The 2016 Mary O’Neill Mini-Grant pool was one of the most competitive in recent years, with 13 applicants. This year, the grant funding was awarded to John Grable, Michael Thomas, Michelle Kruger, Kimberly Watkins, and Kenneth White at the University of Georgia for Expanding Middle School Financial Education in Diverse Neighborhoods through the Use of the Money Dawgs Program.

Money Dawgs was created as an alternative youth financial education initiative by AFCPE members teaching and taking classes in personal finance and financial counseling at the University of Georgia. The team has been providing week long camps for middle school age children to learn about money management topics, wealth accumulation strategies, and general personal finance topics. Funds from the grant will be used to expand the Money Dawgs concept to meet the needs of children living in economically vulnerable neighborhoods.

2016 AFCPE Counselor of the Year

This year’s 2016 AFCPE Counselor of the Year is awarded to Martina Simpson as the 2016 AFCPE Financial Counselor of the Year. She is a 2008 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellow who, since 2010, has served military servicemembers and their families throughout the country and the world. She has made it her personal mission to make a difference in people’s “financial lives” going far and wide to teach them about the importance of financial well-being and how they can achieve it. This included serving a year in East Africa, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Martina believes that a financial counselor or coach must understand the person as a whole – where they come from, where they want to go, and what their hopes and dreams are. This commitment is articulated through testimonials from peers, colleagues and clients, including:

“She is truly devoted to helping our Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen become financially sound. She is always volunteering to go where the military are. From Africa, South East America, Bahrain, and Germany, there are few financial counselors that would be so daring to make sure our military are moving forward with their personal finances.”

“She single handedly, broke down the cultural barrier and succeeded in becoming an important member of that military post/community.
“I would be hard pressed to find a more qualified and worthy candidate.”
“I believe helping others is more than just a hobby or a profession — it is her life’s calling and I don’t know where I’d be without her.”

2016 Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year

Our 2016 Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year is an educator, an innovator, and a mentor. Andrew Zumwalt was recognized as the 2016 Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year.

Directing the Missouri Tax Education Initiative since 2006, his program serves thousands of Missouri residents each tax season. He has also created curriculum related to taxes and the VITA program and developed numerous articles and other media work for television, radio and the web. As an educator, he continually pushes his students to go farther, research deeper, and develop mastery of a topic versus attaining a simple surface understanding. He often spends time outside the classroom meeting with students to discuss their future and help them to discern their path in life. He maintains these relationships after graduation and continues to serve as an important mentor to these alumni.


Outstanding Financial Counseling or Planning Center
Founded in the Fall of 2015, the Financial Capability Center was created as a faculty-led initiative to provide students with experiential service learning opportunities, advance financial inclusion and capability in the community, facilitate research initiatives, and promote healthier financial behaviors. The Center was created as a partnership between Merrimack College and ACT Lawrence, a community development corporation that provides bilingual financial education, coaching and counselling services to the low-income, mostly Latino, residents of the City of Lawrence, MA.

The Center initially launched a financial coaching program where students were trained to become personal financial coaches for the clients of nonprofit organizations in the area. In the spring of 2016, the Center expanded its outreach by offering financial education and coaching to local high school students transitioning into the workforce or college life and by opening tax help clinics in Lawrence. In the first year of operations, the Center has trained 21 coaches, coached 67 clients, and served more than 30 additional clients with tax preparation and referrals.

Key elements of the center’s success are having a strong and solid partnership with local non-profits and the support of university administrators and colleagues. Both elements allow for the exploration of new ideas and trials of new methods to improve the program to the benefit of clients and students. Congratulations to the 2016 Financial Counseling Center of the Year – Merrimack College Financial Capability Center.

Outstanding Educational Program Award
This year’s Outstanding Educational Program Award goes to The University of Utah Personal Money Management Center for a program that provides exceptional personal finance education to University students so they are able enroll and be successful in a local Individual Development Account (IDA) matched savings program. The program, which requires students to attend a cumulative eight hours of financial management education, assists low- to moderate-income students in saving a portion of their income and receiving a matched grant to pay for an entire semester of school. This helps students who may be struggling financially to graduate.

Since inception, 339 students have completed the eight-hour course and 114 students have saved more than $130K toward their own education, and obtained $386,519 in grants. Other savers have purchased homes or started small businesses. This program is demonstrating a vital need by helping students pay for tuition and keep them in school. This is a significant way the center is assisting with the University’s strategy for graduation and retention. Congratulations to Ann House and Tiffany Davis of The University of Utah’s Personal Money Management center!

