Case Study — Dr. Donna Gober
Dr. Donna Gober
Director of Wellness
Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX
Southern Methodist University is a school on a mission. Their mission is to create independent thinkers rather than 20-somethings who can memorize facts. They want students to find purpose, solve problems, and enter the working world prepared for its many challenges. That's why every incoming student is required to go through Dave Ramsey’s Foundation in Personal Finance: College Edition.
We asked the Director of Wellness, Dr. Donna Gober, to share how SMU has equipped more than 5,000 students so far to win with money:
Ramsey Solutions (RS): Why did you choose Foundations?
Several years ago, our department was charged with building a financial component into the wellness curriculum. On the recommendation of a faculty member (and consensus of the review committee) we decided to incorporate Foundations into a pilot class during the spring of 2012. A semester later, we fully implemented Foundations into the course and now offer it more than 60 times a year.
RS: How did you integrate Foundations into your curriculum?
Foundations is a part of our semester-long class, Concepts of Wellness. The class is designed to help students transition to college by exploring subjects like character, integrity, decision-making, meaning, purpose and goal setting. During the semester, we devote five class periods to Foundations plus assignments outside of class.
In class, we focus on the first three chapters and watch the DVDs. Then, on their own, students create a budget and choose an area of their finances to track over the next two to three weeks. Afterward, they write a reflective paper explaining their observations.
RS: How is this material impacting SMU students?
Immediately following the lesson on savings, one student called her dad and asked him to help her open a savings account. She had been a nanny for the past two years and was making good money, but she would spend it as soon as she earned it. She had nothing to show for all her hard work. She was ready to start saving!
Many of our students have similar stories. They get a certain amount of money every month they can spend, but they're not really paying attention to where it's going. We have two coffee shops on campus and many students are spending more than they realize on coffee and snacks in the course of a week. So when they sit down to make a budget, it's an eye-opener.
RS: What advice would you give administrators who are interested in Foundations?
A pilot program is a great way to build trust and support with faculty and staff. By the time we fully implemented Foundations, we all trusted the material and the process. If it's going to be a standalone course, you've got all kinds of freedom to do amazing things. But if it's part of a larger course, you have to be selective about which pieces will have the most impact. Also, require students to buy and bring the book! It helps keep them on task and off their phones.
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