My friend George

If you’re reading this, you probably heard of the passing over the weekend of George Chin.  And if you’re reading this, you most likely knew George, perhaps for a long time, or at the very least you knew of him.  I don’t know how many practicing financial aid professionals there are in the country, must be well into the tens of thousands, and I know that every single one of them could play about two degrees of separation with George Chin.  There is no [fill in some letters]ASFAA not filled with people who have learned, directly or indirectly, but likely directly, from George.

George long ago earned rank into any financial aid old boys/girls network, if such a thing exists.  But that wasn’t George’s style.  In every financial aid association (and similar groups), the “how do we develop new leaders, what is it with these younger members, they just don’t care like we do” conversation takes place over and over again – usually among the veterans who won’t get out of the way and let the younger members move into positions of leadership.  George was always the one who recognized that the only way to get younger members involved was to invite them, to encourage them, to empower them.  My initial foray into any type of association involvement or leadership was in the late 90’s when George was the new EASFAA president, and he asked me to co-chair the Training Committee.  Nowadays, I’m one of the, uh, more mature members of the community who tries to encourage young’uns to broaden their horizons in the ways he encouraged me.

But George influenced my career in other important ways too.  We all learn financial aid in the weeds, from sweating the details.  Then we go to conferences and listen to federal updates and similar sessions and see a much broader perspective.  It would all sound like distant, detached government speak until someone like a George Chin would get up and tie it all together…that this grunt work we’re doing in our offices, one calculation, one email, one aid package, one student at a time, was all part of an important public policy decision that dates back generations by now…that America will be a stronger country if higher education isn’t just for those fortunate enough to have it all paid for without a worry by affluent parents. Financial aid exists not to give number crunchers some busy work, but to lift people out of poverty and into better lives.  It was George who inspired me to look at financial aid not just as helping one student at a time but also as public policy.  I would never have chaired federal relations committees, submitted written testimony to Congress, served on Negotiated Rulemaking committees or gotten involved in similar career highlights were it not for George.  And everyone who sees me step up to the microphone as soon as a presenter says “OK, we’ll open it up to questions now” and thinks to themselves “great, him again” has George to blame…or I would prefer, to thank.

But more important that the influence he’s had on the financial aid path I’ve chosen is that it’s been people like George who have kept decision makers – members of Congress, members of advisory committees, Department of Ed officials, and all of his colleagues – honest by reminding them what we’re doing this for.  Not for ourselves, not for our schools, but for students who are going to make this a stronger society by being better educated.

Our best tribute to George would be to encourage our colleagues to embrace their important roles in this thing we call financial aid and in all of the ASFAA’s, and to keep that pressure on those decision makers, now more than ever.  Rest in peace, my friend, our friend.

A Conversation with EASFAA Conference Chair, Maribeth Quinn

I am getting excited for EASFAA’s 50th Anniversary Conference which is less than a month away!  I recently had a conversation with Maribeth Quinn, 2016 EASFAA Conference Chair, about the upcoming conference and thought I would share this with with you.  Here is what she has to say about the 2016 EASFAA conference.

 

Q1:  Maribeth, this is not the first time you have served as conference chair.  I understand you have also served as conference chair for the NJ state conference several times, and as Conference Chair for previous EASFAA Conferences.  What would you say is the biggest challenge, and why?
Maribeth:  The biggest challenge is the crazy attempt to make everyone happy which, while my brain says “Impossible”,  my heart really wants to try.  Many of us who have run conferences have often remarked that we wish every conference attendee participated just once on a conference committee in order to understand the challenges we face.  Assembling the agenda, squeezing in downtime, keeping our exhibitors satisfied that they are indeed getting a “bang for their buck”, all while providing a dynamic, informative, conference at a reasonable cost.
Q2:  Obviously, it is also a rewarding experience, or you would not have done it more than once.  Tell me what you feel is the most rewarding part of the experience of being a Conference Committee Chair.

 

Maribeth:  I love working with conference!  After all is said and done, working with the challenges mentioned above, watching the members connect and network, as well as listening to the discussions that follow many of the great sessions, makes it all worthwhile.  I love working with new committee members, hearing different ideas – some that anyone who has worked conference before may know will never work; and others that are outside the box and just tremendous ideas.  My favorite experience as conference chair for NJASFAA was mentoring two young committee members, getting them prepared to chair the following year.  What a rewarding experience that was as I sat back the next year as a “guest” and watched them run a spot on event!

Q3:  There are a lot of informative topics and accomplished speakers on the agenda for the conference.  Which one are you most excited about?

Maribeth:  I am always excited putting together an agenda.  This year, I’m really excited about the PPY session; I am hoping for a lot of attendee interaction and discussion for what is yet another change we as professionals prepare to adopt and adapt.
I’m also looking forward to hearing the different general session speakers.  The committee felt strongly about putting four excellent general sessions together and I feel that we made that happen.  Sara Goldrick-Rab brings an interesting view to the college affordability debate, Eric LeGrand demonstrates how truly to face adversity, looking it straight in the eye and fighting back with integrity and an inner strength that I admire and could only hope to possess.  Top that off with Justin Draeger and Jeff Baker – what more can you ask for!

