USU Extension Empowering Financial Wellness Team Wins Multiple State Awards

By Julene Reese | March 25, 2022


Finance Team

Utah State University Extension’s mission is to build knowledge and improve lives by providing education and timely resources. Each February, the Utah Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences recognizes outstanding outreach efforts on behalf of USU Extension faculty and staff. Awards are given for years of service, innovative programming, marketing and public relations, communications, diversity, and more.

This year, the Empowering Financial Wellness (EFW) team consisting of USU Extension faculty, program coordinators, and staff who are passionate about financial education, received the first-place Innovative Program award for their efforts to improve financial wellness through research-based education using online courses, webinars, in-person financial education, and professional development trainings. Team members include: Amanda H. Christensen, Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC); Melanie D. Jewkes; Andrea T. Schmutz; Lendel K. Narine; Vincenza Vicari-Bentley, AFC; Alicia Nelson-Bell; and Lisa Cox.

In addition to the state-level award, the team also received the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) Florence Hall Award, and the Communications: Educational Publication Award that will go on to regional judging.

The Florence Hall Award recognizes an outstanding program conducted by faculty who recognize emerging issues or new concerns and interests of families or individuals. The EFW team has worked to curb the financial stresses exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among women. Additionally, the team has created multiple educational materials, and nearly 5,500 Utah residents have participated in online webinars, online courses, and in-person classes since August of 2020. Resources developed include the following, with links included:

The team received the first-place Communications: Educational Publication Award for the finance calendar created to improve Utahn’s financial resilience with small, manageable, monthly action items. The calendar is available as a free download and is geared to those who may feel overwhelmed about taking steps forward to improve their financial circumstances.

“The Finance Calendar is my favorite resource,” said Amanda H. Christensen, associate professor and director of the EFW program. “It’s very action-oriented and takes the guess work out of how to navigate the path to improved financial resiliency.” Christensen is co-author of the PowerPay Money Master Online Course, a self-paced, video-based course that has shown to have significant impact on participants’ financial wellness.

When asked about her experience, Vincenza Vicari-Bentley, EFW program coordinator, said, “Have you ever heard the expression, ‘mean what you say and say what you mean?’ That's what working with the EFW team feels like. We work to empower people with their money! I have the privilege of helping people truly understand how they can spend their money, make informed financial decisions, and provide resources to help them on their journey to financial wellness.” 

Programs created by the EFW team demonstrate impact with significant increases in participant’s personal finance knowledge and skills immediately after participating. Almost all participants maintained best-practices two months later and after four months, participants reported an increase in savings, increase in their ability to handle unexpected financial burdens, and a general increase in their financial well-being. Further results have been published in a USU Extension Outcomes and Impacts Quarterly article available here.

To learn more about USU Extension personal finance programs or to request to have a class taught in your area, visit Sign up for the PowerPay Money Master online course free of charge for a limited time using the code “FWFREETANF” at