How Wolves and SWASFAA Are Simliar

Sent on behalf of Conference Chair, Harold Whitis

There is a story told of an old Cherokee teaching his grandson about life.  “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.  One is evil:  he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good:  he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.  The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

AS FAAs I believe that you come to the SWASFAA Conference to feed the “good” wolf!  We all work with a lot of great people in our “pack” who strive every day to be kind, benevolent, empathetic, generous, truthful, compassionate and faithful.  I am continually impressed by my colleagues and hopeful for the future of student financial aid and the student’s we serve.  It is the hope of the conference committee that you find a way to be fed at this conference.

We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine!

The SWASFAA Fall Conference Committee

Fall Conference Wolf Facts

Sent on behalf of Conference Chair, Harold Whitis:

The Great Wolf in You!

Have you been thinking of “wolf facts” sing the last blog?  Here are some more that are symbolic of what student financial aid is all about and how we are similar to a “wolf pack”.

  • Male wolves can be called many things, primarily the “alpha”.
    • Regardless of gender, we call our leaders Directors or other variations.
  • The “beta” wolf occupies a position immediately below the “alpha”.
    • This is an Associate Director usually.
  • The “omega” wolf is one or more wolves, male or female, that occupy the lowest position in the pack hierarchy. This wolf often plays the role of the scapegoat.
    • In financial aid, this is usually the person who just left (forever whatever reason) after the most recent audit.
  • Wolves are carnivores, which means they eat meat as their main food source. They also eat fruits and vegetables to stock up on nutrients not found in meat.
    • We all try to take care of our physical needs.
  • Wolves work together to catch their prey.
    • As FAAs we work together on many things when the voice or efforts of all members are necessary to tackle the issue.
  • A pack mentality of extreme loyalty and devotion to the group binds the wolves together as a unit, despite times of scarce prey or violence. For example, while the alpha wolves rule the roost, they ensure that any pups get their fill of food before the others dig in.
    • We are all bound together in a common cause. Article II of the SWASFAA Constitution says the purpose of the association is to promote the professional preparation, effectiveness, recognition and association of student financial aid administrators, postsecondary institutions, government agencies, foundations, and private business and others in educational institutions, government agencies, foundations, and private and community organizations concerned with the support and administration of student financial aid.

As you can tell by now, wolves are pretty complex animals but not very different from FAAs.  Sure, we buy our meat at the grocery store and prepare it at home in a nice, clean environment.  I like the part about extreme loyalty and devotion to the group and that the wolf is a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty and spirit!  I’m proud to work with the devoted group of FAAs in SWASFAA!  I’m sure you have stories to relay about how they have help make “The Great Wolf in You!”

We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine!

The SWASFAA Fall Conference Committee

Professional Development – A Way to Navigate Through the Financial Aid Wilderness

Sent on behalf of Connie Riley, Boot Camp Committee Member

It is no secret Financial Aid professionals continuously have to adapt to changes. Federal, State, and Institutional policy changes always trickle down to the Financial Aid Office. It seems we learn one regulation one day, only to have it become obsolete the next. Combined with the everyday stresses of phone calls from parents and students, receiving verification documents, and everyday interruptions, we can feel like we are wandering in the wilderness.

Professional Development is imperative for Financial Aid Professionals. Training opportunities, like the ones provided at the SWASFAA Boot Camp and Conference can provide an excellent service to your office. There are four reasons why it is so important to make time for professional development:

  1. Increase knowledge base – Attending programs where you learn something helps you to develop in your area of expertise. This can not only help your office; it can help your school.
  2. Meet new people – Opportunities to collaborate with others and obtain some ideas for best practices can help you. When you attend professional development trainings, there will be a lot of people you do not know yet. NETWORK! Meet others who deal with the same issues, and see what opportunities are available for you to expand upon.
  3. Expand your rolodex – Developing new connections and developing relationships with others in your field can be helpful if you run into a situation for which you feel you need to get a second opinion.
  4. Develop new resources- In addition to what you learn from the program content, you can learn even more from the other people in attendance. You can get advice from others who have “been there, done that.” Attending professional development programs are a great way to delve into the knowledge base of others and their areas of expertise.

