In celebration of America Saves Week, I am pleased to share Kathleen Lawson’s thinking on personal finance and economics education as well as her professional rise and “earning” journey from babysitter, to dishwasher to Executive Director of Economics Arkansas!
Kathleen Lawson was hired as Executive Director of Economics Arkansas in October 2017, becoming only the 5th chief executive in the organization’s 56-year-old history. Her new role follows 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Kathleen completed her Masters of Public Administration at UA-Little Rock in 2008 where she also previously earned a Bachelor Degree of Social Work. During her undergraduate studies, Kathleen spent a summer abroad studying Spanish in Jalisco, Mexico. She is a Certified Nonprofit Professional through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.
In addition to her work with Economics Arkansas, Kathleen serves on the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation advisory board, is a Rotarian at Little’s Rock’s Club 99, and is a sustainer in the Junior League of Little Rock. She is a graduate of Leadership Arkansas, Class XI. Kathleen was recently named a 2018 Little Rock Soirée Woman to Watch and was recognized as a 2018 Arkansas Business 40 Under 40.
Kathleen’s proudest accomplishment to date is being a mom to two adorable children, seven year old daughter Madelyn and five year old son Hudson, and wife to husband Brian.
Sam X Renick: Tell us about Economics Arkansas? What makes it important and interesting? Who does it target?
Lawson: For 57 years, Economics Arkansas has provided teachers with trainings and resources to integrate economic education into the classroom. What I learned quickly after I started is just how much economics truly is everywhere. Because of that, we work with a range of teachers in all grades, not just the usual suspects. All preK-12 educators are welcome to attend our trainings, for which we have waived registration fees since 2018.
Renick: What is your why? In other words what inspired you to lead and champion economics and financial education?
Lawson: I am truly passionate about financial education and have been for the last 13 years. I had an “aha” moment from the minute I realized that budgeting was an empowering task and not something meant to restrict you. I find joy each month in budgeting where our money will go based on the choices we make as a family. It did not start that way for me. When I started my financial focused journey in 2006, I had tons of debt and no savings. We are not perfect, as decision making is something you have to discipline yourself with every day, but there is always tomorrow and a new opportunity to make better choices.
Renick: What was one of the smartest money decisions you made as a child or a teenager and why?
Lawson: Working was a great opportunity for me. I sacrificed my Friday nights as a teenager to wash dishes in the back of my hometown restaurant, but I have never regretted it for a minute. It helped instill a strong work ethic and gave me extra money to pay for things I wanted.
Renick: What are a couple of the biggest lessons you have learned thus far about economics and financial education as Executive Director of Economics Arkansas?
Lawson: I love finding myself using economics concepts with my kids. I was one of those lost generations that did not have a required econ course, so in a sense, I have been learning right alongside some of our teachers. What I have found is that economics is approachable, especially when you consider that it is essentially about decision-making.
Renick: What is your vision for Economics Arkansas? What would you like to see the organization achieve in the next 3 to 5 years?
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Lawson: I would love to see our organization become a household name. I believe that is the tipping point we need so that we have boots on the ground in every town in our state lobbying that their students have access to economic and personal finance education. We have seen incredible growth over the last year with the number of teachers served, and I know that telling our story has led to some of that success.
Renick: What does Economics Arkansas need to be effective and achieve its mission and vision?
Lawson: We will continue to train teachers and manage successful programs that have led us to our current success. Additionally, we want to continue to evolve as a result of how teacher professional development has changed since our inception. We need to be willing to embrace new opportunities and encourage conversations with unusual suspects. We need to find students where they are – classroom or not – and support those adults who have access to influence their lives.
Renick: Do you have any additional thoughts you would like to share?
Lawson: Thank you for giving us this platform to share about the work that we are doing!
Find more insights from Kathleen Lawson on kids, money and her childhood memories around personal finance at SammyRabbit.com – Kathleen Lawson.
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