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Profiles in Financial Aid: Melissa Haberman

July 7, 2014

firstbirthday01With nine years of experience, Melissa Haberman has quickly climbed the ladder due to her undivided service to her financial aid office. Currently, she is the Compliance & Training Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin Colleges and volunteering as Past-President for Wisconsin’s WASFAA. She also is a co-founder of the infamous new resource for financial aid administrators – #FAchat. #FAchat is a financial aid blog, as well as a moderated twitter discussion that occurs on the second Tuesday of every month from 12 – 1 pm CST. For an hour, Twitter users use the hashtag to discuss pertinent financial aid topics. The forum has been nominated for NASFAA’s Gold Star Award this year. Along with the multiple hats she wears, Melissa adds a cape at home; she is Super Mom to her twins Oliver and Nora, who will be celebrating their first birthday this month. Let’s see what this former colleague of mine has to say about her time in financial aid:

April: How would you describe your leadership style?

Melissa: In my role with WASFAA, I considered my leadership style as that of a facilitator. I hoped to provide a framework for my colleagues so that they could do their best work. I strive to be a leader that seeks input from the team, but knows when it is time to take the information we have and move forward.

April: As past-president of WASFAA, what do you hope those in your community took away from your leadership while in that role?

Melissa: As I said in one of my public speeches to WASFAA, if I can be president anyone can! I really wanted to be able to make information about the association more available to the membership so that everyone could find their niche. There are so many ways to get involved.

April: What are your words of encouragement for others aspiring to become president of their state association?

Melissa: I would highly recommend joining a conference planning committee. This is a fantastic way to really learn about how your association functions. Plus it is typically a one year commitment or less. Planning a conference is a great way to meet a lot of people in the association. I used to be much more reserved when meeting new people. As a co-chair of a conference committee, I felt like a host for the event, and it was the perfect ice breaker to get to know people.

If you have not chaired a committee previously or had any experience attending your association’s executive board meetings, I would recommend running for a delegate position before running for president. I was previously a co-chair of a committee, so I had the opportunity to participate in board meetings before moving to the role of president.

My other piece of advice is to reach out to past-president’s of your association for advice. I very much appreciate all of the guidance I received from several past-presidents of WASFAA.

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

Melissa:

  1. Join your state and regional financial aid associations. Attend a conference and introduce yourself to at least three people who don’t work in your office.
  2. Start a reminder calendar. I keep an annual calendar of things to remember each month. Keep track of how processing dates and deadlines impact your role. and questions you received at specific times of the year.
  3. Be patient with yourself! I think it probably takes two years in financial aid to really feel like you have a handle on things. The first year is for seeing the process and getting an idea of the cycle of an aid year. The second year you will really start to have a better feel for things.
  4. If I were to offer a fourth, it would be to reach out to your colleagues across campus too. Try to meet your colleagues in the business office and the registrar’s office.

April: Let’s talk about #FAchat. Which topics do you recall grabbing the most tweets this year?

Melissa: A couple of months ago, we had great discussion about professional judgment that drew a lot of attention. It can be frustrating when media stories run headlines about “negotiating” your aid package. There was a great #FAchat about how to handle those calls.

April: What are some goals with #FAchat for the 2014-2015 award year?

Melissa: We would love to expand the blog further. We are looking for financial aid professionals who would be interested in writing articles. Please feel free to contact any of the moderators to let us know if you are interested, even if you have never written a blog before! We would be happy to help you get started.

April: As you reflect on your financial aid career who would you say was a big influence or mentor to you?

Melissa: My former supervisor Marilyn Krump was a fantastic mentor. She really encouraged me to go to graduate school and continue to grow professionally. She was a very positive and encouraging supervisor, but she was also honest with me about the areas I needed to work on. That type of positive and constructive feedback was so helpful.

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

Melissa: Well, it’s official now, so I can tell you that I will be starting a new position in July. I will be joining the team at the UW-Madison Office of Student Financial Aid as the Loan Manager. I have very much appreciated my time at UW Colleges, and I look forward to my new role.

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

Melissa: This question is awesome. I’m trying to come up with a good answer. Ok, not really a super hero, but maybe Doctor Who because he can travel through space and time and explore the world. Yeah, I’m a nerd, haha.

 Make sure to be part of the next #FAchat! Follow @TheFAchat on Twitter and visit the #FAchat blog at http://thefachat.blogspot.com/.

 

April Hastings, Learning Engineer, Nelnet Partner Solutions

April Hastings, Learning Engineer, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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