Come Together

During his remarks before yesterday’s opening session, our president Brian asked us all to get up and and find a person we’d never met.  He rightly assumed we likely found and sat with a friend.  I was already sitting next to someone I’d only met moments before, so I didn’t have to move, but most of the room stood up to find a new face to sit next to.  Everyone moved with a smile on his or her face — there was no grumbling — but we still all needed the prodding from our president to move beyond our comfort zone.

Today, I tried to take Brian’s lead and attend sessions I might not typically choose to attend.  I wanted to move beyond my own comfort zone and learn something new.  I admit that I am a bit of a policy nut; I can’t resist a good nuts and bolts presentation.  My sometimes overly-concrete mind loves solving a snarly compliance conundrum.  So, instead of making my way to the 8:15 AM Verification session, I instead chose to attend Heather McDonnell’s session on what makes a good leader.  The feds lost out again in the 9:30 slot; I eschewed Greg Martin’s “What FAAs Must Know About 150% Direct Subsidized Loan Limits” presentation in favor of Catherine Boscher-Murphy’s discussion about the importance of ethics and potential pitfalls of prejudices in PJs.  Then I ended my morning with an enlightening session on how the overturning of DOMA will impact our students and their families.

What I took away from these sessions is that even if I can distill all of the regulations, laws, and policies governing our profession into a Puerto Rican rum punch cocktail of compliance perfection, I still have to successfully navigate my relationships with my colleagues and my students.  I have to know how to come together with the people surrounding me.  If I want to be a leader, I have to know how to empower others.   If I want to be an advocate for my students, I need to understand the ways in which my prejudices and preconceived notions can trap me into making poor choices.  If I want to help families educate their children, I have to understand the nuances of their lives — most especially if their experiences and background are very different from my own.

To be a truly effective aid administrator, these skills are just as important as any technical knowledge I can amass along the way.

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Doryann Barnhardt

About Doryann Barnhardt

I am currently the Director of Student Financial Aid at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. Prior to coming to WAC, I held various positions in the aid offices at Delaware State University and Wesley College, both in Dover, DE. I am an accidental aid administrator; I stumbled into the profession over a decade ago, taking a job in a small college in New York City without even so much as having glanced at a FAFSA application before in my life. (How hard could it be, right?) I quickly learned it was hard work but that I was just the right kind of weird to do it. I am a graduate of the County College of Morris in New Jersey, Wesley College, and earned my Masters in Literary Studies from Washington College. I am an avid knitter, weaver, and home brewer . I am married to a college professor named Jack and we live in Delaware with our two cats, Dexter and Winston. You can reach me at

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