this profession who are just solid, true-hearted people with real passion, energy, and kind-heartedness. That has been a huge influence on me.
TN: If I were not working in financial aid, I would…
BH: If I could do anything, I would be a travel writer.
One of my favorite authors is Bill Bryson. I like him because he travels around and tells about people he meets, and that's what I enjoy doing with travel. I enjoy meeting different types of people and just talking — the more of a character you are the more interested I am in you.
TN: Do you have a favorite book or movie, or is there something you’ve streamed recently?
BH: I have this game I play with myself in the library — it's a game I played to introduce myself to authors that I don't normally pick up. I go to the library and I have to read a book on each shelf before I can go to the next shelf. I'm in the Tom Clancy section and there are four or five shelves full of his books. He is a prolific guy, so that's a big, long tangent to say I like reading everything.
TN: What’s a new routine you’ve developed since the outbreak of COVID-19?
BH: I am trying out yoga. That's been fun, doing yoga on my phone and on the TV. I have been walking regularly, every day. I practiced meditation for a while, and while it didn't stick with me, deep breathing has, so I'm just trying little things here and there.
TN: My most motivating financial aid experience was…
BH: I know the CARES Act gets a lot of flack for the roll out, but the ability to help those students — we gave our funds to Pell Grant-eligible students in block grants — with that money was hugely satisfying. I knew they had needs, I was able to influence the decision-making there, and get that money in the hands of people who really really need it. That was huge, that felt good.
TN: What NASFAA service/product is most helpful to you?
TN: What gadget or app saves you the most time?
BH: I use Outlook, on my computer and phone — that's my calendar.
TN: What is the best professional advice you have been given?
BH: I think the most important thing to remember when we're working with students is that they're young people who are developing their knowledge. We need to always remember that when we are serving them, they get emotional, they get angry, and it's important not to absorb that and just be. I like to say, “Have a mind like water.”
Take care of yourself so that you can assist, in a real positive way, the people who come to you. They need you to be calm, they need you to be reasonable, and they need you to have grace for their emotional state.
Leave your welcome messages, comments, and congratulations to Brenda in the comments section below!
Publication Date: 7/6/2020