Eastern Michigan University professors bring Washtenaw county’s Financial Empowerment Center on campus to expand financial wellness education and resources

A person's hands hold a piggy bank that has a smile and a pair of glasses on it.

YPSILANTI — Eastern Michigan University’s Engage@EMU is partnering with Washtenaw county to bring a Financial Empowerment Center to campus. The center provides free services to EMU students, faculty, and county residents. Available at the University Advising and Career Development Center (UACDC) at 200 McKenny Hall, it provides one-on-one counseling to improve credit scores, build savings, take control of debt, and more. There are no requirements on income limits or residency. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Wednesday. Translation and interpretation are available upon request. The official ribbon cutting for the empowerment center will be on Oct. 23 at 10:30 a.m. at McKenny Hall, 878 W. Cross St., in Ypsilanti.

Bringing the empowerment center to campus is the first step toward professors Melissa Jones, Jodonnis Rodriguez, and Amanda Stype’s plan to bring financial counseling and education to campus. Jones, Rodriguez, and Stype co-founded the Financial Empowerment and Equity Center (FEEC) to bridge the wealth gap between populations and educate students on financial literacy. Although the equity center is in its early stages of development, the three have big plans for future development.

“The FEEC’s mission is to serve as an incubator for institutional organizations, programs, and initiatives that align well with our purpose and advocate for impactful public policy to ensure women, underrepresented minorities, and vulnerable populations can better attain upward social and economic mobility, gain or preserve financial independence, and are better able to increase their wealth,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez dived into extensive research into the patterns seen in students regarding financial instability, which led to the start of the equity center and bringing Washtenaw County’s empowerment center to campus. He notes that after reaching out to Eastern’s institutional database management system, it was discovered that certain groups were disproportionately affected by stop-outs and owing the institution, which caused a ripple effect of being unable to apply for future courses or transfer to a more affordable school. 

In 2022, Jones, Rodriguez, and Stype received a $21K James H. Brickley Endowment for Faculty Professional Development and Innovation grant. With this, the three want to continue the research already started, create a support system for students with financial difficulties, help them complete their degrees, and establish a permanent campus establishment. The grant will cover transportation costs to conferences and training a team to step outside their academic disciplinary areas of expertise to make the center as effective as possible in helping EMU students.

Since the FEEC is still a work in progress, it is open to being a vessel for any EMU students and faculty financial needs. “It could be a think-tank that puts out research to shed light on financial wellness, something that brings initiatives to help promote services like financial counseling, a place to discover how the curriculum could change to better students understandings on financial equity, it could be anything as long as it brings people together to talk about financial equity issues and provide resources on financial empowerment,” said Rodriguez. 

A future goal for the professors is to help incorporate financial wellness and literacy into the general education curriculum and introductory-level courses. An example Jones stated is in a 19th-century literature class, the professor could set a day to focus on dissecting tax codes for the wealthy and the poor from Britain in 1865. Then, the class could compare to modern-day tax codes, leading to discussions on how to do taxes and how taxes impact different socioeconomic groups.

Until the FEEC has a physical space, the empowerment center is on campus in the UACDC for students, faculty, and Washtenaw County residents to receive free financial advice. This first step will lead to greater financial success on Eastern’s campus. 

For more information on where to go for financial support and literacy resources, contact Jones at mjones89@emich.edu, Rodriguez at jrodri30@emich.edu, or Stype at astype@emich.edu


About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

October 04, 2023

Written by:
Caitlin Michael

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher