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Dec. 5, 2011

Smith College Announces Ann F. Kaplan Directorship
Of the Center for Women & Financial Independence

Smith economics professor Mahnaz Mahdavi was named the first Ann F. Kaplan Director of the Center for Women & Financial Independence during a 10th anniversary celebration, which featured a keynote speech by Laura D’Andrea Tyson, an economic adviser to two U.S. presidents.

1NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – When Smith College launched its groundbreaking Women & Financial Independence (WFI) program a decade ago, few people were talking about financial literacy for women.

During a recent event marking the 10th anniversary of the WFI program, Mahnaz Mahdavi, who has led the program since it began, was named the first Ann F. Kaplan Director of the Center for Women & Financial Independence.

Kaplan, a member of the Smith Class of 1967, is the chairman and a founder of Circle Financial Group, a partner of Circle Wealth Management, and has championed the program since its inception.

“The mission of Smith’s Center for Women’s Financial Independence is to provide our students a financial education that will prepare them to respond to the challenges of lifelong financial planning and decision making,” said Kaplan, who provided seed money for the program in partnership with Goldman Sachs. “We want financial knowledge to be a key component of the intellectual confidence with which women graduate from Smith.”

In conjunction with the naming of the directorship and the 10th anniversary celebration, Goldman Sachs has made an additional gift in support of the Center for Women and Financial Independence and in honor of Kaplan. Kaplan serves as a member of the board of directors of Goldman Sachs Bank USA.

Under Mahdavi’s leadership WFI has flourished, launching programs that provide women with the knowledge and confidence to address financial matters.

“Smith offers financial education through a series of non-credit courses that have been very popular and well attended,” said Mahdavi. “We find that students are eager to learn how to read and analyze financial news, discuss lifestyle money issues, and learn to organize their financial lives and to be informed investors.”

The WFI courses cover a range of topics, including the following:

Financing Life and the Principles of Investing
This course introduces students to the essentials of personal finance and what you need to know to take charge of your money. Topics will include credit and debt management, student loans, saving for retirement and tax planning.

Backpack to Briefcase
This workshop is offered to graduating members of the senior class as a refresher "boot camp" in the basics of personal finance and financial planning soon-to-be-alumnae will need in order to make sound financial decisions once out in the "real world."

Interpreting Financial News
This series covers timely and relevant global finance topics related to the stock market, employment and the economy, healthcare, technology, philanthropy and more.

Dollars & $ense
Designed for incoming students, this course covers managing a budget as well as the benefits and perils of credit and debit cards.

In addition to the courses, Mahdavi spearheaded two research investigations during the past decade.

The first, an examination of credit card use by college students, found that students were financing their education with plastic to an alarming degree. Researchers emphasized that institutions of higher education need to pay attention to the critical area of financial education.

The second investigation, a survey of more than 4,500 Smith alumnae, assessed women’s financial knowledge, behavior and attitudes toward money. The findings address why women are worried about their financial security regardless of their income level.

The center is guided by an alumnae advisory committee and Mahdavi regularly speaks with alumnae groups about financial topics and her research.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190

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