"Meet the AACRAO Staff" is an occasional Connect feature. It's one way for members to get to know some of the folks hard at work in the AACRAO office. Another way? Come see us in D.C. -- we'll roll out the welcome mat for you!
This issue, meet Cajun chef, outdoorswoman and government relations guru Michelle Mott. "Michele is simply amazing," says AACRAO legislative affairs expert Quintina Conway. "Government Relations is a busy and demanding area, and Michelle does an exemplary job helping to keep AACRAO on the policy scene, writing and editing Transcript, and keeping AACRAO members up to date--all of this with a genuine smile on her face. I'm excited to work with and learn from her."
How long have you been working at AACRAO?
Well, I actually started as an intern while I was finishing my Master's Program in History and Public Policy at The George Washington University. I did policy and marketing, working mostly with Barmak Nassirian throughout that period until he took me on full time as a policy analyst. Jumping forward, I am now the Associate Director of Government Relations and Communications.
And what does your job entail now?
Put in the simplest terms, I help monitor federal policy and then communicate what's going on with the membership. Breaking that down, it becomes more complicated. We try and work with our members to see what issues affect them so that we cover policies that are timely and important. These issues obviously vary, but anything that helps AACRAO members do their jobs more effectively or that increases access to higher education for students is a priority.
What have you learned doing the job thus far?
A lot! It is always interesting to see what members bring to the table. We can analyze legislation all day long, but it doesn't necessarily mean we understand exactly what it means to our members and how it will impact their day-to-day practices. Those interactions really help me to understand that while policies affect campuses, campuses often affect policies, as well. .
Can you give an example of that?
Let's look at the Department of Defense's (DoD) updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for participation in its Tuition Assistance (TA) program. The current version of the agreement resulted from a complicated push and shove between the government agency and the higher education community. Once again, we are facing new proposed rules to update that agreement. And once again, we turned to our campus practitioners to ensure that the new provisions would not conflict with long-standing institutional practices.
What was the result of this input?
After the initial outcry of concern from the higher education community, the DoD went back to the table, altering the agreement with numerous recommendations that stemmed from discussions with our members among others. The agency has now proposed additional changes to the MOU, and we have responded with a new set of concerns guided by the concerns of our membership. We hope that the process to finalize the final agreement is a bit more smooth than the last round.
What was your first Annual Meeting, and which one was the most memorable for you?
I would say my first one was my most memorable one so far. It was New Orleans in 2010. I am from right around there, so it was nice to see family and friends, and it was great to see the Annual Meeting all come together.
What do you like to do when you aren't thinking about Higher Ed policy?
I really enjoy cooking “ it's part of my Louisiana heritage. I grew up cooking with my grandparents and parents. Mostly old Cajun recipes featuring a wide variety of strange┬" ingredients..
Back home I go water-skiing “ I can't do it on a mountain, but I am good on water. Beyond that, I always enjoy being outdoors when I can, whether I am in the city or not, hiking and taking it all in.