Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Enable a College Student to Attend a Financial Planning/Investment Conference

"Attending this conference was the best three days of my college life," one student informed me, at midnight on a snowy night after returning in our van to Alfred State College with nine other students from the NAPFA East conference in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2011.

Another student, Delaney Dugan, a 21-year-old Alfred State senior from Rochester, N.Y., was working that year on completing her Bachelor’s degree in Financial Planning. Attending NAPFA’s conference in Brooklyn put her among people she understood, Delaney said. “I can’t stop smiling,” she said. “I’m a Type-A personality, and there are 300 people here who are just like me.”

After taking this group of 10 students to this 3-day industry conference, each student, in turn, echoed similar thoughts. Even into the following week, the experience of networking with practitioners was all they wanted to talk about during class discussions. I also quickly found that each and every student, already performing at high levels, became even more motivated in their studies. And the students definitely became more excited about their own futures as financial planners and confident in their choice of careers.

As I related to a journalist at the time, “The key is bringing the students closer to the real world. Students can only learn so much from professors. I have seen our students networking at breakfast, listening to speakers from the financial planning professsion, and soaking up information like sponges. They relate each session to what they've learned already in class, sometimes confirming what they know, and at other times challenging their thinking on a particular subject.  The practitioners they meet freely share their knowledge. The students are so excited to be here, and it's such a great experience.”

Yet, that first trip to an industry conference, in Fall 2011, was substantially funded out of my own pocket and also from a generous grant award from NAPFA's Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Region Board of Directors. Since then, I quickly learned, after transitioning from a financial planning practice to the world of academia, that my own income has shrunk substantially. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The opportunity to provide instruction to these young college men and women, to expand their minds and put them on the road to successful careers, brings more joy to me than any amount of money ever could. And, of course, our industry organizations have limited resources of their own, especially in this era of competition from numerous conferences.

This past year, while I requested students to fund a greater portion of the trip themselves, I've found that nearly every college student of day has very limited funds to devote to attending a multi-day conference. So, while I've been able to offer shorter day trips to students (at no or very little cost to them) to attend very worthwhile Financial Planning Association chapter luncheons and dinners locally, the students have missed out on the absolutely life-enhancing experience they receive in attending a multi-day conference in a larger city.

Hence, I'm reaching out here. The goal is to raise $3,000. This amount is enough to fund the attendance by 10 of our program's students to industry conferences over the next year, when I combine the amount with support from myself and the College. (And I'll continue to pay all of my own costs, when accompanying the students; every dollar you contribute goes to assist students, with no funds for administration or marketing or any other "overhead".)

You may ask - what events will the students attend over the coming year? Each year we look at the locations of industry conferences to see where we can get the most "bang for the buck." Conferences we are likely to consider over the next year are NAPFA East, FPA conferences, and the RISE 2014 conferences. We are hoping to get discounts to enable us to look at attending custodians' conferences, IMCA events, CFA Institute events, and other similar conferences as well.  We typically choose one 2-3 day conference each term, and we try to take 10-12 students to each conference.

Rest assured, we will stretch every dollar, to get the most "bang for the buck." Students stay 3 or 4 to each room; transportation costs are kept minimal by using college vans, and meals are at Subway or similar venues.

Your donation goes to the "Alfred State College Development Fund, Inc." (a qualified charity), where our college administration ensures that each and every dollar received from your donation is devoted to our Financial Planning Program students and is spent on the costs of attending conferences, and nothing else.

And, be further assured that the experience you provide our students will enable a student to learn a great deal, network with existing practitioners (always a huge learning experience, and often leading to internship and job opportunities), and get really excited about the profession they are about to enter. Students come back more motivated in their studies, eager to expand their horizons even more, and more confident in their own abilities.

What can we offer in return? My gratitude, and that of our students. All donees will receive a report of the students' experiences. You will learn of their joys, their triumphs, their exposure to the "real world," and you will feel the passion they possess.

How important is it to provide this opportunity? Consider how it impacts each student's ability to acquire knowledge and their perspectives on engagement with other advisors:
  • “Everyone has a different perspective on a topic – which surprised me,” added Nick McMichael, a senior from Alfred, NY.  “The speaker would make a lot of sense, but then you’d talk to someone after the session who has other ideas.  That’s the difference between being a professional with experience and still learning as a student.”
  • For fellow senior Joshua Wing (Hornell, NY), the conference added layers of knowledge to what he has learned in class.  “We do a lot of projects in school to get into the thought process of being an advisor. Part of that is how to get information if you don’t know the answer,” he said. “And that’s why advisors go to conferences and help each other out."
While any donation is appreciated, here are some suggested levels of giving:
  • $ 495 Emerald Sponsor- to sponsor one student
  • $ 248 Platinum Sponsor - to co-sponsor one student
  • $ 124 Gold Sponsor - to co-sponsor a student one student 
  • $   62 Silver Sponsor - to help out
  • $   36 Bronze Sponsor - to help out
  • $   18 Titanium Sponsor - to help out

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

And, if you desire further information, please just drop me an e-mail and I'll get back to you quickly.

Thank you again.

Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP(r)
Program Coordinator, Financial Planning Program
Alfred State College, E.J. Brown Hall #301
10 Upper College Drive
Alfred, NY 14802

E-mail: RhoadeRA@AlfredState.edu

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