Meet the Board Members: Sara Vancil has fun with Tenses – Current Past President

As a seasoned veteran within the financial aid industry, what has impacted you the most about this profession and what has changed the most within the profession?

What has affected me most in the twelve years I have been in aid is how much the profession demands of us.  It can be completely daunting to stay up to date on hundreds of nuanced rules and regulations, not to mention our financial aid systems, and working in an environment where there’s never enough money to go around, either for us or for students.  It is very rewarding, but also very challenging.  To that end, the thing that I have seen change for the positive is that the vocation of being a Financial Aid Administrator has become more professionalized, thanks to NASFAA’s work with credentials and the new CFAA certification. 

How would you tell new people within this profession to approach their tasks, jobs and career?

First and foremost, I want others to view me as someone they can trust and rely on.  I would tell new folks to make themselves reliable, competent, and easy to work with.  I view these as keys to being successful.  In addition, financial aid is an occupation that is extremely knowledge driven.  I think everyone who takes a job in our world needs to make a commitment to ongoing training and content review to be truly effective.

Within this industry have you had any mentors, who were they if you’d like to say, and what did they tell you as you were beginning your career path in Financial Aid?

Yes, I’ve had numerous mentors in KASFAA and RMASFAA.  The best mentors encourage you to get involved, give you kudos when you do well, and help reassure you when you’re scared.  The confidence that others have in me is something I cherish very much.

How do you see this profession in 5 years? 10 years?

I don’t know that I see it being hugely different than it is now.  Perhaps the HEA will be reauthorized and will change some of the programs and processes we all work with and around.  But the day to day mission of helping students afford college won’t change.  The regulations and compliance issues will still be there, maybe just in slightly different flavors.  I think we’ll continue to see calls for our institutions to be more and more accountable and transparent with students and families.

How do you pass the time, when/if there is a lull?

My slowest time of year is September and October.  I spend that time of year updating P&Ps and catching up on webinars and trainings.  And luckily, the RMASFAA conference is in October so I usually get to squeeze a trip in there to see friends and colleagues!  Day to day, if I’m working on something relatively mindless, I like to listen to stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.  I find I don’t have to be watching, just listening, to keep up and unlike a book or podcast, if I miss a joke, chances are I’ll still understand then next one!

Who do you admire most? Personally, professionally, and/or globally? Choose one or answer all three…

I’m horrible with these questions and all variations like which famous person I’d have dinner with, living or dead.  I just go blank!  I admire people who change the world in whatever way they can, big or small.

Any thing exciting you’d like to share….

As I was writing this, my daughter made her seventeenth million batch of slime.  What is it with kids and slime?

What made you want to get involved with KASFAA?

Getting involved with KASFAA has been a way to expand my leadership and strategic planning skills.  I first got involved, however, to meet people and make connections.

What positions have you held with KASFAA and what has been your favorite so far?

I’ve been on a few different committees over the years.  My first chair role was with Publicity & Awareness.  I have served on the Board as Vice-President, Secretary, President-Elect, President and currently Past President.  My year as Vice-President was a lot of work but it was super fun because I planned two conferences with my super cool friend, Brenda Hicks.

Sara Vancil

University of Kansas

Advertisements

Meet the Board Member: KASFAA Treasurer Debbie Brewer – Show me the Money!!

Deb Brewer-D1

As a seasoned veteran within the financial aid industry, what has impacted you the most about this profession and what has changed the most within the profession?

The people I have come in contact have made the most impact on me – I have worked with some truly amazing students along the way. I have had the benefit of working with some really wonderful co-workers. I have worked with some really amazing people in the professional organizations associated with financial aid.

The thing that has changed the most in this profession since I started 20+ years ago is the student loan industry. When I started, the FFEL program was prominent and we had different relationships with lenders and guarantor agencies.

How would you tell new people within this profession to approach their tasks, jobs and career?

I would say to approach their tasks as not just tasks. There is usually a result that we are aiming towards with every task we do. I would say try to enjoy your job. Try to make things better than they were before you touched them.

Within this industry have you had any mentors, who were they if you’d like to say, and what did they tell you as you were beginning your career path in Financial Aid?

My mentor was Julie Cooper (my first director). She told me to not wear my emotions on my sleeves. Her and I were very different people and she taught me so much. She taught me to be tolerant and understanding while maintaining and upholding the rules.

