Insights from Paul Goebel, 2018 Inceptia Ambassador
Finding Your Place

Since 2005 I have been engaged in the design, development, implementation, expansion, and assessment of financial wellness programming and services at the fourth largest public 4-year university in Texas – The University of North Texas. Perseverance, commitment, and understanding that failure is not final helped to transform the concept of collegiate financial wellness programming into the Student Money Management Center. Since that first semester I have been joined by an incredible group of professional colleagues and student workers with one common DNA – a passion to serve students. Our efforts, successes, and even failures helped build a national award-winning program. Together we provide a dynamic array of student-centric programs and services meeting the ever-changing face of the student experience for our diverse student body of more than 38,000 traditional, non-traditional, on-campus, and online students. Even after 38 semesters this small group of determined and creative spirits is still making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of students every year.


As a leader and educator, I often found myself existing on a professional island within higher education due to the limited number of collegiate financial wellness programs that existed across the state and nation during our center’s formative years. From 2005 to 2013 my colleagues and I were often invited to present workshops on our center and the emerging field of collegiate financial wellness at conferences addressing broader student issues within the purview of the fields of student affairs, financial aid, academic counseling, and business administration. While I appreciated the opportunity to share our experiences with other professionals and educators in higher education, I still felt like the ‘odd man out,’ since the majority of conference attendees were engaged in other aspects of the student experience. I wondered if I would ever find my own place.


Then in 2014 I received an invitation to attend the first National Summit on Collegiate Financial Wellness. What? Not only was there a conference dedicated solely to the mission of our center, there were others doing the same jobs and putting on similar programs as our team. Suddenly all feelings of professional isolation evaporated quicker than raindrops hitting the sidewalk during a summer thunderstorm in Texas. With a mixture of excitement and relief I packed my bags and boarded the flight to Ohio.


Within minutes of walking into the summit’s first event I knew that I had found my place. The actress Gina Bellman once noted, “I love those connections that make this big old world feel like a little village.” That first summit experience made the big old world of higher education that I was floating through like a satellite for years feel more like a little village filled with wonderful friends. No longer did I experience awkward silences when talking with other conference attendees about my team’s dreams and challenges. Throughout the summit I connected with talented and innovative educators and practitioners from a cross section of higher education institutions, from community colleges to professional certification programs to four-year universities. One connection led to another that then led to another and so on. I left that inaugural summit revitalized.


I have been fortunate over the years to attend and present at other summits. Today I consider the summit to be my primary professional development opportunity. The summit continues to be a rich source of ideas, possibilities, and best practices shared by colleagues. The very nature of the summit of learning and sharing has resonated throughout the field of collegiate financial wellness. From my personal experiences within higher education, it would be quite hard to identify another group of colleagues who readily and openly share insights, experiences, and resources with their peers as I have found across the field of financial wellness. This pulse of fellowship that flows throughout our field has at its heart the national summit.


Last year, the Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit (HEFW) was rebranded from the National Summit on Collegiate Financial Wellness. Even with a name change one constant has remained – to be the premier collegiate financial wellness professional development event. The 2018 HEFW is being held at Portland State University, July 15-17. Registration is open ( through July 15 - it's not too late! I am already looking forward to connecting with friends and learning from others across all areas of higher education who are helping students realize greater success in their personal financial lives. Pack your bags for Portland!


PAUL F GOEBEL MBA, CPFM is the founding and managing director of the Student Money Management Center at the University of North Texas. The center has received numerous national and institutional awards of excellence under his leadership. Paul and his team of professionals and student mentors have worked tirelessly to streamline all money management education services under the oversight of one dedicated office serving as a single entry point to eliminate frustrations and confusion among students seeking support, counsel, and resources. Paul was named Educator of the Year by two national associations and was selected to serve as Inceptia’s inaugural HEFW Ambassador.