by Gary Leftwich

For UWG's Kim Holder, teaching is much more than a job. It's a means of serving others.

Holder, an economics professor and director of the Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy housed in UWG's Richards College of Business, serves students by helping them build solid financial foundations.

Kim Holder

"I was on my own at a young age and I learned things the hard way," recalled Holder, who was born in Daegu, South Korea and adopted as an infant from an orphanage by parents from Virginia. "Because I grew up relatively poor, when I got my first earnings, I wanted to spend it all. I wanted everything. I had to dig myself out of a lot of holes."

Having embraced economic principles as a way of life - she points out they affect every part of one's life from income to healthcare to politics - she seeks to arm students with the tools needed to ensure their financial wellbeing.

"It's not about making money. It comes down to personal choices and knowing that if you choose to spend money now, you won't be able to spend it later," she said. "When I see a student who gets it and it opens a new path for them to be successful, I know I've made a difference."

For Holder that difference comes from helping students understand financial wellness and embrace fiscal responsibility and the freedom money provides.

That's the basic premise of Dollars Making Sense, a new program she is developing for UWG students. Often spending in one area restricts spending in another. Recognizing and understanding the power to choose can lead to better money management.

"Every decision we make is a financial decision, but we often don't acknowledge that," said Holder, who also serves as an economics lecturer at UWG's Richards College of Business.

"The first step is to change your mindset about money being bad," Holder continued. "Having money means having freedom to do the things we want. Each of us gets to decide what we do with our financial freedom."

Holder calls the program, which recently drew the support of a $25,000 grant from Walmart, a curated group of financial resources that allows students to choose what they want to study and tailor learning to their own needs.

"Flexibility is very important," she said. "My goal is to make it easy on students' time, interesting to complete and informative."

In addition to the open course, the UWG CEEFL will continue working across the campus and within the surrounding community to offer a bevy of financial wellness activities.

"Dollars Making Sense is really a collection of programs," Holder said. "Students can use the open course, go to themed events on taxes, savings or student loans to stay financially fit, or even take our interdisciplinary financial decision-making course for academic credit."

"You can go as far as you like," she continued, adding that as the program grows, students who complete certain criteria will be recruited to help teach newer students. "We will train them in financial coaching so they can serve as peer mentors to future students."

Holder also will use Dollars Making Sense to reach out to other disciplines and student support programs across the university. The UWG CEEFL already has collaborated with Financial Aid staff, the West Georgia Regional Library system and the English department faculty with great success. That culture of working together under the common goal of helping students succeed sets UWG apart from other colleges and universities.

"Whether its teaching finance or economics or developing writing or critical thinking skills, we're all here for one reason, to share our knowledge and experiences with students and help them build stronger futures," said Holder, a UWG alumnae with a son starting classes at the university this fall.

In the coming year, UWG is expanding our collaborative efforts to reach more topics in more areas, including how to evaluate different types of financial aid, how to build good credit, pay taxes and even how to protect against identity theft.

"At its best, financial wellness and financial topics are not limited to a single discipline, but instead can be woven throughout the curriculum," Holder said. "Discussions about money, wealth and finances appear throughout literature, music, history and science. I'd love for each of us to work together to help students talk more openly about these issues, increase their financial awareness, and improve students' lives. After all, working to change the future for our students through education is at the heart of what the University of West Georgia does best."

Posted on February 9, 2018