How do you see this profession in 5 years? 10 years?

In 5 years, I see this profession being even more automated than it is now. In 10 years, I have no idea. All I can see when I look ahead at 10 years is retirement.

How do you pass the time, when/if there is a lull? 

There isn’t a lull anymore. But in the case if there was, I would clean off my desk.

Who do you admire most? Personally, professionally, and/or globally? Choose one or answer all three…

I admire my father the most. He is a man that never compromised on his morals. He always tells the truth and has always been hardworking and trustworthy.

What do you dislike doing? Professionally or personally or both?

Personally, I do not like cleaning bathrooms!!!! Professionally, I do not like to collect money from students.

What do you like to do in your free time, either Indoors or Outdoors?

I like to run and exercise and garden (in nice weather). I like to crochet, knit, go to the movies and hang out with my husband. I love spending time with my grown children and my brand-new grandbabies.

What gets you excited about life?

I love being a mom. It is one of my favorite things in life. Being a mom to grown children can be very rewarding. It can also be difficult as I don’t ever want my children to go through hard times. But watching them spread their wings and fly is really rewarding.

What’s your favorite time of day?

My favorite time of the day is when I have competed a task and can feel like I accomplished something. When I am not at work, my favorite time of day is when I have my first cup of coffee in the morning. I love my coffee!

Any thing exciting you’d like to share….

I recently became a grandma to the most amazingly beautiful twin baby girls, Mila and Aria. Nobody prepared me for the beauty of being a grandparent. I am a very young grandparent. The love felt for a grandchild is like nothing I have ever known.

Meet the Board Members: Ashley Jost – Vice President and Conference Planning Co-Chair

Capitol Tour 05-2019 (3)

As a seasoned veteran within the financial aid industry, what has impacted you the most about this profession and what has changed the most within the profession?

The biggest impact, on an internal scale, would be system changes. We had a major interface transition last year. It always seems like a big hurdle and it can take months to accomplish. However, patience is key! I have to remind myself that it will all be “OK” in the end, even if it seems like the world is crashing today.

How would you tell new people within this profession to approach their tasks, jobs and career?

Be open and ready for change! Keeping an open mind and being adaptable are two qualities that will keep you successful. Also, don’t forget to give yourself credit for what you know. The amount of information you learn and retain can be overwhelming! You will be surprised sometimes by how much you actually know and how much you can truly help your students. Take advantage of opportunities to increase that knowledge, either by attending a conference or by being involved and expanding your network.

Within this industry have you had any mentors, who were they if you’d like to say, and what did they tell you as you were beginning your career path in Financial Aid?

I have not really had a single mentor, but I was blessed to come into an office with many great people full of years of financial aid experience!

How do you see this profession in 5 years? 10 years?

I see things moving more electronic. The Federal Government has made many recent strides to “advance” the FAFSA process and incorporate mobile technology. Financial aid should be no different than what you see when you access your bank or mortgage information. I see financial aid becoming more of a forethought rather than an afterthought when students prepare for college. Things will happen faster and be visible instantly… at your fingertips.

How do you pass the time, when/if there is a lull?

There is always something to do in our world. But, if there is downtime, I like having that opportunity to take a closer look at process improvement and to be creative. This can also be a great time to refresh, schedule a webinar, or take a walk!

Who do you admire most? Personally, professionally, and/or globally? Choose one or answer all three…

Personally, my Grandma… she is 94 and is probably outside gardening as I write this! She is an amazing, beautiful person inside and out. She is such a motivated, positive and strong woman. Seeing her in action inspires me to live life to the fullest and to treat every day as a gift!

What do you dislike doing? Professionally or personally or both?

Having to remind my kids to take their shoes to their room every night. 😊

 

What do you like to do in your free time, either Indoors or Outdoors?

I love to cook and entertain! If I have a chance, I am outside!!! I really enjoy taking family vacations too!

 

What gets you excited about life?

I get excited about home projects and upcoming vacations! It is always good to have something to look forward to in life!

 

What’s your favorite time of day?

Early mornings and late nights! Maybe not on the same day.

 

Any thing exciting you’d like to share….

Excited to serve as co-Chair of Conference Planning! We are going to have an amazing conference in Topeka next April… You do not want to miss it!

