Written By: Kate S. Mielitz
To orient you, please allow me to share some background information. When I was 18 my church was looking for volunteers to go minister at the Women’s Prison. Uh…um…NO. Not going to happen. Never ever. Ever. Never. Fast forward about 18 more years and I was working for a non-profit credit counseling organization and I got a call about providing financial education to men and women who were in a work release program in the city where we were stationed (my husband was in the Army). I was so excited about this opportunity that I jumped on it. (Never say never!)
Shortly after I started with the work release inmates, I started working toward my Ph.D. I needed to develop a body of research and there was so little (at the time only two articles) published on financial education and the incarcerated that I said, “Let’s do this!” I worked on developing, delivering, and evaluating a financial education curriculum for men in a work release program. (Shameless plug—this research was published in November’s issue of the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning!) I was so very excited about the work I was able to do and I was #BridgingtheGap between practice and research. I was doing both—I was out in the field, “boots on ground” and then turning around and doing research to better understand the program and what and how to change it for the benefit of my students.
But then, this past November, I sat in Holly Chase-Zugay’s presentation on her work with inmates who are armed forces veterans (the award-winning Building Your Financial House—Readiness for Reentry)…and I realized that by doing BOTH, well, I’m short-changing myself, short-changing the field, and frankly setting myself up for some serious burnout. I realized that the best way I can serve AFCPE®, practitioners, and future researchers, is to take the amazing work that is being done by others and #Raise(MY)AFCPEVoice by sharing it —turning their boots-on-ground work with inmates into research so policy makers, grant funders, and high level decision-makers can see the impact the work is having in terms they will listen to—facts with statistics to back them up.
To #RaiseYourAFCPEVoice doesn’t mean you have to change what you are doing, but I do encourage you to find your AFCPE voice and use it to share what you are doing and connect with others who are interested. If you are a practitioner there are any number of ways to back up your work with data, if you are interested. If you are a researcher, the best thing you can do to feed your research is to connect with practitioners who see what’s going on in the day-to-day and can communicate that to you. There may be a phenomenon on either side of the practitioner/researcher relationship that is worthy of further discussion and investigation.
The 2018 #RaiseYourAFCPEVoice Symposium was fun, informative, and life-altering for me. I look forward to my new direction, my redefined focus, and the opportunities that AFCPE has provided me to connect with other professionals in the field. This year’s Symposium is one that will have a long-lasting impact on my life.
Katherine (Kate) S. Mielitz, Ph.D, AFC® is Assistant Professor—Family Financial Planning, Human Development and Family Science at Oklahoma State University. She can be reached at 405-744-6052.