The UNC Community Invests in the Future of Financial Education
Greater than the sum of its state-of-the-art parts, the new Financial Education Center at the Monfort College of Business is the distinctive creation of the University of Northern Colorado community coming together to invest in the future of financial education. The nearly $1 million construction project was entirely funded through the generous contributions of donors, each with their own reasons for investing in the mission of the FEC.
Bob and Bonnie Phelps are two of those investors. Proud parents of alumnus Brian Phelps (BA-12), they witnessed first-hand the impact a UNC education has on students’ development.
“We saw the FEC as an opportunity, a learning platform of sorts, for advancing a vital element of every student’s education. We wanted to help create an attractive venue for students where truly important knowledge and skills around real life economic issues and choices could be attained,” says Bob Phelps. “In sponsoring courses like Intro to Personal Financial Planning [BAFN 240], the mission of the FEC is something that focuses on where people live, something that really can make a difference to students by better preparing them to make personal financial decisions in a competitive, debt-laden, and often uncertain economic environment.”
With a background in small business ownership preceded by decades of corporate experience in human resources management, Phelps knows that personal financial decision making is something that even highly qualified business and technology professionals continue to struggle with throughout their adult lives. For him, the FEC is an important step for UNC to help address this broad issue and support a new standard in higher education’s approach to financial literacy.
MCB’s Acting Dean Karen Turner affirms the far-reaching appeal and impact of the FEC, which opened last fall. “Many of our donors are MCB alumni, some are not. All have recognized the true quality of our students and have decided to invest in their future,” says Turner. “This investment will truly make a difference in many lives.”
The Financial Education Center is designed to serve the diverse needs of a university community. Its trading room and technologically advanced classrooms empower faculty to train the next generation of financial specialists using hands-on applications of core learning concepts while its conference space and student collaboration room provide an inviting entry point for all students interested in studying the fundamentals of financial literacy.
Professor Garth Allen, chair of MCB’s Finance Department, can personally attest to the advantages being offered to students through the FEC. He’s excited by the opportunities students will have to share knowledge with one another in the FEC’s technology lab and social spaces.
“As faculty, we sometimes like to believe that our students learn everything from us, but that’s too narrow a view. They learn from technology, from books, and especially from having conversations with their peers,” says Allen. “The tools available at the FEC are going to bring students together from all different areas and levels of financial specialization. And when they get here they’re going to find something more: other students with similar educational goals, opportunities to create synergy and explore new sources of information.”
The FEC’s trading room will also host a special finance course that actively manages UNC’s Student and Foundation Fund (SAFF). Established nearly 20 years ago and recently enhanced by a $700,000 gift from Colorado Insurance and Business Education Foundation, students gain real world experience managing the SAFF and returns are used to help finance academic scholarships for their peers.
“All our SAFF students report that the experience is a wonderful talking point on their first interviews,” Allen says. “When employers learn they have gotten this kind of real world experience while still in schoolâ€”investing money and taking responsibility for the returnsâ€”it’s repeatedly shown to be a special asset that’s distinguished them from the other candidates.”
The FEC’s doors have been open for several months now, but in its short lifespan it’s already succeeded in uniting a wide variety of interests. There’s a clear consensus among donors, faculty, and students: the FEC is more than just a cutting edge new facility, it’s the product of a community collaborating to provide truly transformative educational experiences.
“This theme of financial literacy has a home and it has dedicated advocates,” Phelps says. “At the FEC opening, I was struck by the sheer number of supporters there, the excitement in the air about this new venue. We’re excited to see that enthusiasm carried forward so it can touch as many UNC students’ lives as possible.”