Since fall of 2021, AUC School of Business has collaborated with the Academy of Liberal Arts at AUC to offer a Financial Literacy course as part of freshman students’ Core Curriculum.
The course is offered as a Core 1099 course (selected topics) every semester and does not have any prerequisites. It is aimed at all students who wish to develop a basic set of knowledge about personal finance and how economics impacts our daily lives, financial markets, and institutions.
We sat down with Moataz El-Helaly, assistant professor of accounting, the first professor to instruct this course in fall 2021, who told us everything we needed to know about its curriculum.
We developed this course after thorough deliberations and discussions between the Department of Accounting at the AUC School of Business and the Academy of Liberal Arts at AUC. The curriculum blends the fundamentals of economics, finance, and accounting into a course that serves as a financial literacy program, providing students with a basic understanding of those three aforementioned fields. It also tackles how economic forces affect our daily lives.
Another core component of the course is personal finance. This component starts with an in-class activity that is designed to allow students to understand their own money habits and attitudes. Next, we move to different personal financial management and decision-making topics, such as budgeting, saving, and investment. The focus is on timely issues that are increasingly gaining attention and that are directly related to our daily lives, such as the role of the central bank in the economy, money laundry, the foreign exchange market, and the stock market and how it works.
“In the School of Business at large and at the Department of Accounting specifically, we had the belief that all AUC students should be sufficiently financially literate and to have a better understanding about the financial side of the world. As future employees, business owners, parents, and adult professionals, there are several concepts that they should be able to comprehend, practice and apply regardless of their majors or their intended areas of study.” – Moataz El Helaly, assistant professor of accounting.
This initiative is a strong contribution to AUC’s liberal arts mission as it addresses knowledge and attitude, critical reading and thinking, teamwork, oral and written communication, and the interdisciplinary perspective. This knowledge is necessary for all AUC graduates, especially for students who do not intend to major in economics, finance, or accounting.
The emphasis here is on developing financial literacy and providing students with practical knowledge that can be used in managing their financial lives, understanding how economic forces affect their lives and the economy at large and developing knowledge about the financials of companies and organizations.
The course closes an important gap by providing the students with important knowledge and skills about managing their own financial lives as well as understanding how economic and financial forces affect individuals, companies, and countries, which is one of the reasons that make the course attractive to students according to El-Helaly.
As is the case with many School of Business classes, this course incorporates different elements of experiential learning. Besides regular lectures, the course incorporates various learning and assessment activities such as a final project and presentation, a personal financial consultancy task assignment, cases, and inviting guest speakers.
Matthew Hendershot, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies and Academy of Liberal Arts, reflects on the importance of this new initiative:
“We in the Core Curriculum have been delighted to partner with the School of Business and Professor Moataz El-Helaly to be able to offer a financial literacy course. Financial literacy and the Core skills learned in the course are so essential for today’s world,” he stated, adding: “The collaboration in putting this course together has been exemplary, and we believe this course will be in high demand and most importantly offer students an incredible Core learning experience through and an engaging, interesting, and highly relevant course.”
So, what do students make of this program, and what is their experience learning about financial literacy at such an early stage in their university journey?
Noor Dardeer, a student majoring in accounting, said: “I have been privileged to enroll in the financial literacy course to fulfill my ‘pathways two’ requirement. This course has helped me reach a broader understanding of economics, finance, and accounting fundamentals. Throughout the course, I was introduced to various topics such as the benefits of personal budgeting, and the different types of taxes and financial instruments; as a result, I managed my finances more efficiently. The engaging presentations delivered by Professor Moataz El-Helaly and the interesting tasks that were assigned to us, among which were analyzing different financial statements, had an immense benefit, especially for students who may have not yet decided on their majors and find the business major attractive. I believe that the financial literacy course equips students with the skills they need to make more sound financial decisions.”
Another student, Mohammed Mohsen Al-Wesabi, stated: “In this course, I learned new ideas and concepts in the areas of accounting, economics, and finance. For instance, one thing I encountered for the first time was how to calculate the various forms of taxes. Writing reflections, which needed us to read and comprehend the themes which I had not yet studied, presented another challenge for me. Therefore, in order to comprehend and then summarize these topics, I did a lot of additional reading and research. During this process, I was exposed to new definitions and learned new concepts that I may not have studied in my major, such as the economic model in the first reflection, ‘Behavioral Economics’, which I wrote about. Additionally, during the semester, we conducted a lot of readings and presentations in class that might help students to grasp important tools in personal financial management such as personal budgeting.”