My Summer Institute Experience – By Chris Darnell

At first when thinking of attending Summer Institute I was excited about the prospect of having an opportunity to get a well-rounded intense training in federal financial aid. I have worked in the Office of Financial Aid at Wichita State University for almost three years – but I worked mostly with scholarships and feel my knowledge of the federal side of financial aid is quite limited. I know there is valuable training online, but I’ve always felt too busy to schedule much time for it. Now I have a new position in the systems area of our office and am learning the technology at the same time I’m trying to learn everything about federal student aid.

I jumped right in to request attending Summer Institute for professional development. I submitted applications for scholarships. I got approved to attend Summer Institute. Then I attended my first financial aid conference – KASFAA in Wichita – where it was announced I was one of the KASFAA Summer Institute scholarship recipients. I almost fell over I was so excited!

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(This is my class, I had to cover someone who didn’t want to be shown)

As the time drew closer, I became more and more anxious. I am a serious introvert and was worried about spending so much time with so many strangers. After being in class all day there were going to be activities every night, but I like some alone time and I like my sleep! Everyone would be young and energetic, and I’m not. Maybe the change in altitude would have a negative effect on me. I was worried about how to pack. I was advised by experienced attendees I might want to pack sheets; I might want to take a pillow; be sure to take a fan; might be good to take some towels and cleaning wipes too in case the room isn’t clean enough; it might be hot; it might be cold – and be sure to leave enough space in my luggage to carry home a huge binder.

When the day finally came to fly to Golden I met the other two attendees from Wichita State at Wichita’s brand new airport, which was fantastic.  Anxiety dissipated as I embraced the adventure. After checking in at the RMASFAA registration table we found our rooms and I was very pleasantly surprised. My room was very clean, had adequate space and bedding, and had a window that looked out to a garden. There were towels and even a bar of soap.

We were given colored paper cutouts of mix tapes to wear to identify our classes. That was a great idea. It made it easy to meet people who were going to be in my class.  During the orientation on Sunday evening, there were some hilarious performances followed by a comical game of human hungry hippos played with little carts and balloons. It was obvious that the girls who were in charge of activities had put a lot of effort into making this a fun week.

I returned to my room and got ready for bed. There were two bedrooms that opened into a common area with a shared vanity, and with a room with a toilet and one with a shower on either side. There was no one in the other bedroom, so I had the “bathroom” area all to myself. I walked out of my bedroom in a t-shirt and underwear to go to the vanity for water and heard a click behind me. My bedroom door had shut and locked with the key inside. I’d seen this so many times on sitcoms, but it wasn’t something that really happened, and especially not to me. I was undressed with no way to get into my room without help from the front desk upstairs. The empty bedroom’s door was open, and the bed in there had a mattress cover on it. I pulled the mattress cover off and wrapped it around myself. I walked down the hall looking at names on doors and trying to determine if they might be female. I found a door with the name of a girl I had met in the lobby who had a tape the same color as mine – we would be classmates. I hoped she was in her room and that she was still awake, and was so relieved when she opened the door. She ran upstairs to the front desk to get someone to come open my door. I knew it would be a good week, because it could only go up from there.

On Monday, the first day of class I felt quite overwhelmed. It seemed like everyone in the class knew so much more than I did – they asked questions about things that were over my head. Then, for some strange reason, Tuesday was much better. I really began to grasp it and enjoy it.

Meals were in student dining. At first the three of us from Wichita State met for meals, but we soon started hanging out and dining with people from our own classes.

My teachers were a great team; they worked together like sisters and I was surprised to learn it was the first time they had taught together.  Jill was from was from a large private institution, and Vicki was from a smaller community college so we had access to their different experiences and perspectives. I had thought we would just cover the first part of the 3” binder of the NASFAA Core manual, but they guided us through the entire manual by the end of the week. The teachers were approachable and always willing to answer individual questions in the class or individually. I got some help with questions I had that were specific to what I am doing in my position, and it was such a relief to get information on how they were doing things. I had been told that one of the most valuable things you get from Summer Institute is connections with others in financial aid that you can contact and say, “How do you do this?” This is a fantastic resource that I didn’t have before.

I really got a kick out of it when we were discussing complicated families and determining whose information is required on the FAFSA, and someone asked Jill about families that have multiple wives, I assumed because she was from Utah. Of course Jill advised us that Mormons don’t have multiple wives and polygamy is illegal in Utah, before helping us unwind the complicated situations of earned and unearned income when some wives in a polygamous family work and others stay home with all of the children.

Thursday night was a banquet with more hysterical performances, and then Friday morning was our last time together as a class. I was tired and ready to get home, but thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from my week at Summer Institute. I now have a huge binder of reference material on my desk, and a class full of people, including two fantastic teachers, that I can contact when I have questions and want to know how others are doing something. It’s like a whole new ballgame – I am much more confident and prepared to plunge on into my new position in systems – knowing I am not alone! Thanks, KASFAA, for helping me attend!

By the way, one of my teachers, Vicki Kucera, was elected to serve as President-Elect of RMASFAA for 2015-16!

SAVE THE DATE!

KASFAA Fall Training 2015

Where: Salina Kansas
When: October 22 & 23, 2015
Site Location: Salina Ambassador Hotel & Convention Center Hotel Room
Cost: $82.00/night Program and Conference Details available soon!!

We will be planning a fun evening in Salina for Thursday October 22!

In addition to what we will be planning, fun fun fun!! the Salina Convention and Visitors Bureau stated there is also a Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt concert that evening at 7:30 at the Stiefel Theatre and tickets are still available, as an additional option.

This week marks the NASFAA Conference in The Big Easy

One week and counting until the NASFAA Conference in The Big Easy.  What a way to send a “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” to the legislatures who are working on Reauthorization of Title IV aid!  Let’s just forget for a moment that the nickname for the city comes from a 1987 crime drama…..

Here is what I’m looking forward to seeing this year:

  • A PARADE!  NASFAA is kicking off next year’s 50th Anniversary celebration by suiting up and walking the streets of New Orleans.  Awesome.  I’ve got my umbrella.  I ordered my t-shirt.  I’m READY TO GO!
  • 10 Days.  200+ Speakers.  100+ Sessions.  NASFAA is my favorite way to hear what my colleagues around the nation are doing.  2500+ people doesn’t sound “small,” but it is a lot more intimate than FSA.  The Department of Education sessions are always huge, but it’s nice to balance those with some best practices sessions for practical ideas on implementation.
  • Hill Harper.  Holy Moly.  A pedigreed star!  Cooooooool.
  • The Big Idea: NASFAA’s Policy Challenge.  There are a lot of smart people in this profession.  I can’t wait to hear what people come to present.

While there, I’ll also be attending the 50th Anniversary Committee meeting, working at the 50th Anniversary table with my good friend Janet Riis during some of the breaks, and attending the state and regional leadership breakfast to represent KASFAA – and YOU.  I have my marching orders from the KASFAA Board of Directors.  If you have something you would like me to explore while I’m there – just let me know.

I’m also interested in hearing if you are planning to attend!  I know a few people who plan to be there – but I would love to know who all is coming from Kansas.  If you are attending, email me with your cell phone number.  If possible, we’ll try to connect the Kansas people during one of the receptions.

Hope to see you there!

Brenda D. Hicks

Brenda.Hicks@sckans.edu

My Summer Institute Experience – by Haley Lindsey

My story begins a couple of weeks before Summer Institute actually began, when my S.I. instructor sent an agenda for the week of training. At first, I was a little nervous as I realized that some topics listed were some of which I knew very little. As the training date grew near, I learned that our group name would be “Prince and The Revolution”.  Now, I am a 90s Baby!  I had no clue as to what Prince sung, so Google became my best friend once again.   Surprisingly, I found that I did know a few of his songs.

Sunday finally arrived and I was packed and ready to go, excited for my first S.I. experience.  My coworker, Carol and I started our trek to Golden, Colorado. Our day long trip passed quickly and when we arrived, we found that Maple Hall would be our home away from home for the week. Check-in went smoothly and we arrived early enough that we could get everything set up and organized for a packed week of learning and fun. The Welcome Night activities were a great way for us to meet our other group members and get to know each other before the week’s activities began. The night ended with the Hungry-Hungry Hippo game, which was a blast! I knew immediately that our group was going to be a competitive one. Unfortunately, the Orange group claimed victory in this game, which set the scene for a fun bit of rivalry and strong competition between us for the remainder of the week.

