A collaborative and collegial approach to tackling financial literacy (in English and French)

Woman typing on a keyboard
Woman typing on a keyboard

Glendon’s Strategic Partnerships team, led by Alison Stewart, together with student researchers led by Brenda Spotton Visano, University Professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), launched a series of three interactive online financial literacy workshops this summer. As part of Glendon’s first Virtual Brain Boosting Camp, these workshops will be rolled out to high school students this fall as part of the team’s efforts to support conversion and recruitment efforts while increasing pathways to postsecondary education at Glendon for minority Francophone and Francophile students.

Faculty, administrative service experts and students joined forces to create a cross-functional team that delivered a roster of superior online workshops grounded in sound pedagogy and backed by rigorous research. The success of this collaboration is the result of a student-centred approach that had students working closely with faculty and staff at every step of the project.

The content that inspired these financial literacy workshops began more than five years ago when Imo Ek-Udofia, then a graduate student in Environmental Studies, and Spotton Visano collaborated with the not-for-profit agency Promoting Education and Community Health (PEACH). PEACH was looking for appropriate financial literacy resources that would help them educate high school students from the Jane Finch neighbourhood. As Spotton Visano and Ek Udofia (2016) identified it, the problem with existing financial literacy material is its focus on remedying learner deficits versus advancing the agency and awareness of learners. They then set out to make financial literacy resources that would be accessible to economically marginalised learners.

On a parallel track was the rising concern of student debt among community partners within the Black Creek Financial Network (BCFAN). Not just the rise of debt itself, but the difficulty both borrowers and credit counsellors were having navigating the volume of inconsistent and hard-to-find information about debt repayment and rehabilitation.

Under the guidance of Black Creek Financial Action Network (BCFAN), co-chaired by Byron Gray, York faculty, staff and students, community credit counsellors and financial empowerment educators met with representatives from Student Financial Services and the Ministry of College Training and Universities to identify problems and find solutions. The result was a collection of materials designed to help students and credit counsellors navigate their way through the complicated bureaucratic world of OSAP. To address the text heavy nature of the materials, students from LA&PS and the Faculty of Education joined forces with the financial assistance of York’s Catalyst Grant to develop a five-part series of podcasts explaining debt repayment and debt rehabilitation. The podcasts will be launched early in the fall.

Financial Literacy Workshop Team Picture Aug 12 2020
Financial Literacy Workshop team picture taken via a group meeting on Zoom

With this rich repository of material, the team looked for a sponsor who could mobilize audience it was designed for: students looking for support financing their postsecondary education.

This is where Glendon’s Strategic Partnerships team came in. With funding from the Ministry of Education, some ingenuity and buy-in from a subject matter expert, a collaborative (and fun) cross-functional and faculty team came together. LA&PS economics students were recruited to take the core material from the PEACH project and redesigned it to align with Glendon’s programming vision and funding objectives. When COVID struck, the Glendon team nimbly adapted its efforts to develop all their programming for online delivery. The result is a set of financial literacy workshops that include all the necessary materials and resources needed to successfully deliver the workshops to students in an engaging fashion via Zoom. Every workshop includes a facilitator guide, a participant package and a PowerPoint presentation; and everything is available in English and French.

A fourth workshop addressing OSAP is currently in development for the fall. This module will be adapted from OSAP materials prepared through the BCFAN partnership.

Financial literacy module
A screen capture of one of the financial literacy modules

Glendon, which is often referred to as “the French Campus,” receives government funding that contributes to maintaining Glendon’s role within the local community, the province and Canada as a distinct university faculty dedicated to supporting the Francophone and Francophile communities through the delivery of quality French language programming and services at the postsecondary level. In addition to French language programming at the undergraduate and graduate level, Glendon also provides programming that supports the Ministry of Education’s objectives towards supporting French language learning at the secondary level. These workshops were funded and developed to support these objectives.

For more information about this rich interactive programming please contact Alison Stewart.

A list of York faculty, staff, students and graduates involved in this initiative

Staff

Glendon Strategic Partnerships: Alison Stewart, Katie Ablett, Emilie Noël (contract), Isabelle Montagnier, Glendon’s Senior Translator and Anna Mossakowska, Communications Assistant (Glendon Student Affairs)

York-TD Community Engagement Centre: Byron Gray, Lorna Schwartzentruber

Student Financial Services: Sobhi Fanos, Haiyan Zhao 

Community-University Partnership

Black Creek Financial Action Network (https://cec.info.yorku.ca/bcfan/)

Students

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS): Alyshba Abjani, Yunus Emre Bozkurt, Jian Chiah, Muhammad Shahmir Masood, Dalubuhle Ndlovu

Faculty of Education: Joshua Mete

Glendon College: Andréanne Joanne Dibo-Amandy, Virginie Côté, Amanda Merheb

Faculty of Graduate Studies: Lisa Druchok, Imo EkUdofia, Femi Lawson

Faculty

LA&PS: Brenda Spotton Visano, Chris Robinson, Joanne Magee, and Jodi Letkiewicz

Glendon alumni

Nicole Robinet, Jasmine Levac