The Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is a non-profit organization that provides support to financial aid administrators and other agencies involved in the administration of financial aid programs in Wisconsin’s postsecondary educational institutions.
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The WASFAA Blog contains updates from the WASFAA President, highlights committee activities and member profiles, and provides articles written by members and guests.
We asked three first-time conference attendees to reflect on the Fall 2015 WASFAA Conference held at the Heidel House in Green Lake. The lucky three are: Mary Bell of Lawrence University, Chase Matzinger of Northland College, and Maggie Zabinski of UW-Madison.
Financial Aid Specialist
What did you learn at your first conference?
I learned that people in financial aid are really fun to be with and want to help each other out. Conferences are a great way to “network” with other people in your field and that is very important. People were very encouraging--only being in FA for 8 months--they reassured me it would get easier after a year.
What was your favorite thing about your first conference?
My favorite thing was networking and hanging out with people in a social setting. You can end up in a bubble in your job so getting out and talking to other people in your field is really healthy. Everyone has similar struggles in financial aid and the end result is that they really do all want to help the students.
What were your biggest takeaways from the sessions you attended?
My biggest takeaways were learning things I didn’t know and having things defined in a different manner so that I understood them better. I really enjoyed the Loans 101 and FAFSA classes. I also enjoyed hearing Trevor Summers from the US Dept. of Ed and Karen McCarthy from NASFAA.
What was your strategy to completing your New Member Bingo sheet?
Starting with lunch at the beginning of the conference, I passed my bingo sheet around the lunch table. Each session after lunch I just went up to as many people as I could, introduced myself and asked them to sign my sheet. After the sessions, of course what better way to meet people than go to the bar at the hotel and have people sign the bingo sheet. I had my bingo sheet completed the first night, need I say more? It was a great idea!
Student Financial Services Specialist
What was your first conference like?
I had only been in financial aid for two months before attending the Fall WASFAA conference, so the experience was like jumping right into Green Lake after dipping a toe in: a little intimidating, and a lot of fun. Those three days were packed with information that helped me get oriented in the world of financial aid.
What were the highlights of the sessions you attended?
I especially appreciated how many sessions were dedicated to default prevention strategies – a big concern for many of my peers. Another highlight of the sessions was “Financial Literacy – Acquiring Grants.” The wide variety of methods the presenters from Western Technical College, UW-LaCrosse, and Alverno College use to make money management approachable and interesting is really inspiring. I hope to help enact some of these strategies for improving default prevention and financial literacy back on Northland College’s campus.
What were some other highlights from the conference?
The conference also wouldn’t have been nearly as great without the wonderful group of professionals gathered at Heidel House. Any concerns I had about fitting in were quickly relieved as I met many friendly and enthusiastic people, and the costume contest on Wednesday night displayed how creative, clever, and funny financial aid administrators can be. The people dressed as a Scholar Ship, the various tools of financial aid, and tombstones commemorating the life of the Perkins loan – to name just a few – were very impressive. Everyone's discussion enriched the sessions with additional questions and insights, and I look forward to connecting with those I met for further guidance and conversation. Overall, I feel new confidence and excitement for entering the world of financial aid and am thankful for the support WASFAA and its members provide.
I am new to financial aid since March 2015 but so happy to be a part of the great team [at UW-Madison]! I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Fall WASFAA conference at the Heidel House Resort & Spa in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Being a new member I attended the new member gathering which was very helpful. I learned all about what being a WASFAA member means and how I can get involved. The new member bingo is helpful with getting the introductions rolling in a group of new people.
What were some of the highlights of the conference for you?
The breakout sessions were great. At times it was hard to decide between the options offered because they all seemed very useful. I learned something new at every one I attended! Even when other administrators asked questions to the presenters, it helped me to better understand the topic. Also, even if the topic did not relate to my position directly, it helped me gain a better picture of the financial aid as a whole.
I found the roundtable sessions to be helpful, as well. There are so many people within WASFAA with such a wealth of knowledge. It's great to have so many great minds in one place discussing issues that affect us all.
What was your favorite session?
All of the presenters did a great job. They were very knowledgeable on the topics they presented on and presented the material in a fun way. However, I really enjoyed the Identity Theft: Prevent & Protect breakout session given by Michelle Reinen. I found the information to be helpful both in the workplace and at home.
You won the New Member Bingo prize. What was your strategy to completing your bingo sheet?
While waiting for the next presentation or meals I would just introduce myself and then seasoned people would help me with finding some of the harder squares to fill.
What was your overall impression of the conference?
I really feel that the conference committee did a great job of planning and hosting the conference. I felt very welcome by everyone there, met a lot of great new people, and learned a lot. I look forward to attending future WASFAA conferences and finding a committee to become a part of.