The beginning of the training week started strong with learning about the application process, the federal updates, student eligibility, and SAP & FERPA.  It was a long day, but of course I wasn’t too tired for a round of friendly competition and not letting our new “frenemies” win at the Minute to Win It Challenge that evening. Now, if you have never seen someone play Minute to Win It, check out the Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrator Facebook page for a good laugh. We had almost our entire group show up for the participation night. The Orange Team was great competition, however, they just couldn’t hold up against the amazing Purple Prince Team! After the full day of activities, I think many of us were thankful for sleep.

The next day our training led off with Calculation of Pell and ISAG Grants, followed by Cost of Attendance, Need analysis/FM, Campus-based Aid/Teach. I am not going to fib, for me…the day was a real struggle to get through with all the fun from the night before. Our instructors were enthusiastic and full of energizing entertainment throughout the day, which certainly motivated us all. At the end of the day we had another participation night that consisted of Music Bingo, which wasn’t a night of competition but a night of relaxing and making friends.

Wednesday we learned more about the Verification Process, Calculating Loans, Loan Repayment & Counseling and ended free night. We could choose between a few options of entertainment for the evening and I choose the Coors Brewery Tour. The tour of the brewery was very interesting and also offered an opportunity taste test some of the different types of beer that Coors brews. Once we finished at the brewery we went downtown and enjoyed visiting over dinner.  Calling it a short night, I was able to look over my notes of all the amazing information given earlier and then get a good night’s sleep. On Thursday, our last full day, we learned about Overawards/R2T4’s, Packaging & Notification of Awards, Simple Steps for Relieving Stress, and Professional Judgements. The training made so many different aspects of my position at Pratt Community College more understanding.

As the end of training was nearing its end, we were all anxiously awaiting the announcement of the Summer Institute Participation Award.  Each of the groups performed a lip-synced song from the their band’s repertoire. We had a blast with our skit! If you would like to see it, visit the RMASFAA Facebook page (and give them a LIKE while you are there). At the end of it all, it was down to two teams. Orange and Purple were neck and neck ‘til the finish line. Both our teams actually tied, with the Orange Team winning the lip-sync portion of the contest and our lovely Purple Team winning the overall participation Dance Off.

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During this week, new friendships were forged. Though we were anxious to head back to our perspective homes and families, there was a touch of sadness in knowing that Friday was our last day to be together. Just as the days before we gained so much knowledge as we learned about Cash Management/Reporting/Consumer Info. The instructors provided a great way to tie all of the week’s information together and help us have an even better understanding by having us play a game of Jeopardy. Making learning fun is always a plus.  At the end of the day, we were also able to give out class awards and I was nominated by my class for the Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” Award. I had such a great time learning ad competing with my group and new found friends.  This wonderful week full of information allows me to be more knowledgeable and confident in my career choice, as well as to better serve my students and Pratt Community College.

– Haley Lindsey

My Summer Institute Experience – by Becca Page

Hello KASFAA!!!

Going into S.I., I wanted to learn more about financial aid at other institutions. There is so much to know about the regulations and processes for financial aid, we can only benefit from putting all of our heads together.

Our class was larger than most with 21 professionals who ranged from customer service specialists to new directors. We had specialists from community colleges, from four-year institutions, from scholarship foundations, and from graduate programs. 

Our class was very communicative and shared a variety of experiences that help to understand the intricacies of the regulations we learned about. It really helped me to learn the range of the regulations and processes to see how they apply to a broader variety of examples. For instance, I know how to award a loan in a semester-based academic year, but in one of our small group activities, several of the other people were accustomed to working in a quarter or trimester system. We spent most of our group time discussing how to divide the annual maximums for summer based on the prior terms. Dividing by two or four is not really difficult, but it helped me to understand how the processes actually work and to pay attention to why we do what we do.

Practicing the regulations and digging into the specifics was one of the greatest benefits of attending S.I. this year. My other greatest take-away was the opportunity to network with other professionals in our region. I am still new to the industry and S.I. offered the opportunity to connect with other Neophytes who will be great resources in the future. I am already planning my next RMASFAA and KASFAA events!

S I  After Banquet Pic (3)

Check out the awesome purple Prince fans in our Neophyte group! 

