Thoughts from Christina Schmidt, 2019 Inceptia Ambassador A First-Time HEFW Attendee’s Perspective This year will be my first time attending the Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit, and I’m really excited to be take part in a conference dedicated to such a unique topic. I am confident that this will be a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of how other institutions approach financial literacy, and a chance to bring back some valuable ideas for new campus literacy initiatives. But first, a little bit about what I do. Much of my time as a Financial Aid Counselor at the University of Rochester has been dedicated to working with students who are economically disadvantaged and have been selected for the New York State Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program. Many students are first generation and I enjoy providing resources to help them understand their financial aid options and gain a foundation for navigating their personal finances. A helpful tool has been Inceptia’s Financial Avenue program. It has been such a rewarding experience to see students grow in confidence using this platform. One of my students, Dennis, is a reminder to me of why I do what I do. He recently reflected upon his experience: “As a high school senior preparing for a tough financial transition into college, I had the fear of being financially ignorant after learning about my admission to the University of Rochester. However, a previous moment of financial ignorance turned into financial literacy after the introduction of Financial Avenue. The courses not only taught me about the ability to save money for college, but to regard it as an investment. Thanks to Financial Avenue, I was able to save enough money for emergency use until the end of the semester.” Another way Inceptia has positively impacted the University of Rochester is through our campus food pantry, which just launched in 2019. I have been a stakeholder in the planning of the food pantry, whose purpose is to serve the immediate needs of hungry students who stay on campus over the summer and are without a meal plan. In preparation for the launch, I attended various Inceptia webinars highlighting the issue of systemic food insecurity across college campuses. It has been eye-opening to see the data supporting the need for this campus resource. I will be looking for ways to invite this student population to use Inceptia’s Financial Avenue resources to help them with day-to-day budgeting and money management skills. I believe the upcoming Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit will provide a fruitful experience by enhancing my work in financial aid. There are a number of breakout sessions being offered that will address the challenges of the populations of students with whom our Financial Aid Office interacts. Of particular interest to me is the “Full Minds, Empty Stomachs: Food Insecurity on Campus” session, presented by Inceptia’s very own Carissa Uhlman! Other session topics I’m excited about include developing peer programs, promoting responsible loan borrowing, and ways to assess and evaluate program success. I am eager to share ideas about financial literacy programming implementation with representatives from other institutions. The pre-conference session, “Where Do I Go Next? Moving beyond Getting Your Program off the Ground” will be a great place to share our successes and best practices with one another. I, for one, know that I could use some fresh ideas on how to build partnerships across campus as a means of gaining new Financial Avenue participants! Not only am I looking to bring back new concepts to implement on campus, but I’m also looking for opportunities for personal enrichment, as well. Joshua Becker is one of four keynote speakers who will be at the summit. He recently posted an article on his website titled, “Our Money is Only as Valuable as What We Choose to Spend It On.” He promotes a minimalistic lifestyle, and boy does that sound liberating! I look forward to his insights and hope to bring a more mindful approach to spending money in my own life. I’ve been following the summit’s Twitter account (@the_hefwa) for the last month. If you don’t follow them already, it’s a great way to get a preview of what’s to come and keep abreast of the summit happenings in real time. I will be tweeting as well, so follow me @ChrisFSchmidt or, better yet, come find me at the summit! About the author: Christina Schmidt, M.Div. – Christina has worked in higher education for seven years in a combination of admissions and financial aid. In her current position as an Assistant Director for Financial Aid at the University of Rochester, she implements financial literacy programming using Inceptia, a division of National Student Loan Program. She coordinates financial aid outreach efforts across campus and in the local community.She was selected to be the Inceptia Ambassador at the 2019 Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit. Follow her on Twitter @ChrisFSchmidt.