2016 Outstanding Research Journal Article
The 2016 Outstanding Research Journal Article was awarded to Dr. Robin Henager and Dr. Brenda Cude for Financial Literacy and Long- and Short-Term Financial Behavior in Different Age Groups”, published in Volume 27, Issue 1 of the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning. The purpose of their study was to examine the relationship between financial literacy and financial behaviors among various age groups. The results have important implications, suggesting that policy makers should consider a tailored approach to handling financial issues by age group. A one-size-fits-all approach is not ideal to meet the needs of Americans of various ages. In addition, the study revealed the importance of confidence in positive financial behavior. These findings can be translated into practice for financial professionals, recommending much of the same individualized approach when working with clients. Congratulations!

2016 Outstanding Symposium Research Paper

This year’s Outstanding Symposium Research Paper Award was given to Dr. Sandra Huston and Dawn Abbott for “Examining the Community of Inquiry (COI) Model for Guiding Online Learning Related to Personal Finance.” This is the first known study to use the COI model to analyze online courses specifically related to personal finance learners. While student satisfaction and learning were closely related, results from this study showed that the global and individual determinants for each are quite different. Personal finance educators can use findings from this study to improve both the design and delivery of online financial education courses to maximize both student learning and satisfaction outcomes. Congratulations to Dr. Huston and Dr. Abbott!

2016 Outstanding Symposium Poster

2016 was the inaugural year for the AFCPE Outstanding Symposium Poster Award. Symposium attendees had the opportunity to cast their vote among 3 very strong poster finalists. The 2016 award was presented to Veronica Deenanath, Dr. Catherine Solheim, Lori Hendrickson, Dr. Mary Jo Katras and Dung Mao for Financial Realities of Low-Income Families: Learning from Front-line Professionals.”

Outstanding Practitioners Forum Award Winner

Measuring and Reporting the Impact of Financial Educatino, Barbara O’Neill, Rutgers University

Nominated by the submission reviewers and chose by a select committee, was awarded to Dr. Barbara O’Neill of Rutgers University. She has created an innovative program of great use to the profession. This practitioners’ forum is important, timely and highly relevant to the field, and may be easily applied in other counseling or educational settings, providing impact and value to financial professionals.

2016 AFCPE Distinguished Fellow Award

The Distinguished Fellow Award is designed to recognize an AFCPE member who has made significant and long-lasting contributions to AFCPE over the organization’s history; who’s work impacts programs and research in field of financial counseling and planning education; and who has exhibited the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct throughout their professional career. AFCPE presented Dr. Barbara O’Neill, AFC®, CHC® with the 2016 Distinguished Fellow Award. Dr. O’Neill has been an AFCPE member since 1986 – for 30 years! She has held numerous roles on AFCPE task forces (and chaired just as many) andhas served as both a AFCPE conference and awards reviewer, an AFC certification exam item writer, an ad hoc reviewer and book editor for the Journal of Financial Counseling & Planning and a technical eductor/copyeditor for The Standard.

She has contributed to numerous newsletters and journals, led professional development training, and served at the highest level as an AFCPE Board member, Secretary and President. She has also attended and made one or more presentations at all but one AFCPE symposiums since 1989 (that’s 27 symposiums), with a total of more than 75 presentations. She has been a recipient of 8 AFCPE awards. One of her most generous contributions is a $2500 mini-grant provided in memory of her mom, Mary O’Neill, which to date has provided more than $15,000 for the innovative financial education projects of AFCPE members.

A faculty member of Rutgers University since 1978, our winner holds the rank of Distinguished Professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, and is Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Specialist in Financial Resource Management. She also provides national leadership for the Cooperative Extension Program Small Steps to Health and Wealth™.

She has written over 1,500 consumer newspaper articles and over 180 articles for academic journals and conference proceedings. She holds a PhD from Virginia Tech and is certified as a financial planner (CFP®), chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC®), accredited financial counselor (AFC®), certified housing counselor (CHC®), and a certified financial educator (CFEd), and served as president of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) in 2003.

She has received more than three dozen awards for program excellence and over $1 million in funding to support her financial education programs and research. She is well-known for creating and leading high impact Cooperative Extension financial education programs and, most importantly she shares her program materials freely with others in presentations and publications. Even with this impressive list of accomplishments, she continues to expand her reach in the field – as part of the DoD funded project, Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) and through her extensive outreach on social media, tweeting research-based financial education as @Moneytalk1.

This professional embodies the definition of a Distinguished Fellow—she is an educator, a researcher, a practitioner, a mentor, and a pioneer. Her accomplishments and her impact are vast—and we have only scratched the surface!

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