Monday, August 17, 2009
by Donna Little, Associate Professor of Accounting
Driving down the freeway a few years ago, I noticed a large billboard, sponsored by a local bank, proclaiming, "There is a boat in your house!" I was still seething when I got to class the following day. I'm sure my students probably thought, "there she goes again," however we had a lively discussion of the second mortgages lenders were touting to consumers. Fortunately, with our cutting-edge computer teaching labs, I didn't have to make my point in theory only. The students and I were able to set up spreadsheet models for the loan amortization and the boat depreciation. The numbers told the story.
Using numbers to tell the story has been my focus as a faculty member at Menlo College since 1986. After a fast-paced career in the Silicon Valley beginning in 1973 and culminating in a 1983 IPO, I was fortunate to begin teaching at Menlo upon the birth of my first child. The time had come to shift gears and try to make a difference in the lives of others. Many of my students, while educated in traditional subjects and life-skills, have little or no preparation for making decisions about budgeting, saving, debt, and investing. Notwithstanding, their response to financial literacy has always been enthusiastic. Students not only want to secure their futures, but to assist others in making financial decisions. Some of the most fulfilling moments of teaching are when students realize the devastating impact of credit card debt or the advantage of early savings. As students are able to advise their family or friends with new-found knowledge, their satisfaction is multiplied.
"This is a new chapter in Menlo's history of business education."
I have the same leanings when it comes to professional activities and scholarship. Because of Menlo's Silicon Valley edge in terms of classroom computing, I have been drawn to explore and develop educational content on the web.
Early consulting at Yahoo! Finance for education opportunities sparked ideas for online classroom application. This interest has led me to research companies' use of their Investor Relations web-sites for public knowledge. Financial literacy definitely includes the ability to access information when making decisions about investing time and money.
This is a new chapter in Menlo's history of business education. Last year, Menlo established new majors in Accounting and Finance. We are fortunate to have three new highly qualified full-time faculty to teach in the two programs: Dr. Yao Tian in accounting and Dr. Soumendra De and Dr. Jan Jindra in finance. We look forward to their infusion of enthusiasm and expertise. New classes and activities will begin as a result of the college's commitment to financial education, not the least of which is the newly proposed Menlo College Center for Financial Literacy, under the auspices of the Menlo College Center for Future Learning.
We envision that the Menlo College Center for Financial Literacy will provide free educational opportunities that support learners in their roles as consumers, productive employees, and potential entrepreneurs. Planned topics include saving, loans, mortgages, stocks, bonds, budgeting, insurance, retirement planning, as well as home ownership. We envision a web-based presence with tutorials, newsletters and guides, as well as a strong community connection through workshops, kiosks and broadcasts. By partnering with local libraries, high schools and other local centers, we can deliver on-campus instruction and events. One of our strongest connections, the Silicon Valley Chapter of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants has enthusiastically endorsed our efforts and offered to partner with us.
A decade later the advertisements for taking equity out of one's home for boats, vacations and such have largely disappeared, but the need for financial education and vigilance are always with us. As Menlo College celebrates our progress toward becoming a preeminent business college, we acknowledge our desire to spread financial literacy beyond our institution into the greater community.