 

Meet the Board Members: Teresa Axton in Action

Grab a seat and a yummy beverage and let’s get to know Teresa.

As a seasoned veteran within the financial aid industry, what has impacted you the most about this profession and what has changed the most within the profession?

With 27 years in the Collection side of Financial Services I am more involved with the student accounts verses Financial Aid so I can’t speak of any impact. However I can say that over the years the students repeat a lot of the same mistakes and appeal more of their debt or ask for a settlement not realizing that this is not an option.

What and/or who placed you in the financial aid industry? Was this your career path?

This was not a career path I had chosen, I worked in the Medical arena for a number of years before moving into my current role.  My boss and I formed a relationship when our boys were younger playing T-Ball and felt I would be an asset to the sales team. I thought outsider the box and starting approaching Colleges and Universities as part of our client base.

How would you tell new people within this profession to approach their tasks, jobs and career?

Have fun, keep an open mind, and think outside the box. Put yourself in the roll of the student and be mindful of their struggles starting out in this new path they are taking. Sometimes we forget that they may not have someone to guide them in the beginning. Customer services and compassion go a long way.

Within this industry have you had any mentors, who were they if you’d like to say, and what did they tell you as you were beginning your career path in Financial Aid?

I can’t say I had any mentor but I have made lifelong friends in the industry through my association with groups like KASFAA

How do you see this profession in 5 years? 10 years?

I don’t think I could make any predictions

How do you pass the time, when/if there is a lull?

Time with family and friends.

Who do you admire most? Personally, professionally, and/or globally? Choose one or answer all three…

Professionally I would have to say Keith Fitsimmons. From the first phone call he made to me to everything in between. I admired his compassion for his job and the students, his positive approach to EVERYTHING and his public show of love and affection for his wife. He inspires me to be a better person.

What do you dislike doing? Professionally or personally or both?

Confrontation of any kind.

What do you like to do in your free time, either Indoors or Outdoors?

Reading, fishing and spending time with my Grandkids

What gets you excited about life?

That’s a hard one I would have to think about that for a bit. The last year my life has been upside down so what use to be true before has changed.

What’s your favorite time of day?

Late evening siting on my patio.

Anything exciting you’d like to share….

Life is short live your dreams now

NASFAA 2019 – Tony’s Take

NASFAA 2019

I had the privilege of attending the 2019 NASFAA Conference in Orlando, FL a few weeks ago. It was a great opportunity to meet up with many friends I have established over the years in financial aid. The weather was hot and muggy all week, but the venue was top notch. If you haven’t visited Disney World, I highly recommend it.

The event started off with a wonderful keynote speaker. Steven Pemberton relayed his message of the importance of each of us being a “light house” to our students. His presentation outlined his life’s experiences, which are also outlined in his book, “A World of a Chance.” His book was also made into a movie of the same name. The speech inspired me to look up his movie, which I found on Amazon Prime. I was so intrigued that I stayed up until 1 a.m. watching it. I highly recommend everyone watch it. My next step is to buy/read the book.

There were many good sessions to attend, many of them presented by members of KASFAA and RMASFAA. Some of these would be quality sessions for our own conference next spring. The federal update emphasized the Dept. of ED’s focus on continuing to update the processes of better access to federal aid for students by providing electronic tools to enable the aid industry to go to the student more readily. Some new additions to the Next Gen FSA initiative will be rolled out later this year at the FSA Conference in Reno, NV. There were numerous conversations about the changes in the Gainful Employment requirements for schools, but to be honest, I didn’t follow the specifics of it much as it does not pertain to my school (sorry!). I am sure that to those of you that it does apply to, you have been on the edge of your seat in recent days regarding this topic.

I hope you all had a good 4th of July holiday. I know it was a hot one for us all. If you are like me, you are now working diligently in preparation for students to return in the fall, while at the same time, preparing for (or actively involved in) your federal audit. Mine is next week, so we are scrambling around to get the necessary data prepared. Oh well, job security I guess!

Tony Tanking – KASFAA President

Meet the Board Members: Talking to Tony Tanking

As a seasoned veteran within the financial aid industry, what has impacted you the most about this profession and what has changed the most within the profession?

The biggest impact for me is the genuine expression of gratitude we see from those students/parents that tell us how grateful they are for our help in making their education dreams come true.

