This spring semester marks my third opportunity to co-teach a credit-bearing financial literacy course to Penn undergrads. The idea was brought to me a few years ago by fellow Penn alum and NFL linebacker Brandon Copeland.
During an alumni gathering we happened to connect and Cope shared his vision for helping college grads be better prepared financially for adulthood. I’d had a conversation with a pending college grad just a few days prior about this exact need, so I was all in. Getting it up and running at Penn helped us to map out a bunch of additional opportunities and programs, including workshops for high school students and creating Teaching Assistantships.
COVID has most certainly impacted the past two spring semesters. Add in our busy schedules, moving parts in partnerships, and the course’s huge popularity, and it hasn’t been the easiest thing to manage, but it’s certainly been worth it. Here are three of my takeaways so far, a quarter into this semester, that moved me to share this piece today.
- Stories matter. Each year we begin the course unpacking the realization that money conversations can be hard to have. Most students share that they’ve rarely been exposed to financial literacy information in school (middle school, high school, or college — before our class). For many, household conversations also didn’t happen, or were limited. Our class creates a space for students to hear from us, plus a range of guest speakers, and also share with each other. This year we have the entire class actively engaging in additional financial conversations on their own time with people in their networks and with high school students later in the semester. This story sharing keeps the content relevant and accessible, and lets people know that the possibilities for their own financial lives are within reach.
- Teamwork wins. Cope and I compliment each other well; he’s got the experiences flipping properties and talking about investments on CNBC, and I’ve been studying education and systemic inequities for a while which adds another layer to the class conversation. We’re both great at facilitation, getting students to share throughout each class session. We also both know when we don’t know something, and tap into other guest experts, such as Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers and GQ Columnist / Nike Master Trainer Joe Holder (which goes back to my first point, stories matter, because our guests drop so many authentic gems every time. Also, big shout to that Penn alumni network coming through!). Our Teaching Assistants may be the real MVPs at the end of the day. They keep us focused and have us game ready at all times.
- This information is more important than ever. I closed out last week’s class giving praise to our students. Throughout February we’ve talked about some fundamental accounting strategies, retirement investing, and active investing, and students have kept the class going well past our projected end time. They’ve been video-on via Zoom, posting questions in the chat, and even taking the conversation to office hours after class. The degree of focus this year is hitting different. It makes me all the more thankful that we put this thing together three years ago and set a goal to grow it even further each year (which we’ve reached). It’s also giving me great hope for the future. The more people we get this information to, and the more we encourage them to share it with their teams, the closer we get to a more financially empowered community. That was our “why” for doing this, and it’s most certainly paying off.