Mary Sommers, director of Financial Aid at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, has received the 2012 Meritorious Achievement Award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).
In presenting the award, outgoing NASFAA Chair Pam Fowler said: “Mary has been an outstanding leader at the state, regional and national level. At the state level, she has set a bar for leadership and service to which other members can aspire. At the regional level, she reinvigorated a key program that was sure to lapse had it not been for her determination and leadership.” Fowler is director of Financial Aid at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Joe Oravecz, dean for the UNK Division of Student Affairs, said: “We’re incredibly proud of Mary. She consistently looks out for the best interest of our students and their family members, is a valued member of UNK and the UNK Division of Student Affairs, and is highly respected among her peers throughout the country.”
Just a year ago at the national conference, Sommers was awarded the Regional Leadership Award for the Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RMASFAA). The Rocky Mountain region includes eight states—Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Regional Leadership Awards are presented to one individual in each region who exhibits high integrity and character, who has shown creative leadership and has inspired and encouraged others to actively participate in professional development, who has made outstanding contributions at the regional and state levels over a sustained period of time, and who supports the goals and objectives of NASFAA.
Sommers is currently a representative-at-large on the NSAFAA Board of Directors. She has served two terms as president of the Nebraska Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and one term as president of the Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RMASFAA). Currently, she is chair of RMASFAA Leadership Pipeline. In addition, she has been the RMASFAA Summer Institute chair. Over her career, Sommers has presented at state, regional and national conferences on a variety of financial aid and higher education topics.
At UNK, Sommers has served as co-chair of the New Student Enrollment Task Force. Currently, she is on the Enrollment Management Committee and the Student Success Task Force.
When she was awarded the university-wide KUDOS Award in 2004, the award noted: “Under her leadership, the (Financial Aid) office has transformed its internal functions and structures to improve service to students. As a result, the scope of opportunity for students and the levels of their ambitions have both increased. She has also contributed significantly to a reinvigorated student recruitment strategy for UNK.”
Off-campus, Sommers is often invited to speak at conferences addressing current challenges and opportunities in financial aid, and she is a highly visible spokesperson on financial aid issues in Central Nebraska and throughout the state.
She has been at UNK since 1992 where she served as a financial aid counselor and the assistant director before becoming director in 2000. Before coming to UNK, she was the director of Financial Aid and also an Admissions counselor at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. Sommers holds a B.A. from Iowa State University in in journalism and mass communication and a master’s in educational administration from the University of Nebraska.