The biggest change I have seen has been more gradual, but it’s involvement of the parents in the FA process, and not in a positive manner. We continue to see more and more parents completing their student’s requirements (entrance counseling, signing MPN’s, etc.) for them rather than going through it with them to teach them about the process. I fear this path will continue to disable our students in their “life lessons.”

What and/or who placed you in the financial aid industry? Was this your career path?

I spent 20 years in the business world prior to entering the realm of FA. The opportunity to get into FA kind of fell into my lap. I was looking for a change, and a job posting at my current institution came up on my email. I thought to myself “I can do that.” I applied and got the job as Director and the rest, as they say, is history.

How would you tell new people within this profession to approach their tasks, jobs and career?

Make sure you enjoy what you are doing! Yes there are going to be days that aren’t as good as others, but at the end of each day, if you can say, “I really like what I do,” then you are on the right track.

Within this industry have you had any mentors, who were they if you’d like to say, and what did they tell you as you were beginning your career path in Financial Aid?

My first mentor was Carla Boren. She was serving as interim Director when I came in at Benedictine. Her focus was helping me to learn the regs. We’d take the FSA Handbook to lunch and go over different areas of the book my first 2 weeks on the job.

Then there is everyone’s mentor…Jeanne Mott. We hit it off right away. Jeanne was great in that we never felt any tensions with each other, even though our schools were competing for students. She continually suggested I get involved with KASFAA and RMASFAA. Her prodding led me to running to be KASFAA President. She is one of my most valued friends.

Finally, there is Myra Pfannenstiel. Her outgoing friendship showed me the enthusiasm and genuine caring we need to show as we carry on our daily duties. Thanks “Sis!”

How do you see this profession in 5 years? 10 years?

We will have to continue to improve how we communicate with our customers. With new regs and requirements coming out annually, we will be challenged with getting the right information to/from the right individuals for the right situations for many years to come, in my opinion. JOB SECURITY!!!

How do you pass the time, when/if there is a lull?

Listen to music. It can be very calming and can put you in a different mood. Sometimes it’s needed!

Who do you admire most? Personally, professionally, and/or globally? Choose one or answer all three…

I admire everyone who has chosen Student Financial Aid profession for their career choice. Having an impact on two of a parent’s most valued possessions (their children and their money) can be very challenging and extremely rewarding. What other profession requires one to be counselor/auditor/mathematician/compliance officer/accountant/fortune teller all wrapped up in one package? Pretty awesome make-up if you ask me.

What do you dislike doing? Professionally or personally or both?

Seeing people post negative comments online. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with a person’s statements or positions on any topic, respect the rights of others to the same freedom of speech that you possess. If you think there is too much hate in the world, don’t add to it. It would be wonderful if the world would adopt the old saying that our parents/grandparents always said, “If you don’t have anything positive to say, then don’t say anything at all!” Maybe I’m just getting old myself.  

What do you like to do in your free time, either Indoors or Outdoors?

Playing golf and camping in the summer. Spending time with my wife. We are starting to do a little travelling on mini-vacations to get away for “just us.” Spending time with my grandkids.

What gets you excited about life?

My family (current and extended). Knowing that if they ever need my help, they can count on me to help them. “That’s what family do!” This extends to my FA family too. I have made so many friends through KASFAA/RMASFAA that I can honestly say that I am blessed.

What’s your favorite time of day?

The evening hours. I can either mow my lawn, or see my grandkids, or just enjoy the sun going down, knowing that another successful day is winding down.

Anything exciting you’d like to share….

Just found out my youngest daughter will be having a little girl (their first) this October. This will be grandchild #6 (3 boys and now 3 girls). All are under the age of 7. There’s no better feeling to touch your heart than when they see you, run to you yelling “Poppa” and knowing their excitement to see you is genuine. Wouldn’t it be cool if our students did that? (Not the Poppa part, but you get my drift)

 

 

Meet the Board Members: From Conference Planning Chair to President Elect – Darcy Johnson

Darcy Johnson Dj picAs a seasoned veteran within the financial aid industry, what has impacted you the most about this profession and what has changed the most within the profession?

