About Janell Valdez

I'm honored to be the 2016 SWASFAA president! Financial aid has always been a part of my life. Starting as a work-study student at Washburn University in Topeka, KS to my current position as Associate Director of Financial Aid at the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center, I've considered exiting this awesome profession. I look forward to meeting our SWASFAA members throughout the year at state conferences and of course the annual conference in Oklahoma City.

“Financial Aid All Stars, Hit It Out of the Park”

“Financial Aid All Stars, Hit It Out of the Park”, such an appropriate theme for the TASFAA  2016 Conference, held in Frisco.  Conveniently located by the Dr. Pepper Ballpark. Though the season was over for the Frisco RoughRiders, the park was lite up Wednesday night.   Awesome view from my hotel room.

Flipping through the conference agenda, it was difficult to decide which sessions to attend.  One of my favorites was a student panel.  Listening to students talk about what is important to them about the financial aid process.  Not a surprise, communication, and methods of communicating, being the topic of discussion.

During Thursday’s lunch, as I was chatting with Lisa Blazer, NASFAA Chair, it became obvious that SWASFAA is a great hands with Denise Welch as incoming President and Shannon Crossland incoming President-Elect.  TASFAA sure represents at the regional and national level.

I don’t think I walked past a TASFAA member without hearing “thank you for attending our conference.”  Talk about making one feel welcomed, wow!

Thank you, TASFAA, for inviting me to an awesome conference!  Had a great time and learned so much.  Every conference presents a learning opportunity.

Looking forward to “sharing” my experiences from the AASFAA and LASFAA conferences.  What a great organization we are all part of!!
















Fall and Travel Season

Fall in Albuquerque means cooler evenings, changing colors, and best of all the Balloon Fiesta.  Next week, as I drive to work, the sky will be full of hundreds of balloons, I hope.  Got my fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate.   This year for me, fall also means travel to Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana for state conferences.  Looking forward to making new friendships and reacquainting with old friends.

After state travel, it’s off to beautiful Oklahoma City for SWASFAA’s annual conference, November 9 – 11, at the historic Skirvin Hotel.

Boot Camp committee members, Jan Terry-Sanchez and Jennifer Williams recently blogged about the awesome benefits Boot Camp offers.    I’ve been fortunate enough to have participated in NASFAA Credential training which Mendy Schmerer and Jennifer Williams taught.  SWASFAA is so fortunate to have such engaging, knowledgable trainers.The opportunity to test for 11 NASFAA credentials is such a financial savings, as Jennifer stated in her blog.

New at this year’s conference is a “Town Hall” general session.   NASFAA and FSA representatives will be available to answer members’ questions.  The Annual Conference Committee has designed sessions which are relevant to today’s ever changing financial aid environment.  Do the three letters “PPY” ring a bell?

Local Arrangements Committee recently gave us a peek at the  fun activities they are planning. Be sure to dust of your 60’s, 70’s or 80’s outfit for Thursday evening’s event with “Super Freak”.  Gee, the 80’s is now considered vintage (old), how in the world did that happen!

Just a reminder, hotel reservations need to be made by October 7.  You can find more out about the conference and registration at http://www.swasfaa.org/docs/conferences/site/index.html .

Keep on the look out for future blog postings about the annual conference.  See you soon Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana members!

The gorgeous hotel Skirvin.










Bridging Connections…Transforming Success

Unbelievable, it is only three months until the 2017 SWASFAA conference in Oklahoma City, November 9 -11.   In the near future, the Conference Planning, Local Arrangements, and Mid-Level committees will post information about important events which will occur before and during the conference.  Boot Camp chair, Mendy Schmerer, has already shared with the membership the  reasons to attend the ever popular Boot Camp, November 7 – 9 .

New this year are two additional conference registration opportunities; one -day and non-member.   Financial aid professionals who are not current SWASFAA members can attend the conference with a non-member registration. For current  members or non-members who find that they can only get away from the office for a short period of time, the one day registration is an option.   Of course, our hope is that non-member attendees become members due to their awesome conference experience.

If you have any questions about the pre-conference events or conference program, do not hesitate to reach out to following committee chairs;

  • Conference Planning: Susan Chavez, schavez307@cnm.edu
  • Local Arrangements: Audra Main, Audra-main@ouhsc.edu
  • Boot Camp: Mendy Schmerer, Mendy-schmerer@ouhsc.edu
  • Mid-Level:  Brent Small, Brent.small@enmu.edu
  • Corporate Sponsor: Craig Poleman, craigp@inceptia.org

Keep an eye out for conference updates on the SWASFAA web site .  We hope you are able to join us in November where attendees will be bridging connections…transforming success.






NASFAA 50th Anniversary National Conference


Flying over the Potomoc, I imagined what a breathtaking view George Washington had from his back porch, on a summer evening.    As the plane touched down at Ronald Reagan Airport,  I was brought back to reality.

I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend NASFAA’s Conference and to join fellow SWASFAA members in celebrating NASFAA’s 50th Anniversary.  50 years of a dedicated support  to our profession and most of all, students.  What in incredible event!  I hope you had the opportunity to follow SWASFAA on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Jeannette Walls, author, kicked off the conference Sunday, with a moving “conversation” about her life.  As author of “The Glass Castle”, Jeannette shared her story, a story of overcoming adversity.    I highly recommend reading her book, so compelling.

So many sessions to choose from; sector specific, leadership, enrollment/retention, regulatory, research, it was difficult to determine which presentation to attend.  I was always reaching for the conference program to map my day.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, Sunday evening’s event was full of laugher, music, and dancing.   Our own Andrew Hammontree, with his sparking, silver gloved hand, rocked  out to “PPY” on stage.    If you followed social media, I’m sure you saw many pictures SWASFAA members enjoying the evening (you can see more below).

Monday’s lunch break highlighted the 2016 Student Aid Success Stories, and quite the stories they were.  Five unique, emotional stories from five individuals whose lives changed due to their perseverance and desire to obtain a higher education degree.

During Tuesday’s business meeting,  NASFAA Chair Dan Mann passed on the gavel to Lisa Blazer, signifying the start of her year as NASFAA Chair.   I felt so privileged, and of course proud, to be a part of such a significant moment for Lisa and our SWASFAA membership.   A big congratulations to Lisa!!!

As I packed my bags on Wednesday, I reflected on the week.  I made new friends, shared financial aid stories, learned a more about PPY (oh, don’t get me started) and most of all, I left with  the knowledge that I am a part of a wonderful, caring profession.

Here are some photos from the Conference. Search #swasfaa or #NASFAAturns50 on Twitter for more! Check out Facebook and Twitter for SWASFAA and tag us if you have more!

GREAT JOB TAINA SAVOIT (2016 NASFAA National Conference Program Task Force CHair) and to your task force!