Attendees of the School of Pharmacy’s HBCU Pharmacy Careers Retreat practice taking blood pressure measurements.EDWARDSVILLE – Student debt is growing six times faster than the nation’s economy. First-generation students and underrepresented minorities are twice as likely to report that they are behind on making student loan payments compared to others. With these data in mind, the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy (SOP) is assisting students in the pursuit of a future of financial freedom by way of a free financial literacy program.

An SIUE Innovation and Excellence in Graduate Education grant focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was awarded to the SOP for the creation of a two-month program comprising 15 first-generation and underrepresented student pharmacists.

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“The impact of this type of program is longstanding, not only resulting in short term gains but also sustainable for generations to come,” said SOP Clinical Professor and Director of DEI Lakesha Butler, PharmD. “Financial literacy is unfortunately not a typical topic of discussion in the homes of underrepresented minorities due to other structural stressors taking precedent. The goal of this program was to equip students with knowledge and confidence on how to be financially free, enhance their retention in our program and plant seeds for future generations.”

Butler developed and executed the financial literacy program alongside Jessica Kerr, PharmD, professor and associate dean of Professional and Student Affairs, Jennifer Arnoldi, PharmD, clinical associate professor and assistant director of Experiential Education, and Joe Southerland, M.Ed., director of Student Services.

“Financial literacy and health are critical life skills that many students have not been exposed to,” said Kerr. “Through this grant funding and assistance from the SIUE Graduate School, we were able to develop a program that many students valued.”

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“It was encouraging to hear from the students who noted that during this program they started analyzing their current spending habits and making plans that positively impacted their acute situation, while more proactively thinking about new ways to view financial responsibility.”

“I learned that financial literacy takes time and practice,” said pharmacy student Anne Abiandu, of Newark, N.J. “I have to be intentional about monitoring my spending and be wise when allocating funds for certain activities.”

In addition to the financial literacy program, the grant also resulted in the SOP hosting a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Pharmacy Careers Retreat on Monday, June 6. The one-day retreat focused on the SOP’s dedication to providing care for the needs of a diverse world by inviting students from HBCUs to consider a career in pharmacy.

Participants engaged with experts in the field of pharmacy, attended sessions on networking, and implemented career-readiness by improving interview skills.

Today’s pharmacists improve patients’ lives through the medication and education they provide. The School of Pharmacy is dedicated to developing a community of caring pharmacists through a curriculum that is nationally recognized as a model for offering students a unique combination of classroom education, research, community service and patient care. Areas of excellence include a drug design and discovery core, pediatric practice, chronic pain research and practice, and diabetes research and practice.

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