Does 8 years make me a seasoned veteran? The thing in this profession that has impacted me most is the camaraderie found amongst our peers. My cousin asked me the other day if it was difficult for me to buy a FHSU Tigers blanket for one of her kids’ graduation present. It took me a minute to realize that she meant because they are a big ESU rival. That thought had never struck me, as I asked Robyn to pick it up and bring it to the KASFAA conference.
As I have spent a majority of my FAA time in the loan world, I would say that SULA has caused the biggest change for me within the profession. First there was the challenge of being able to discuss MEP, SUP, and REP. It also caused us to change processes in many areas. Yay for originations going from a 2-step process to a 16-step process (a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point)!

What and/or who placed you in the financial aid industry? Was this your career path?

Ten years ago, I had a Lupus flare (and received diagnosis) that knocked me off my original career path, which was management in the textbook industry. Spending the next two years looking for a job that I could do physically was a challenge and delivered quite a blow to my self-esteem. One evening I ran in to Donna Hanson outside Bobby D’s and in conversation she mentioned that their office was hiring. I went home to look up the job and found that it was closing that night. Obviously I applied. My best friend had worked for Elaine in college, so I had a connection there. The rest, as you say, is history.

How would you tell new people within this profession to approach their tasks, jobs and career?

With patience (anyone who knows me just laughed really hard at that!!)Seriously though, having spent more than 20 years in the service industry, you have to learn to never take anything personally. Oftentimes people are lashing out because they are having a bad day, are frustrated, or just don’t understand; and they may not have the skills to cope. You just happen to be in the line of fire when they finally break. Some people will just always be hostile, but if you treat them with respect and patience, most will come around to appreciative.
Also, we are all constantly and continually learning in this profession. Give yourself grace that it will take time to learn it all. You will never learn it all, as once you are close, they’ll change it all up!
(Who is still laughing that I suggested patience?)

 

Within this industry have you had any mentors, who were they if you’d like to say, and what did they tell you as you were beginning your career path in Financial Aid?

I was blessed to be part of Leadership Pipeline Class of 2016-2017. My mentor was Peg Mason from Colorado School of Mines. She was a great sounding board, and gave great advice for getting involved with association work and how to balance that with work-life.
Connie Corcoran suggested I start a “Smiles” folder to store emails and notes in from appreciative people so that I could go back and reference it on the worst days. Elaine Henrie was very encouraging to everyone in our office to participate in the associations, and through this I have gained valuable friends and mentors. Three that come to mind that really encouraged me to keep going, especially in KASFAA were Tony Lubbers, Deb Byers, and Stephanie Covington.

How do you see this profession in 5 years? 10 years?

I tend to live in the moment, and rarely set life goals. I also don’t possess a crystal ball. I can honestly say I have no idea what the profession will look like in the future. Based upon what we’re currently seeing in Washington, I expect that it will either still look the same (how many years behind on reauthorization are we now?), or will have been dramatically overhauled and we’ll talk about “how things used to be in 2019.”

How do you pass the time, when/if there is a lull?

Facebook *hangs head in shame*
Oh wait, are we talking about at work? I would never Facebook at work!! 😉 I do get up and take a walk, which is sometimes needed even if there isn’t a lull.

 

Who do you admire most? Personally, professionally, and/or globally? Choose one or answer all three…

Sara Vancil. She is open and honest. She has done a great job leading KASFAA. She is saving the world one plastic item at a time by setting an example and providing solid research. She is making sure that Tessa has educational and wonderful experiences to be a well-rounded member of society.

What do you dislike doing? Professionally or personally or both?
Cleaning. Number 1 worst task in the world. Deep hatred my entire life. The end result is nice, but it doesn’t last.

What do you like to do in your free time, either Indoors or Outdoors?

I rediscovered my love of reading a few years ago when I joined a book club that meets at the pub. I prefer mostly non-fiction, though I do read chick lit, British chick lit, and some fantasy. You can find me on Goodreads under Dj or using my gmail darcyjjohnson.
I also enjoy walking, yoga and hanging with the cat.

What gets you excited about life?

Abby. I mean who would not be excited by this 14 year old mess?

Abby DJs cat.png

What’s your favorite time of day?

Have you seen me? It’s mealtime, duh! 😉
Also, bedtime when Abby curls up on my legs. 

Anything exciting you’d like to share….

One of my friends (since age 5) and I are going to road trip to South Dakota in July to celebrate our 40th birthdays this month. Did you know that South Dakota was the 40th state to join the union?