I was honored to be allowed to attend the NASFAA Leadership Conference held in Washington in the first week of February 2020. I attended as the Treasurer-Elect position, representing our KASFAA organization. I would love to share just a few things that I discovered about this conference and the people who both attended the conference and also presented at the conference. I would also love to share just a few things about the city and our visit to Capitol Hill, which allowed several members of our Kansas organization to meet and express our thoughts to some of our Kansas legislative members of Congress.
Even though this was not the first time I had attended this conference, it was the first time in over 10 years, so things have definitely changed. Initially, this conference was held in a very small meeting space, but boy was this a different experience than last time. We were hosted this year at The Mayflower Hotel, the largest luxury hotel in the District of Columbia, and the longest continuously operating hotel in Washington, also known as the “Grande Dame of Washington”. It was such a beautifully maintained piece of history and I was so impressed and humbled to walk through the lobby or into the meeting rooms, knowing that many important people had been on this same location. Not to worry KASFAA members, we had a great room rate, so we were very frugal with our organization dollars.
The Mayflower Hotel hosted the Inaugural ball of President Calvin Coolidge, just shortly after it opened in 1925 and every four years until the final ball in 1981; President-elect Herbert Hoover hosted his President-elect planning team offices there in 1928; Presidential-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt spent some time there before his inauguration in 1932, Harry S. Truman was a dinner guest in 1948; just a few other dignitaries who were guests or attended an event at the hotel were J. Edgar Hoover, President Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and President Bill Clinton. I’m sure the list goes on and on, but needless to say, it’s a beautiful place to be and gives anyone who is lucky enough to be a guest an opportunity to begin to absorb the beautiful culture of the city, both past and present day. As an upcoming leader in the KASFAA organization, I felt very lucky to be in such a beautiful location, conveniently located in the heart of Washington, DC. Friends and I enjoyed an evening sightseeing tour of Washington that was fabulous.
Since I’ve been in the Financial Aid industry for such a long time, I’ve made lots of friends along the way. I was blessed to see several of my colleagues from Oklahoma (shout out to Mendy Schmerer and Andrew Hammontree), Missouri (shout out to Becca Diskin), and of course Kansas colleagues (hi girls – Darcy Johnson, Christal Williams, Brenda Hicks, Angela Karlin and even though she lives in FL – Billie Jo Hamilton), as well as vendors (hello again Ron Hancock, Nick Martinez, Mindy Hager, and Rob Smith) who share the industry from all three of my formerly employed states. I was lucky to spend a lot of time in the Association Leadership track with new friends too numerous to mention from Texas, Iowa, Alabama and Georgia, specifically. RMASFAA colleagues were also present (Justin Chase Brown, Joe Donlay and James Broscheit). But these conferences are mostly about making new connections. I made some new friends as well. One new friend – Stephanie Simms from Purdue University, was unique. We talked from the beginning as if we had grown up together. I knew early on that Stephanie would grow to be one of my besties in the industry and time will tell. What an excellent opportunity to be able to “be ourselves” while talking the language few others understand. These professional development opportunities are the best part of serving in leadership in our organizations and something everyone should be part of. I hope this is an incentive for others within my State of Kansas and/or RMASFAA region to want to share in the future. Get involved…you’ll love serving your state, your institution and mostly your students in a BETTER way.
Of course, the NASFAA presenters were awesome. There were several tracks to choose from including Advanced Topics in FA Leadership, Association Leadership, Compliance Management, and Strategic Enrollment Management. This conference has something (and more) for everyone. One-on-one instruction, panel discussions and individual training for position-specific areas of Association Leadership were experiences I had. As always, Justin Draeger, President/CEO of NASFAA was amazing, he and his team (Megan Coval and Beth Maglione, specifically) were so instrumental in assisting with discussion topics and policy issues. Lori Vetter and Paula Luff answered day-to-day issues we come across, and best practices in management.
Some of my colleagues from Kansas and I were granted an audience with some aides from Senator Pat Roberts’s office and Senator Jerry Moran’s office (a local Kansas girl – go Kansas!). We were also fortunate to visit directly with Representative Roger Marshall, and share some current issues affecting our students: FAFSA SIMPLIFICATION, FINANCIAL AID AWARD LETTER STANDARDIZATION – THE PROS AND CONS, ORIGINATION FEES AND HOW THEY AFFECT OUR STUDENTS and answered general questions they had about our work in the industry. What an honor to be allowed to have our opinions heard from this select group representing the people of Kansas.
I will close by again, thanking the KASFAA association for allowing me to participate in this conference, and would also encourage others within the organization to become more involved within the organization in these kinds of leadership roles. I’ll leave you with this quote by Margaret J. Wheatley, ” There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” In KASFAA, we know the importance of those we serve and strive to work together to make their lives better.