NASFAA Leadership Conference Attendees Eager to Build on Financial Aid Skills

By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter

On the second day of NASFAA's 2022 Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo, attendees received a crash course in all things Washington, D.C. from two very different perspectives.

A.B. Stoddard, an associate editor and columnist at RealClearPolitics, kicked off the day with an overview of the political climate in the nation's capital and how it impacts a wide range of pressing issues, from voting rights to the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Between Stoddard's remarks and a visit from the Department of Education (ED) to detail upcoming changes to federal methodology and FAFSA, among other pressing issues facing ED, attendees left with both a high-level and in-the-weeds perspective of how the happenings in Washington, D.C. impact their students back home and their role as financial aid administrators.

From discussing the successes and pitfalls of the Biden Administration and previewing what's to come from the remainder of President Joe Biden's time in the White House, to detailing what is capturing Congress' focus at the moment, Stoddard gave attendees a broad array of news through a nonpartisan and informative lens.

She also spoke about what it means to be a judicious and thoughtful news consumer, recommending verified sources such as The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal, and news compilation applications like Smart News to cut through the bias and get a wide range of coverage on the day's top news.

One issue Stoddard identified that is the result of redistricting is that more districts across the country are becoming solidly red or blue, with fewer and fewer swing districts reflecting the moderate views that a majority of Americans hold.

"As a result, you have primary candidates coming in, where instead of having to tailor their campaign to running against the accomplishments of the incumbent who have done things for the constituents of that district, in some cases you have two new people coming in who are just incentivized to out-outrage each other," Stoddard said.

Above all else, Stoddard challenged attendees to get involved with a movement, stay informed, and be engaged citizens by voting in local elections.

Attendees continued in their respective pathways throughout the day Tuesday with breakout sessions for each of the four separate pathways.

For those who couldn't attend in person, NASFAA has you covered with brief recap of sessions from each pathway.

Compliance Management

In many ways, compliance goes beyond the financial aid office, but all too often the responsibility seems to fall disproportionately on the aid office nonetheless, Nick Prewett, director of financial aid and scholarship services at Stony Brook University and an FAAC®.

Prewett, who is also an independent consultant with Blue Icon Advisors, led a panel as part of the compliance management pathway detailing how financial aid offices — and more specifically, aid directors — can work with other offices on campus to ensure other departments, including campus safety, athletics, Title IX, data security, and student health, are part of being in compliance.

Attendees shared examples like mountain biking with their registrar and having a monthly gathering over cocktails with heads of other departments as ways to foster relationships and cultivate a culture where tackling compliance is a team effort. One panelist noted the importance of having someone from another institution to trade ideas with and share best practices.

Succession Planning

While it may be hard to do, both Brad Barnett and JoEllen Price have had to let talented employees leave their financial aid office because they knew it's what was best for that individual.

Barnett, director of financial aid at James Madison University (JMU) and an FAAC®, found himself in line for a director role at JMU after a boss at the institution he was working at essentially pushed him out to take the role at JMU. From there, Barnett said knew he would do the same for his employees later in life when the opportunity arose.

"She was willing to lose me to help me go forward in my career. That takes guts," he said, adding that if the right thing to do for an employee to grow is to push them out, that it's incumbent on the aid director to notice and do just that.

Price — the executive director of financial aid at Houston Community College, an FAAC®, and an independent consultant with Blue Icon Advisors — said she's found herself in similar situations frequently as she's lost talented staff, knowing full well it was best for them. She challenged attendees to do the same, noting that it's also what's best for the aid office and the profession in the long run.

Strategic Enrollment Management

Chuck Knepfle, vice president for enrollment management at Portland State University, has worked at several institutions, each with their own approach and goals when it comes to enrollment management.

During a session on what holistic strategic enrollment management looked like, Knepfle and Vanessa Hutchinson, vice president of admissions and financial aid at Union Theological Seminary, urged attendees to better understand the full picture and engage with relevant decision-makers on campus to do so.

Knepfle added that promoting both access and investment in students is part of the role of the financial aid office and it's their position in the institution to advocate for it, stressing the importance of striking the right balance.

Association Leadership

Whether a seasoned association leader looking to learn something new or someone just taking the reins at their state or regional association, this leadership pathway covered how to effectively lead a group.

For David McMillion, the associate director of financial aid at the University of North Georgia and president-elect of the Georgia Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (GASFAA), he was excited to learn from others as he prepares to lead his state association.

Meanwhile, Brandi Miller, assistant director of new student programs at Drake University, serves as the president of the Iowa Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (IASFAA), and was excited to return to an in-person conference for the first time in years.

"I'm looking to bring back the relevance to my association," Miller said. "I'm working with a different generation of folks and making sure they understand the value of networking and building community is a priority."


Publication Date: 2/16/2022

Janice B | 2/17/2022 9:26:23 AM

Any chance we can link the session with A.B. Stoddard?

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