Have fun!
Becca Page

My Summer Institute Experience – by Stephannie DeLong

SI 2My name is Stephannie DeLong and I am the Family Financial Planner and Senior Counselor at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. I am chair of the KASFAA Publicity & Awareness committee and one of the KASFAA Summer Institute scholarship recipients this year.  At Southwestern, I work with new freshmen and transfer students throughout their recruitment and enrollment process up to the start of fall classes.  That means I assist them with everything from getting accepted, applying for both institutional and outside scholarships, FAFSA completion, financial aid counseling through packaging and getting them ready for disbursement.  While this is my second time at Summer Institute, my perspective has changed so much since I attended nine years ago and I was looking forward to learning and growing during the week.

Heading out to Summer Institute I was definitely ready for the fast pace and knew that the week would fly by.  I had some specific goals for the week in terms of what I wanted to learn which included: more in depth consumer information tips, campus based aid overview (since I deal more with institutional aid I wanted a broader understanding) and mostly I wanted to learn more about how other schools handle division of duties (do they specialize or does everyone handle the same types of work within a segment of their student body). My travel day started well before dawn with a drive to the airport, a flight to Chicago, a second flight to Denver and the longest shuttle ride in history to the beautiful Golden, Colorado campus.  Looking back I could have driven to Golden in the time it took me to fly, but I did enjoy the trip and I also read an entire book in one day (no small feat for someone with a busy workload and two children).  I even managed to participate in the evening game of Adult Hungry Hippos (please tell me there are no pictures of that).

The first two days of class were fairly intense and full of information.  Our instructors, Penny and Sharon were so helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.  We covered ACA, COA, SAP, SEOG, IASG and NASFAA’s compliance toolkit.  It was two solid days of financial aid acronyms but overall I learned so much and I have made some serious plans to hole myself away and study the compliance toolkit.  The best parts of these days were the panel moderators and the discussion that took place in our class.  It was great to hear different perspectives as well as some of the common issues we all face.  That evening, I had the chance to earn a ton of participation points when my classmate Cindi and I represented the entire Journey Classroom in “Minute to Win It.”   We didn’t come away with the lead but it was fun watching all of the other teams duke it out.

Wednesday was the shortest day in class but the most beneficial in terms of the type of information I wanted to review.  We discussed Packaging and Awards Notifications as well as Consumer Information.  Once again we had a panel but also some great comparison information from other RMASFAA schools.  I came away with some great ideas as well as some new things to implement at my own school…in other words a longer To Do list!  We did get out early that day and I enjoyed the Coors Brewery Tour, some downtown shopping and some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had at Golden Thai.  The green curry and satay were excellent.

The end of the week included sessions on Professional Judgment, Audit Findings and R2T4.  There was a lot of great discussion again and some excellent in depth information but I have to admit that the note that stands out most during that final day reads “R2T4 sucks.”  I think we can all agree on that, right?

Our final banquet and awards ceremony was great.  The participation of and preparation by the SI committee, instructors and all of the volunteers blew me away.  It was great to see everyone have fun and end the week on a high note.  I met people from every state in our RMASFAA region, learned so much more than I ever thought possible in one week and will truly use this week to enhance the services I offer in my own college and community.  I also found a great co-chair for my KASFAA Publicity & Awareness Committee!  Thank you again to KASFAA for allowing me to attend on scholarship this year.  I look forward to another great year at Southwestern and my year as committee chair.

~ Stephannie

HELP WANTED: KASFAA VOLUNTEERS

In April, I suggested that we needed 60 volunteers to make this association work.  As of today (May 28), I have 39.  What does this mean?classified

 This means that another 21 of you have an EXCELLENT opportunity to volunteer with one of the BEST financial aid associations in the country. 

And I am not saying that lightly.  This association has produced several leaders in the financial aid profession over the years and continues to be well represented both in the region and on national committees.  How did those people do that?  They STARTED by volunteering with KASFAA on a committee. 

If you don’t know what committee to serve on – don’t let that stop you!  :)  Give me your name, tell me you would like to volunteer, say you aren’t sure where.  I’ll call you up and we’ll talk about it. 

I hope to hear from you all VERY soon.  Seriously.  Email me: Brenda.hicks@sckans.edu