Dr. Michael Gutter is a family economics specialist and financial behavior researcher by training. He currently serves as Associate Dean for University of Florida UF/IFAS Extension and the State Program Leader for 4-H, Families and Communities.
As a Past President of the AFCPE Board of Directors, Michael is extremely passionate about helping Floridians improve their financial knowledge and resilience – and the team of extension faculty at Florida UF/IFAS share in this passion!
AFCPE: For those who aren’t familiar, tell us about more about UF/IFAS Extension.
Michael: Our area of Extension works with youth development, nutrition, family resource management (finance and housing), health, and community resource development. Our core values form the foundation of UF/IFAS Extension:
- UNIQUE PURPOSE – We are committed to the land-grant tradition of bringing the best teaching, research, and extension to the people of Florida.
- EXCELLENCE – We provide relevant, high-quality, unbiased, research-based educational programs that empower Florida’s citizens to improve their lives.
- INTEGRITY – We serve all with mutual respect and honesty.
- COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIP – We commit to assemble the expertise needed to address important issues and extend the reach and depth of our educational programs.
- LIFELONG LEARNING – We value the personal development of our faculty, volunteers, and the people we serve.
- DIVERSITY – We support Florida’s diverse population and we ensure that our programs are accessible to all.
- RESPONSIVENESS – We provide timely solutions that are research-based, practical, and relevant.
- INNOVATION – We commit to the use of technology and innovation in the delivery of our educational programs.
- COMMUNICATION – We commit to open communication internally and externally.
- GLOBAL REACH – We address Florida’s challenges through local, regional, national, and international perspectives.
AFCPE: The UF extension currently offers virtual financial counseling to Floridians in need. Tell us more about the program and how it works.
Michael: Not only does UF Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agents offer financial programs to clients, they also offer one-on-one financial counseling and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) virtually, face-to-face, and Facilitated Self-Assisted (FSA).
AFCPE: Has virtual counseling always been available or was it developed as a response to COVID-19?
Michael: Financial programs have always been in a Family and Consumer Sciences agent’s repertoire. The University Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Roadmap, “Shaping Solutions for Florida’s Future,” Initiative 5, empowers individuals and families to build healthy lives and achieve social and economic success.
Well-functioning families are the foundation of healthy communities. These families protect and nurture their members while teaching their children how to become thriving and contributing members of society. Families vary in structure, age, income, and other characteristics.
Educating Florida families to achieve economic success is paramount for UF IFAS programmatic efforts. COVID -19 has certainly added challenges not only to families but also to UF IFAS Extension programmatic efforts.
AFCPE: As you meet with clients, what are some of the issues and concerns you are addressing most?
Michael: Issues and concerns extension agents face when meeting with client has run the gamut – housing issues, monetary issues, tax issues, and medical and other insurance issues. Some people are also interested in learning about investing.
AFCPE: How many AFC® counselors are assisting with the effort?
Michael: Presently, five AFC® counselors are assisting with the effort. However, two additional agents are in the troughs of becoming certified and one AFC® agent is on sabbatical.
AFCPE: Are most client interactions a one-time meeting or is engagement ongoing?
Michael: Most client calls are on-going. It is not unusual to have a minimum of three, often times five counselling sessions.
AFCPE: Are there opportunities for AFCPE certified professionals and/or AFCPE Members in Florida to get involved?
Michael: Most definitely yes! Many Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agents are studying to achieve an AFC® certification. Becoming an AFC gives Extension agents credibility, standards, and a continuing reason to keep up with professional development.
Learn more about the program at: https://fycs.ifas.ufl.edu/financial-counseling/
UF/IFAS Agents include: Jill Breslawski, AFC® candidate, Heidi Copeland, AFC®, Haile Corbitt, Judy Corbus, AFC®, LuAnn Duncan, AFC® candidate, Sarah Ellis, AFC®, Johanna Gomez, Lisa Hamilton, AFC®, Samantha Kennedy, Lisa Leslie, AFC®, Laurie Osgood, Natasha Parks, AFC® candidate, Jenny Rodriguez, D’Alicia Straughter, and Scott Taylor, AFC®