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Innovation in Education: Chatham’s Financial Wellness Program

Sean McGreevey, PhD
Sean McGreevey, Ph.D.

As Assistant Dean for Career Development and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance, I’ve noticed that even our most savvy, empowered, and world ready students seemed to shoulder anxiety about their future. I thought we could help students formulate a battle plan for the “real world,” and that led to the creation of a new program called “Financial Wellness”. The ten-week program is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and 38 students have signed up since last fall.

It’s important to understand this concept of financial wellness. Most folks would call it financial literacy, and think about balancing their checking account, or calculating compound interest. That’s where this program is different.

Every week, we meet and focus on the myths that our society feeds us about money. Most notably, we discuss at length the myth surrounding the importance of a credit score.   Sure, you don’t want to have bad credit, but the debt industry spends $4,000,000,000 (that’s billions, folks) each year convincing you that your FICO score is an indication of your success in life. I want folks to buy things they can afford and live a life that isn’t dependent on debt.

We talk about habits and attitudes more than we do math problems. Personal finance is not difficult. Making a plan and having the personal fortitude to make sacrifices and stick to it
is the hard part.

You will never be wealthy unless you live below your means and save. This requires dedication, sacrifice and the ability to tell yourself “no” when all you want is a Chipotle burrito.

Wealth isn’t about a fancy car or a chateau in the Alps—it’s about having options. I want our students to gain financial confidence. With that confidence, they can face whatever their situation happens to be, rather than letting the situation happen to them.

There are two takeaways that I want to impress upon students in Financial Wellness.

  1. You should save 15% of your income (no matter how small) and develop a savings habits. This will result in a chunk of cash that you can use for your “next move” account – transitioning to a new city, application fees for graduate school, etc.
  2. The first thing that many new college graduates do is run out and sign up for payments on a car they can’t afford. We talk about how to drive what’s reasonable for your situation and work your way into something that’s ideal.

We’re really only scratching the surface in Financial Wellness as we talk about debt, saving, credit scores, mortgages, and retirement. My hope is that students start to think critically about personal finance and seek information outside of what is delivered by credit card marketing. When our students graduate, we want them to cross the stage with a financial wellness plan and the personal resilience to follow through.

Watch Dr. McGreevey discuss financial freedom as part of the WQED Multimedia special “Closing the Gap: 50 Years Seeking Equal Pay”: 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about the Financial Wellness program; you can read the story here.

Dr. McGreevey and the staff in Career Development are committed to working with students from day one, year one to achieve their professional goals. Learn more

Chatham’s Dr. Lou Martin publishes new book on industrialization

PITTSBURGH: Chatham University associate professor and department chair, Dr. Lou Martin will publish his new book, Smokestacks in the Hills: Rural-Industrial Workers in West Virginia, with the University of Illinois Press on November 2, 2015. The book discusses the relocation of steel and pottery factories to Hancock County, West Virginia, and how that created a rural and small-town working class, and what that meant for communities and for labor.

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Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus Wins Award of Excellence in Engineering & Science

PITTSBURGH:  The American Institute of Architects, Pittsburgh Chapter, has presented an Award of Excellence in the category of Engineering and Science for Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus storm and waste water management systems.

In commenting on the award, the judges said, “This project reminds us of the importance of water, and also basic and natural technologies that are highly effective.  The complete built project functions as an efficient machine while never giving the appearance of being a machine. As a first phase of a proposed new campus, the standards are already set impressively high.”

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Award-Winning Children’s Book Author, Lois Lowry, to Speak at Chatham University Nov 23, 2015

PITTSBURGH:  Award-winning children’s book author, Lois Lowry, will discuss her work and answer questions on Monday, November 23, 2015, at 1:00 pm in the Welker Room, James Laughlin Music Hall, on Chatham University’s Shadyside Campus.

Held in collaboration with Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing program and Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures, the event is free and open to the public.

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The Fourth River Writing Journal to Launch Next Issue at Reading on November 13

PITTSBURGH:  The Fourth River, a journal of nature and place-based writing published by Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program will launch a special issue entitled, Queering Nature, on Friday, November 13, 2015 from 7 to 9 pm. This joint event with Chatham MFA Word Circus will be held at the Rea Coffeehouse on Chatham’s Shadyside Campus.  Featured readers are James Crews and D. Gilson, followed by readings by current Chatham MFA students.  The event is free and open to the public.

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“We Don’t Pick Out Pillows: the Science of Design”

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image from dnainfo.com

In New York City, land is so sought after that development is expanding to one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country—Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. That’s why chemistry students at the CUNY College of Technology are examining its water composition. Through a National Science Foundation-funded initiative, Chatham undergraduates have come on board to widen their perspective.

The Chatham students—who have been participating through their enrollment in Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture Greg Galford’s Green and Sustainable Design course—have developed and produced a short video called “We Don’t Pick Out Pillows: the Science of Design.” It aims to teach the chemistry students about building design and its impact on the environment.

Just under seven minutes long, the video introduces the chemistry students to topics ranging from how designers work to techniques for cleaning up contaminated water and land. It features Pittsburgh buildings that exemplify sustainable building techniques, including Phipps Conservancy and the Bayer Material Science Headquarters.

But the goal of the project isn’t just to make the chemistry students more well-rounded; it’s also to help the interior architecture students improve their cross-disciplinary collaboration skills. To that end, the chemistry students have provided feedback on the video, and Galford’s current Green and Sustainable Design course will be using that feedback to improve the video.

Chatham University offers a rigorous three-year Bachelor of Interior Architecture degree that requires no summer study, allowing greater opportunities for internships, study abroad and employment.