Two Northeastern graduates, Erika Nothnagel and Megan Aspray, while on co-op at the global accounting firm RSM International in Mexico City added more to their portfolio than just accounting and finance skills. They changed the lives and futures of the children through a sustainable financial literacy program
While working in RSM’s Mexico City Headquarters, as part of the Northeastern University International Business program, Nothnagel and Aspray were surprised at the lack of understanding of basic financial issues within the Mexican communities where they lived and worked. They decided to work with RSM to do something about this, and created Mexico’s first corporate social responsibility program with an emphasis on financial education for elementary-school and middle-school students in Mexico City.
Nothnagel noted that “financial education is one of the most important tools for families and individuals to have better economic security. However, Mexico has continued to struggle to educate their population about personal and family finance.” Basic concepts such as monthly financial planning, interest, credit, time value of money, saving methods, and taxes are vital; yet, according to Mexico’s National Commission for Education for Financial Services (CONDUSEF), 62% of Mexicans do not have any form of financial education, 80% of Mexican families save their money outside of formal financial systems and 31% of Mexicans spend more than their level of income. In fact, only 1 out of every 3 Mexican adults have a bank account (CONDUSEF).
Nothnagel and Aspray were shocked when they heard these statistics and decided to combine their backgrounds in accounting and finance with their passion for corporate social responsibility (CSR).
To develop their CSR program, Nothnagel and Aspray enlisted the help of Northeastern’s Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL), and its founder, Dr. Paula Caligiuri. The CALL program is a joint-venture between the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and the National Peace Corps Association that sends skilled professionals to non-profit organizations in developing countries to serve as pro bono advisors. Nothnagel and Aspray worked with CALL to develop a functional program model to ensure that the financial education program not only provided a valuable experience to those taking the workshop, but also guarantee that managers delivering the workshop would benefit from the experience.
In the end, Nothnagel and Aspray combined CALL’s extensive knowledge of international corporate volunteerism with materials and research from Mexico’s CONDUSEF to create a one-hour workshop and curriculum for managers at the RSM Mexico office to deliver to local students. Their goal of the curriculum was to help students learn the basics to making informed decisions about their money and how to shape realistic financial goals.
On May 20, 2016, Nothnagel and Aspray delivered their first workshop to the Williams San Rafael School in Mexico City, along with RSM’s director of Human Resources Claudia Bornacini. The workshop consisted of a short story about a girl who had to make choices on where to spend money for her Quinceañera (15th birthday party), meanwhile students in the workshop participated by giving their input as to what they thought the character should do. At the end of the workshop, Nothnagel and Aspray organized a BINGO game where the board was filled with pictures of the new financial concepts like saving, interest, loans, inflation, among others.
Today RSM Mexico continues to use these financial education workshops to give back to the Mexico City community, as well as use these opportunities to develop their own talent.
Both Nothnagel and Aspray graduated with their Bachelors of Science in International Business this past December and are now in the process of pursuing a Masters of Science in International Management at Northeastern.