Money Talks: A Financial Seminar by Students for Students

News Date: 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021


By Romi Benasuly


 This fall, I am one of three undergraduate Communication students who are working hard to prepare for the third “Money Talks” class, an interdisciplinary seminar for first-year students.

Money Talks is the first-ever fully student-run financial wellness class that developed from UC Santa Barbara Communication professor Walid Afifi’s Community Engagement course.

With topics ranging from investing to financial aid, Money Talks helps young college students learn how to manage their money.

“I’m so excited to teach Money Talks because financial literacy is a right, not a privilege,” said Alison Schwartz, one of the teaching assistants for the upcoming seminar. “My goal in this is to give freshman students, regardless of discipline, a strong foundation at such a crucial point in their lives and the start of their careers.”

The course was developed in 2019, designed and facilitated by six undergraduate communication students who identified an opportunity to educate students with limited access to financial education. They designed a financial literacy class aimed at freshman college students who are looking to learn basic financial skills.

Every week, the class hosts a speaker who is interviewed by one of the undergraduate teaching assistants. Following the interview, students are encouraged to ask questions giving them an opportunity to engage with professionals in various financial fields.

The students started this seminar after participating in a community engagement course Afifi teaches every year with the hopes of starting new initiatives that make a difference in the Santa Barbara community. Other projects that have come out of his community engagement class include the Associated Students’ Book Bank, Food Bank Pop-Ups, and the LATINX Education Outreach (LEO).

While many student proposals made to Afifi are never acted upon in the community, the Money Talks seminar beat the odds and materialized —not without hard work from the students who developed it.

“We bounced around a few mediocre ideas before landing on financial literacy for students, and it really came from the fact that we as the team had recognized that we are part of that population of students that lacked financial understanding,” said Kacey Hsu, a UC Santa Barbara alumna and co-founder of the financial wellness course.

“It was fortunate that we had the local and campus resources to assist in implementing our concept.”

Afifi explained that originally Money Talks aimed to teach financial skills to communities where with limited access to financial literacy, including women, first-generation students, and people of color. Then the Money Talks team realized the best route was to offer the course to all freshmen so the course would get a wide variety of students.

The Money Talks team hoped to encourage those students from a financially less privileged backgrounds to join the class by covering introductory topics like financial planning and budgeting and by making clear to registering students that the class was peer-run, Afifi noted.

A plus for this seminar is that it is self-sustainable. Former teaching assistants interview undergraduate students for the position and give the new teaching assistants the resources that they need to continue the program. This gives the seminar momentum to continue year after year, giving new freshman students a better financial understanding that they can take with them after they finish college.

Because Money Talks was first implemented in the spring of 2020, after coronavirus shut down schools, it has so far only been taught remotely. In the winter of 2021, Justin Hannah, the Team Lead of Marketing Technology and Ad Operations at Hulu, was one of eight speakers. Hannah held a memorable last session for students about finances after graduation to help prepare them for their adult lives.

Now, in the winter of 2022, freshman students will be able to take this interdisciplinary class in person with three new teaching assistants: Alison Schwartz, Paola Portables Mosquera de Barros, and myself.

Those interested in taking this course in the winter can find it on Gaucho On-Line Data (GOLD) as INT94WB.

Romi Benasuly is a third-year Communication major at UC Santa Barbara who is pursuing a minor in professional writing. She wrote this for her Writing Program course Digital Journalism.

(photo above: Money Talks co-founders Kate Lidster, Alex Soe, Kacey Hsu, Annie Lucia, Catalina Fernandez, and Rebecca Oczkus pictured with Communication professor Walid Afifi, bottom center, in their last Zoom meeting. Photo credit: Kacey Hsu)