Virginia Asher won the Outstanding Student Award for the MS in Advanced Financial Planning program. An experienced financial planner, she honed new capacities while examining her beliefs, strengths, and practices.
When Virginia was a kid, she dreamed of becoming a teacher. However, growing up in a family that lacked financial resources, she chose a different path. She earned a finance degree because she knew she needed to provide for herself and became a successful financial planner. After building a thriving career that provided her with the security she wanted, she realized that what she most loves doing is teaching others about personal finances.
“At work, I did a lot of training for other people. I would become an expert on a topic and I would be asked to train others,” reflected Virginia. “I started to think about what I most love to do on the job. I realized that helping people learn something that is useful to them is rewarding for me.”
MS in Advanced Financial Planning
She came to GGU to earn her MS in Advanced Financial Planning so that she could transition to teaching financial planning at the university level and in other capacities.
“GGU has one of the best masters programs for experienced financial planners, with some of the best professors coming from our industry,” said Virginia.
Creativity and Innovation
At GGU, Virginia brought drive and passion to her work and relationships with professors and peers. She enriched her coursework with her professional expertise and pushed herself to embrace new approaches to working with clients.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a creative person,” reflected Virginia. “But I’ve stretched my self-definition after practicing some techniques in class that are more creative or artistic. That was a big accomplishment. Going through that process of learning about new tools and innovative ways to frame things empowered me to present creative ideas to my clients.”
Virginia also discovered new possibilities for her career she hadn’t previously considered ranging from coaching to consulting to facilitating women’s empowerment groups.
“While I was in the program, I realized I could be a consultant for schools on how to integrate financial planning into courses,” said Virginia. “In addition to teaching at universities, I could conduct workshops for adults, consult with teachers and work with them in the classroom. I would never have come up with half of that on my own. I would go back to my friends and tell them the ideas I was gaining in the program and they would say you could totally do that.”
Teaching and Coaching
Today Virginia’s financial planning career is expanding in exciting ways. She’s in contact with universities about teaching opportunities and is reaching out to financial literacy programs for teens and adults, community college programs, and other organizations that promote financial education.
“There’s so much information out there about finances that many people don’t know where to start,” said Virginia. “I hope to get in front of more younger people with the basics of financial choices and what they mean in the bigger picture of their lives. If you can make decisions that make you happy now, you don’t need to retire early.”
Please describe your accomplishments at GGU.
I’m most proud of stretching what I thought I was capable of, learning a lot about myself, and becoming friends with some other students as we encouraged each other through our work.
What courses at GGU have proven most valuable to you?
The two standouts were Coaching Skills for Financial Professionals and Strategic Thinking, an elective. These two classes helped me examine my beliefs, my strengths, and practice many things I thought were not part of my skill set, which enhanced my confidence. Additionally, given my goal of transitioning to a teaching position, I found the Business Development for Financial Services class surprisingly useful, especially Professor Barajas’ and another student’s feedback on my final project.
Did you participate in any clubs or organizations?
I did not participate in formal clubs or organizations. However, I participated in an informal financial planner group that developed out of my Introduction to Financial Life Planning class. In addition to staying in touch through Zoom meetings on a quarterly basis, several of us met in person at the annual Financial Planning Association Retreat, where we also met some of our professors. It contributed to the sense of community within our evolving industry.
Have any of your professors been especially supportive and helpful?
Yes! I have known or previously met some of the professors through financial planning conferences and/or my involvement in the greater Phoenix chapter of the Financial Planning Association. Saundra Davis helped me relax more with the coaching process when I was being very hard on myself. Professor Silverman was very supportive, keeping in mind what my background and future vision are and helping me to see the relevance of what we were discussing to my own skills and experience.
What are your career ambitions for the future?
While I will continue to work in financial planning, I am going to teach financial planning at the college level, as well as financial literacy at the high school and adult learner levels. Prior to going through the program and getting feedback from so many professors and students, I had a very narrow vision of my future, but it has expanded to a much more flexible future with many possibilities that may include coaching and facilitating mastermind and women’s empowerment groups.