Third Time’s the Charm: Teaching Financial Empowerment at Penn

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Cope and the kids, back in Year 1 of class

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.

  1. 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.

I am a husband, father, writer, educator, and generator of ideas. Working on my follow through. Latest book, Higher Learning, out now at learnhigher.com.

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