Q4:  I am excited to attend EASFAA’s 50th Anniversary Dinner Dance on Tuesday night!  Can you tell me a little about that event?

Maribeth:  The 50th Anniversary Dinner Dance is a celebration of our past, as well as an opportunity to appreciate ourselves as professionals.  As a profession we are not always the most appreciated on our campuses by either administration or even by the students we serve, but we know the importance of what we do.  Here’s the chance to celebrate what we do and why we do it!  We will celebrate with delicious food, a couple of surprises and a great band to dance the night away with.  The B-Street Band plays dates coast to coast, as well as the local clubs of New Jersey.  They have a standing gig in Atlantic City during the summer months and are a hit at private functions such as our dinner dance.

Q5:  More importantly, what should I wear?

Maribeth:  Since this is the 50th Anniversary and a very big deal for this association, we would like our guests to dress appropriately, and by appropriately, I mean cocktail wear is recommended.  Let’s take the opportunity to dress up, put on our dancing shoes and party the night away!

Q6:  Do you have any tips for attendees that you would like to share?

Maribeth:  My tip to attendees is to enjoy the time away from the day to day craziness of the office; learn from your colleagues; network with your fellow attendees; make new friends and enjoy everything Atlantic City has to offer.  Take the opportunity to see some of South Jersey’s sights – sign up for one of Monday’s excursions sponsored by NJASFAA.  There is no better way to start your day than a walk on the boardwalk so join us on Tuesday morning for the Boardwalk Fun Walk,  supporting Team LeGrand.

Thanks to Maribeth for letting me share this!  I look forward to seeing all of you at the conference next month.  If you have not registered yet, or would like to find out more about the events mentioned here, visit the 2016 EASFAA Conference page at http://easfaa.org/docs/conference/2016/index.html.

Hey EASFAA, what have I missed?

How are you? It’s been a long time.  I would have written sooner but then April happened.  Yeah, that’s the ticket, it was April’s fault.

If your name is April, I apologize. I actually meant the month.

Between awarding prospective students (i.e. making dreams come true while simultaneously crushing the dreams of others), clearing spring account balances and getting summer aid finalized, there has been little time.  And don’t even get me started on the waitlist.  Tis the season.

It’s hard to believe that the EASFAA conference is only 6 days away.  And In just 8 days I will be handing the gavel over to my excellent colleague, and more importantly, my good friend, Tony Erwin.  He has the makings of a great president and the golden pipes of Justin Bieber.  Don’t believe me? Ask him to sing a song.

Today it occurred to me that I am now a full-fledged lame duck.  (Bloggers note:  I have never been a lame duck before, but I am called lame.  A LOT! Just ask my children.)

But I digress.

By the time the conference begins we will have over 370 registered attendees.  Of those attendees, we will be joined by over 60 of our colleagues from Puerto Rico.  If you are coming to Puerto Rico the opportunity to connect with old friends and make so many new ones awaits you.  I can’t wait for it to get started.

If you cannot attend, do not despair.  We have assembled a team of bloggers and Facebook posters so you can read about the highlights and see the pictures as they happen.

At Tuesday’s business meeting lunch I look forward to sharing some of our accomplishments from the past year and recognizing the hard work of those that made it happen.  I hope that my words will adequately express my gratitude to my colleagues on the EASFAA leadership team and to all of you as well.  Everyone who reads this blog and visits our FB page is part of our growing EASFAA Community.  And all of you had made this an amazing ride.

Look for more right here on Sunday.

Safe travels.

Lou Palefsky lounges poolside at the El Conquistador Resort (Disclaimer: No rafts were hurt during the planning of this conference.)

Lou Palefsky lounges poolside at the El Conquistador Resort (Disclaimer: No rafts were hurt during the planning of this conference.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President’s Blog #2 (or, I still need a good name for my blog)

I was booed at the PASFAA Conference.

It turns out that most of the attendees root for the western PA team, a name I am choosing not to utter.  Let’s just say that it rhymes with “Peelers”.  I arrived at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center wearing my Philadelphia Eagles dress shirt.  Matt Stokan, PASFAA president, greeted me and immediately noticed my shirt.  A conversation ensued where I might have mentioned that my team has a MUCH better record this season.  He reminded me that they have six Super Bowls. Ouch!

When the dinner arrived and it was time for me to address the group, guess who introduced me?  You got it, the esteemed Mr. Stokan.  He gave me a very warm welcome but he also recapped our conversation.There were boos and grunts from the audience. It wasn’t all boos as it appeared there were some Eagles fans.   I think I counted three. Three out of 300 isn’t so bad, right?

