How HEFW Improved My Financial Wellness Programming

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Much like Christopher Columbus accidentally stumbling into the United States in 1492, I found myself stumbling into an entirely new world in June 2016 at the Summit in Columbus, Ohio. Similarly to Columbus’s discovery, this is a world that had already been in existence and I was exposed to new people, ideas, and food (I had my first crepe while at this conference!).

I started my first professional position coordinating the “Making Cent$” Financial Wellness Program at SUNY Oneonta 3 weeks prior to this conference in 2016, which made this experience both nerve-racking as well as exciting. I was tasked with developing a Financial Wellness program for the SUNY system that would be scalable to other institutions and was unsure of how to start this daunting task.

Attending this conference was the most beneficial professional development experience I could have asked for. I was exposed to content other schools were covering in their programming and learned about the process they went through to get where they were. I learned tips on how to start a peer counseling program, information on different online tools, and meaningful data to support the work that I was going to be doing at SUNY Oneonta.

Another positive aspect of the conference was the people. There is an entire community willing to share stories, expertise, and insight. I had an opportunity to meet vendors and ask questions of the different resources I eventually would use as part of the Making Cent$ program. I walked away with a list of contacts from different schools to connect with for future reference. These things have all been immensely helpful to me and it made me realize that I was not necessarily “starting from scratch” when developing a Financial Wellness program.

When I took my ship car back to New York, I had a lot of information from the summit to dissect. I had confidence, ideas, data, and resources. The program at Oneonta grew dramatically that first year to the point at which I found myself as a member of the community at the 2017 HEFW Summit as a resource for other schools developing financial wellness programs!

I still refer to my notes from the 2016 and 2017 summits as I continue to develop and expand the Making Cent$ program at SUNY Oneonta. One note I consistently refer to is on different tactics to improve the user experience. This information is crucial to ensure that whatever I do is in the most effective way.  And you’re in luck because they made this session into a webinar! I highly encourage you to listen on March 20th to hear tips from the co-chair of the 2018 HEFWA himself, Phil Schuman!

If my own encouragement to listen does not convince you, consider one of the feedback comments from an attendees at last year’s session,  “This really advanced my thinking of what is possible on an institutional level!”

I look forward to finding new ways to improve the user experience on my own campus and to develop new connections at the HEFW Summit in Portland Oregon this July!

Kevin Sutton is the coordinator for SUNY Oneonta’s “Making Cent$” program. He also acts in an advisory role for programming and event coordination for SUNY Cobleskill’s financial wellness initiatives. Kevin is currently taking karate lessons and volunteers with his county’s “Big Buddy” mentorship program. He enjoys playing Pokémon with his little buddy, Danny. One day, Kevin hopes to act in an episode of ABC’s General Hospital before it goes off the air. Contact Kevin about his summit experience at

Reflections From a First-Time Summit Attendee

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Last summer I was thrilled to be attending The Summit for the first time. Not only was my University hosting here in Minneapolis, but it was my first national conference. I’ve been working at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities for four years and for most of that time I have been actively involved in our financial wellness initiatives. I was excited to have the chance to learn new ideas and meet others who are just as passionate about helping students.

I looked through the sessions and decided on my schedule early (I’m a planner like that), and by the time we were a week out I was getting pretty excited. A few days before The Summit started, one of my co-workers who was slated to present was no longer able to and I was asked to replace her. So in a minute I went from participant to presenter. Definitely a curveball but kind of a fun challenge! I joined my colleague in presenting about our wellness initiatives on campus, along with a walking tour to our offices. Bringing everyone around my home campus and talking about our program was a moment of pride for me. It was great to get questions and feedback from participants right where I work with students every day.

After getting my nerves about presenting out of the way, I focused on learning as much as I could from the rest of the financial wellness experts attending. The sessions and keynotes gave good insight into how I can better serve our whole student population, reinvigorated the work we are doing, and reinforced the need for more personalized resources.

After the summit, I began reflecting on how we can better reach out to our underserved students. How can we better serve student groups like international students, who are often left out of the conversation when we talk to students about things like financial aid and who have different concerns such as how to navigate the American banking system to make a tuition payment? I’m also became interested in integrating the use of technology to engage our students, whether through texting, social media, or student-focused videos. In the past year we have been working on some exciting projects, which we have looked through a new lens based on what I and my colleagues learned at the summit. For example, we began working on a series of videos on various topics specifically suggested by our international students. We are hoping by posting these videos online, incoming international students will feel better prepared when arriving on campus, setting them up for an easier transition to American student life.

I had a great experience at the summit, meeting people from all over the country, learning new things and coming back to my team full of new ideas, not to mention (unexpectedly!) presenting. I’m looking forward to attending again, especially since I get to travel away from home this time and explore a new city!

Kristin Hummel is a One Stop Counselor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She has been working as a counselor for four years and has been a part of the University’s financial wellness initiatives for over three years. In her spare time she loves reading historical fiction, knitting, and finding new restaurants to try with her husband Kris and son Finn. Contact Kristin about her summit experience: