Students in James Valentine’s “Exploring and Sharing Financial Literacy” course aren’t just learning the fundamentals of financial literacy, they’re teaching it to community-based organizations in Chicago who want to share these skills with their communities.
A visit to one of Valentine’s fall class sessions revealed students and community leaders gathered in groups around the classroom, engaging in topics that ranged from how to create a budget to managing personal finances to techniques for improving individual credit scores. During the quarter students also met with leaders at their organizations to facilitate the lessons, deepening the hands-on learning experience for the students, who were all undergraduate finance majors.
Valentine, a clinical professor of finance in the Driehaus College of Business and executive director of the Driehaus Center for Behavioral Finance, created the course two years ago. “I wanted to utilize my finance teaching skills to help underprivileged communities in Chicago,” he says. “I’m happy I found a way to do that through DePaul, to provide this opportunity to our students.”
The coursework is heavily based on the University of Illinois’ All My Money: Change for the Better extension program, a train-the-trainer financial management program that is also offered through the State of Illinois.
Students spend the first four weeks of the course learning the foundational elements of financial literacy and principles of small group facilitation, and the remaining weeks teaching financial literacy content to the community leaders. In the process, students get to learn, apply and teach theories from behavioral finance, personal finance and adult learning.
“The DePaul University Steans Center [which supports community-based service learning] connects me with community-based organizations who are interested in receiving financial literacy training,” explains Valentine. “So far, we’ve had anywhere from five to nine CBOs participate in each course.”
The financial literacy kits that community-based organizations (CBOs) receive as part of their training, including handouts and facilitator guides, are funded by the Steans Center and the Driehaus Center for Behavioral Finance.
I wanted to utilize my finance teaching skills to help underprivileged communities in Chicago. I’m happy I found a way to do that through DePaul, to provide this opportunity to our students.”
— Clinical Professor of Finance James Valentine
Cody Cotton, co-founder of A Greater Good Foundation, was one of the CBO leaders who participated in the fall 2019 course.
“We’re a youth mentoring non-for-profit that provides social and emotional learning skills to high school and college-aged kids throughout the West and South Sides of Chicago,” shares Cotton. “It’s been extremely valuable to my organization and the youth we serve to receive this training from DePaul. And it’s helped me on a personal level, too. This class brought me a lot of self-awareness about my own habits and behaviors when it comes to finances.”
Ryan McCormick, a senior who took the class in which Cotton participated, says “it felt rewarding to be a part of a class that benefits the community.”
“It was an enlightening experience to realize how so many people don’t have the knowledge or skills they need when it comes to financial planning,” Ryan says.
Another positive outcome of the course was a translation project Valentine initiated with the help of the Department of Modern Languages at DePaul. “Many CBO leaders expressed the need to have the financial literacy handouts translated into Spanish since many of the under-resourced communities that need this information are Spanish-speaking,” explains Valentine. “We just wrapped up the process of translating these handouts during winter quarter, so they are available for those communities that need a Spanish version.”
“Exploring and Sharing Financial Literacy” is typically scheduled twice a year for finance majors at the Driehaus College of Business, but Valentine hopes to eventually make it available to all students at the college, especially since it meets DePaul’s experiential learning requirement. “For students who can’t afford to study abroad or aren’t fortunate enough to obtain an internship, this course provides a perfect opportunity for them to engage in experiential learning, meet that requirement, and all through a course offered in their college.”
By Nadia Alfadel Coloma | Photos by Kathy Hillegonds