Westfield State University and Sacred Heart University promote financial literacy through ‘Uniting Hearts’ initiative

Nov 10, 2021
The Ely Campus Center with University Hall in the background

In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of financial literacy for first-generation college students, undergraduate students in Dr. Robert Chatt’s Financial Management course at Westfield State University (WSU), and students in Dr. Mark Congdon Jr’s  Advertising & PR Writing and Advertising & PR Campaigns courses at Sacred Heart University (SHU), plus graduate students in the strategic communication and public relations program at SHU, are collaborating on a multi-institutional public awareness campaign under the SHU’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts’ Uniting Hearts initiative.

WSU and SHU students are teaming up with WSU’s TRIO Support Services Program, SHU’s Multicultural Center, its Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, Office of Volunteer Programming & Service Learning, and its MBA Program, as well as The Hord Foundation, to promote financial literacy on and off-campus.  

The campaign, “Uniting Hearts: Paving the way to Financial Freedom,” will direct initiatives to foster dialogue about how to become financially responsible and encourage putting those ideas into action. The two-week campaign runs November 10–18. Various educational opportunities and interactive events are sponsored throughout the month to encourage campus engagement around the topics of budgeting, credit scores/credit history, student loan management, and retirement planning & investing. The goal is to educate students, so they will be able to apply financially responsible behaviors in their future endeavors.  

Those who are knowledgeable about financial literacy are more likely to be able to stay out of debt, save money, and make the right investments. A survey conducted by the Certified Board of Financial Planner reveals that 62% of people who use a budget feel more in control of their finances. A study on Collegiate Financial Wellness also found that “First-generation students are significantly more likely than continuing-generation students to use loans, scholarships, credit cards, and wages to finance their education.” This highlights the need for first-generation college students to understand the importance of how to manage their finances and learn how to implement financial responsible behaviors.  

The events are broken down into three categories: educate, motivate and participate. The vision of the campaign is to bring communities together, examine what are financially responsible behaviors, challenge systemic classism, racism, and sexism embedded in our society that contributes to financial illiteracy, and acknowledge the need for individual and collective change.  

“This multi-institutional campaign will allow us to spread awareness on how to be more financially responsible and encourage all to reflect on our behaviors,'' said Robert Chatt, Ph.D., Westfield State University assistant professor of finance.  

Five different events and panel discussions held by WSU and SCMA students, community professionals, and alumni will take place during the month: 

  • On November 10, at 7 p.m., join the event, “Food for Thought: A Cultural Kickback & Discussion on Food Insecurity and Food Budgeting” that will take place in-person on SHU’s campus at Thea’s Abbey and also live-streamed on SHU’s Multicultural Center’s Instagram 
  • On November 11, at 8 p.m., join the Watch Party Discussion of The Banker that will take place in-person on SHU’s campus in Martire, room W114 
  • On November 15 at 7 p.m., join the Zoom for the “Domino Effect: Examining the $1.7+ Trillion Student Loan Crisis” panel discussion 
  • On November 17, at 8 p.m., join the Hybrid Watch Party Discussion of Saving Capitalism that will take place both virtually on Zoom and in-person on SHU’s campus in Martire, room W120 
  • On November 18, at 8 p.m., join the Zoom for the “Financial Literacy Trivia Night” with opportunities to win prizes.   
  • There will also be “Wisdom Wednesday” community conversations held by SHU’s Multicultural Center on November 10 at 1 p.m. and November 17 at 1 p.m. Both discussions are in-person at the Center on SHU’s campus in the Academic Center, room HC111. 

    “The Uniting Hearts Initiative showcases the collective power of community-engaged work with advancing the mission and purpose of higher education,” said Robert Johnson, director of the Multicultural Center at SHU. Dr. Mark Congdon Jr., assistant professor of communication studies at SHU, added that “getting students to think about how they can apply the content of their learning to help the broader community advances both SHU’s and WSU’s social justice mission.”  

    With the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the interconnectedness of our systems and exacerbating the financial struggles that many students and families are experiencing, it’s a pivotal time to connect students with the resources to understand key elements of financial literacy that will guide them to be financially successful in the future, organizers said.  

    For more information on the campaign’s upcoming events, visit the Fall 2021 Uniting Hearts Program of Events website.