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Profiles in Financial Aid: SWASFAA President Andrew Hammontree

May 16, 2014

AHAndrew Hammontree is President of the Southwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SWASFAA) and Director of Financial Aid at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, OK. Counting his work-study experience as a student at Oklahoma Christian University, Andrew has 20 years of financial aid experience. Those 20 years have treated him well. “In spite of what other people on our campuses think, financial aid administrators are a lot of fun,” he claims. In speaking with Andrew, it is clear that this statement is true. Here is some of the excellent advice and information Andrew shared about himself, SWASFAA, and his financial aid experience:

April: As president of SWASFAA, what do you hope those in your community take away from your leadership?

Andrew: My vision for this year was to create a sense of community among the membership. Financial aid is not a profession one can do on one’s own – at least not easily – so it’s important to establish a strong network that will provide both professional and personal support. The relationships we build with our colleagues will help to sustain us during hard times. From personal experience, I know that SWASFAA can open many doors of opportunities for people who want to connect with people who face similar challenges.

April: What is the best part of being president of your regional association?

Andrew: The best part about being president is traveling to the different states and meeting new people. Everybody has been so welcoming, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with our members.

April: What are some things SWASFAA is doing that are unique?

Andrew: This year we started a blog that will give the membership an “inside look” at what it’s like to be on the SWASFAA board. We are also talking about ways to develop the future leaders of the financial aid community. Prior to the annual conference, we will have a half-day workshop for people who are interested in developing their leadership abilities. This will be a great opportunity for people to enhance their professional network and to start honing those all-important management skills. We are also going to start providing a series of webinars on best practices on various subjects with a panel of speakers from different sectors in our region. These webinars will be free of charge to our members.

April: What are some words of encouragement you would share with those who may want to pursue the role of president in the regional association?

Andrew: It’s really not as scary as it may seem. I’ve learned how to balance my regular job with SWASFAA responsibilities on top of having a personal life and other non-work-related obligations. I am not a social person by nature. I like to work behind the scenes, out of the spotlight, but being president requires me to be in front of people and make (gulp) small talk—both of which are very, very hard for me. But I found that if I focus on what I care about, like the goals that SWASFAA is working on, then talking in front of people is not hard. You just have to find your niche and go with it. No two presidents have been the same. Everyone brings something new to the table, and that’s a good thing.  Otherwise we’d get stuck in a rut.

April: What would you say are the top three things new hires in financial aid should do in their first year to be successful?

Andrew:

 1. Push yourself. This is a hard job, and it takes years to learn the bulk of what you need to know, so embrace the challenge and don’t give up. Eventually it will all start to make sense. The people who are most successful in this industry are the people who are driven to enhance their skill set. This doesn’t stop when you get to the director position.

 2. Read the FSA Handbook and the regulations, especially the parts that pertain to your job. It amazed me how much more enlightened I became once I started reading the Handbook.

 3. Always try to understand the “why” behind the regulations. This will help to put things in context, and you’ll be able to communicate better to your confused customers if you understand why we do the things we do. You can get this information by having conversations with people with more experience or by reading the Federal Register or NASFAA’s Today’s News or variety of other journal articles.

April: As you reflect on your financial aid career, who would you say was your biggest influence or mentor?

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley, flickr

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley, flickr

Andrew: Missi Bryant was the director who promoted me to a counselor position and eventually to an associate director position. We used to work a lot of weekends together, and it made me feel good to know that someone was taking the time to develop me.

April: What is a personal goal you are working toward this year?

Andrew: I like to write, and I have an idea for a novel. I can’t talk about the idea without losing momentum, but I am working on it when I have time. I will probably never let anyone see it once it’s done, but I’m writing it for myself, and I’ll just be happy if I finish it.

April: If you were a superhero, who would it be and why?

Andrew: I have always been partial to Batman because of his melancholy nature. He took something dark and made it something good.  He’s also very weird and I like that.

Join Andrew at the SWASFAA Annual Conference, which will be held in New Orleans, LA November 5-7, for excellent training, a chance for you to expand your network of colleagues and friends, and fun!

April Hastings, Learning Engineer, Nelnet Partner Solutions

April Hastings, Learning Engineer, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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