It was actually a wonderful evening and everyone was very nice.  This was one of the states I was most looking forward to visiting because I started my financial aid career in Pennsylvania and I attended a PASFAA conference at this same venue around 15 years ago.  I was able to catch up with my old friend Vicki from Lebanon Valley College as well as some others. I also got to speak with one of my heroes, Chris Zuzack, a former EASFAA president and a mentor to me. Oh, and there were dueling pianos.

Monday, October 14, 2013. Panoramic of PASFAA members during dinner.  You can see the dueling pianos in the middle.

Monday, October 14, 2013. Panoramic of PASFAA members during dinner. You can see the dueling pianos in the middle.

I thought the talk went well.  I spoke about my goals for the year with an emphasis of the amazing training opportunities that EASFAA has to offer.  And they are amazing!

The Training Committee, led by Kristi Jovell and Larry Chambers has hosted one webinar and there are eight more in the pipeline.  Trainings are always free; all we ask is for you to become a member. Look for updates from the committee as registrations are live.   I will be moderating a webinar on October 28th, Washington Word on the Street w/Justin Draeger.  NASFAA is a wonderful partner to all the regional and state associations and we are very grateful that Justin is willing to update us on the craziness going on in Washington and answer our questions.   If you have questions you would like to ask Justin please feel free to post them here or send an email to training@easfaa.org.  We want your input.

I am off to the NYSFAA Conference in Long Island, NY.  I am leaving my Eagles shirt in my suitcase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

President’s Blog #1 (or, I really need a good name for my blog)

Welcome to the EASFAA Exchange, a blog site that has been a year and a half in the making.  I am so pleased to be writing this inaugural blog entry but I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my predecessor, Cathy Patella.  She began the discussion of starting a blog at the beginning of her presidency and it took many conversations and lots of planning to get to this point.  As she reads this (and I assume she is reading this) I hope she knows how grateful I am for her leadership.

I guess if I am going to ask you to read what I have to say every week then it is probably a good idea to share a little bit about myself.   I was born and raised in south Jersey (there really is no “New Jersey”, you are either from north or south.)  Being from this particular geographic location I have devoted a great deal of energy to the Philadelphia sports teams, particularly the Eagles.   If you ever check the blog on a Monday and you see I haven’t written, check the scores.  It is likely that the Eagles have lost and I was just too foul to share my thoughts with the readership I love and respect so much.  They won today so the words are flowing from my fingers like something that can flow from someone’s fingers.

I am married to the most patient of women and she has blessed me with two beautiful children, both of whom memorized the Eagles fight song as soon as they learned to speak.

So, why is my wife so patient, you ask?  Well, in answering that it will also give you an insight into why I might find blogging such a challenge.  Let’s just I say I struggle with brevity.  Let me give you an example.

The following is a re-enactment of a typical phone conversation I might have with a barber when calling to find out the hours for which they are open.

Barber shop guy: “How may I help you?”

Me: “Yeah, hi, how are you today?”

Barber shop guy: “Fine. How may I help you?”

Me: “I got a haircut from you six weeks ago and I thought you did a really nice job.  I usually go about seven weeks between cuts but I leave for a conference on Sunday and I would like to get a trim before I go. I was gonna come in yesterday but my wife had a function after work and my daughter is in the band so I had to pick her up around 6:00.  Sometimes she is done later and sometimes earlier so a lot of times I will just sit in the parking lot and wait for her.  I knew if she ran long she would be hungry and don’t get me started on her homework.  I mean I can’t even help her with her math homework any more.  So, I figured today was a good day to swing by and get my haircut because the family is out and I have some time.  How late are you open?”

Barber shop guy: “5:00”

Me: “Great! Thanks.”

If you are still reading this, then you should know that I am aware of my wordiness and that is half the battle, right?  I will work on this through the year and I trust that you will comment on this site to keep me honest and on point.

If I am not your cup of tea you should know that we have assembled a great team of bloggers that will share their views on a regular basis.  Over the days and weeks ahead they will introduce themselves to you but here is a preview.

The Old Irascibles – a blog dream team of former EASFAA past presidents and NASFAA National Chairs. They are Bill Irwin, Irv Bodofsky and George Chin.

2+2=4, But So Does 3+1 – Dave Sheridan from Columbia University. I have enjoyed reading Dave’s opinions on the NASFAA listserv and I am very excited for him to share his opinions in this space.

Meaghan Hardy Smith – Boston College.  I have known Meaghan a long time and I think she is a star. If you do not know this yet you will soon enough.

Cartoon Blog – Matthew Meegan from Boston College.  It amazes me how much talent we have in our region. Matt is a really talented illustrator who will share drawings with a financial aid spin from time to time.   I will share his first creation with you in my next entry.

That was my first blog tease.  This is getting easier.

Hopefully as the EASFAA Exchange grows you will find it entertaining, informative and you will share your opinions and suggestions.  This site open to everyone.  You do not need to be an EASFAA member (but we sure hope you will consider it) to read the blogs or to comment.

I am heading out to State College to visit with my colleagues in PASFAA.  From there it is on to the NYSFAA Conference.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to share.