Resource Center: Funding & Recognition

Awards: Member Spotlight

Congratulations to winners of the Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year Award!

2018 call for nominations opens late Spring 2018.


2017: Paul Gobel

In Fall 2005, Paul Goebel was hired by the University of North Texas to transform the concept of financial education into a center for student success. Through his leadership as both an educator and practitioner, the UNT Student Money Management Center became a reality in just one short semester. The program model Paul established at the university represents a national best practice and one of the first dedicated financial education programs on a university campus serving all students regardless of their degree or college affiliation. Paul’s direct impact as an educator can be seen in the faces of the 14,607 students who have sought out coaching services and emergency loan support from Paul and his center to identify creative solutions to the financial obstacles endangering their enrollment. Since establishing the center more than 96,000 students and community members have become empowered through personal financial education workshops and events offered by the center. Each academic year, Paul and his team offer students more than 200 educational programs. Paul believes his role as an educator is not confined to his campus. Rather he serves to provide exceptional service as an educator to his campus, community, and the nation including AFCPE.


2016: Andrew Zumwalt

Andrew Zumwalt is often referred to by clients and colleagues as the “tax man.” He doesn’t work the for the IRS, but he is deeply involved with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. On campus, he is an instructor in the Department of Personal Financial Planning for two upper level courses, Personal Income Taxation required for CFP® certification and an applied tax course. Students enroll in the Personal Income Taxation course in the fall, and then prepare taxes for low income clients in the spring applied tax course. Over the past eleven years, students on campus have prepared more than 16,000 returns. At the beginning of the spring semester, students are often apprehensive about preparing returns for real people. However, through coaching and experience, students gain self-confidence and begin to enjoy preparing tax returns. On anonymous class evaluations, students report that they value helping others, using the knowledge from their degree before graduation, and gaining experience talking with clients about money. Employers that hire former VITA volunteers report increased satisfaction based on MU alumni-client interactions.

As an Assistant Extension Professor at University of Missouri Extension, he also supports MU Extension Family Financial Education regional specialists across the state in their VITA work through volunteer training, technical assistance, and tax law support. Over the past eleven years, regional specialists and their volunteers have prepared over 54,000 returns, saving clients millions of dollars in preparation costs and allowing for financial education to reach nontraditional Extension clients. In collaboration with colleagues in Missouri and across the US, Andrew helps build and revise curriculum, introduce new technologies and practices, and support the mission of Extension.

Andrew would be unable to manage all of this without support from his colleagues, encouragement from his wonderful wife, Valerie, and the laughter of his 1-year-old son, James.


2015: Ryan Law 

Ryan Law has taught financial counseling and planning at the University of Missouri for the past 5 years. During that time he has taught more than 3000 students to better handle their finances through his courses. While heading up the University of Missouri’s Office for Financial Success, the center reached over 22,000 students through workshops and counseling appointments.

Ryan is first and foremost a teacher. He loves being in the classroom educating students on how to be better stewards of their money. Ryan mentors about 15 students per year, helping students become effective financial counselors. As one of these students said “Ryan doesn’t just care about us as financial counselors – he invites us to his home and we become part of his family.” Ryan has used his teaching skills to provide guidance and materials to help others start student money management centers nationwide.


2014: Alena Johnson, AFC

“My goal in teaching is to teach complex financial issues in a manner so that students can apply those concepts in their own lives.”

Teacher, mentor, speaker, inspirer – there are many words to describe Alena Johnson and the impact she has had on her students, fellow educators and the larger community. As a lecturer at Utah State University, Alena has taught over 19,000 students through courses in Family Finance, Financial Counseling and Balancing Work and Family; and she has mentored over 200 students choosing to enter careers in the financial field.

University Impact

Alena is passionate about teaching about financial concepts and her enthusiasm is well received by students, community and professional audiences. Alena took the Family Finance class at Utah State University from 80 students to a class of 500 with a waiting list. In 2007 her class was voted as the second most favorite class across the entire campus of USU. Alena has not only helped students learn about good money management practices, she has also taught them how to apply them in their own lives.

AFCPE & AFC Professional Impact

Alena has been actively involved with AFCPE since first attending and presenting at the annual conference in 1999. Since that time she has given twelve presentations at the annual conference. She has also been the chair of the Certification Task Force and an invited member of the strategic planning committee and the job analysis committee. She regularly donates her time as a reviewer for symposium submissions and as a Symposium presider.

Her impact on AFC® professionals has been incredibly important to the organization. As an instructor of the AFC Webinar Review sessions, her guidance and expertise has helped individuals prepare for and pass the AFC examinations. She has aided both traditional enrollees in the program, as well as FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellows. In addition, her experience and understanding of the AFC competencies, has allowed her to play an integral role in examination and study guide development and maintenance for the AFC certification program.

Wide Spread Impact

Alena has created multiple publications to help individuals and educators improve money management skills in themselves and others. These publications have been used by individuals and educators throughout the world. Some examples include:
The Step-Down Principle – A simple, effective way to help individuals reduce their expenses incrementally. After its initial presentation in 1999, Alena Johnson’s Step-Down Principle has been used by financial counselors, educators and extension agents throughout the nation.

The Financial Checkup – A booklet that guides individuals through an annual self-financial assessment, offering several worksheets to help a person determine their current financial situation, where they want to go and how to get there.

Financial Remedies – A companion booklet to The Financial Checkup booklet that helps individuals cure problems discovered while completing their own financial checkup.

Financial First Aid – Designed for non-financial professionals to help individuals improve their money management skills. This booklet can be used by marriage and family therapists, clergy, extension agents, social workers and anyone else who encounters financial situations in their own practices.

Alena’s publications are frequently used in University coursework, by eXtension agents and financial counselors, and by therapists and social workers throughout the country. Her impact as an educator is wide spread, and the advice and knowledge she has imparted in her classroom and through her publications continues to impact individuals nationwide.

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