Last year, I attended the SWASFAA Conference in Oklahoma. I attended several different sessions, but one in particular stands out. The speaker asked for us to talk about best practices in dealing with loan counseling. I came away with a couple of ideas for our office, and we have since implemented them. For me, this made the trip worth the time it took away from my office.

Don’t get lost in the wilderness of Financial Aid. Take this great opportunity of Professional Development offered at the SWASFAA Boot Camp and Conference. You will have the ability to meet colleagues from different states, network, learn something, and share what you already know with others. We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine.

Connie Riley
Boot Camp Committee Member
Financial Aid Analyst
Southern Arkansas University Tech

The Great Wolf in You!

Sent on behalf of Harold Whitis, Conference Chair

So, you see the 2017 SWASFAA Conference theme of “The Great Wolf in You” and then you see the logo!  Those wolf eyes are scary looking, huh?  Well, let me talk to you about the theme a little.  I personally think that choosing the theme is one of the hardest things to do when you are on a conference committee.  It drives everything about the conference from activities to food to advertising, etc.  It has to be a little catchy but not too corny.  We chose “The Great Wolf in You” for a couple of reasons, the obvious of which is the location.  The Great Wolf Lodge!  When you check in, believe me, you won’t be scared.  Everyone gets to wear a set of wolf ears.  Nothing says “I’m not scary” like a set of wolf ears!

But back to the theme.  Here are some “wolf facts” that are symbolic of what student financial aid is all about and what led us to this theme.

  • A wolf is a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty, and spirit. A wolf has the ability to make quick and firm emotional attachments, and often needs to trust their own instincts.  Thus they teach us to do the same, to trust our hearts and minds, and have control over our own lives.
    • As financial aid administrators we are guardians of federal, state and institutional resources. We are loyal to the cause and often have to trust our instincts, hearts and minds to guide our students as they strive to control their own lives.
  • Wolves are very social animals. They live and hunt together in groups called packs, which is another name for a family of wolves.
    • FAAs are social! We come together to learn and become experts in our craft but also to enjoy the company of our peers and student financial aid family.
  • For the most part, they mate for life although some males may bond to different females in different years, destroying the long-held “mate for life” myth.
    • Enough said….
  • Younger wolves do not overthrow the “alpha” male in the pack. They are dispersed from their parent’s packs, pair off with other dispersed wolves and start their own pack.
    • We train our staff to go out and have blossoming careers and enjoy watching them do so. The Sir Richard Branson quote (paraphrased) goes:  “We train them so well they can leave but treat them so well they don’t want to.”  I take pride in the fact that many of those I have hired went on to have successful, if not extraordinary careers.
  • There are only about 200,000 wolves in the world with about 5,000 in the lower 48 and 7,000 to 11,000 in Alaska.
    • Checking the NASFAA website it says they have about 20,000 financial assistance professionals in their membership. This is close to the 16,000 wolves in the lower 48 but who can get an accurate count anyway.

In my next installment I’ll give you some more interesting “wolf facts”.  If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, you still have time!  If you want to present, be sure to complete a “Proposal Submission” that can be found on the front page of the SWASFAA website.

We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine!

The SWASFAA Fall Conference Committee

Boot Camp 2017- Are you ready for the wilderness?


Don’t just survive, thrive in the financial aid wilderness!

When: November 6th-8th
Where: Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, TX

Boot Camp will be an exciting adventure this year as we learn the basics of financial aid. New hires will not only feel equipped to survive the vast amount information but will also learn how to thrive in the face of federal regulation changes. The three day training will provide a foundation in financial aid as well as the added components of professional development, the chance to network across our great region, and the opportunity to NASFAA credential in 10 financial aid topics! We have dedicated trainers ready to make this the best training yet.

I hope you will join us for this wonderful experience. More information including the agenda, hotel, and registration will be provided soon. An email will be sent out to the listserv once registration is live.

Should you have any questions regarding Boot Camp, please contact me at or 210-458-7295.


Sarah Webb
SWASFAA Boot Camp Chair 2017
The University of Texas at San Antonio