Diversifying Options: SMU Cox Partners with Finance Foundation

After the success of his book I Am Supposed To Be Here—The Art of Dealing With Perception, which was released in July 2015, Dr. Donald Arnette decided he wanted to do more to improve the lives of impoverished and at-risk youth in Dallas and surrounding areas.

That fall, he set up the Doc Arnette Foundation. The foundation provides financial literacy tools to high school seniors from Dallas, Cedar Hill, and DeSoto, and is in talks with other area districts to expand their program.

As the first African-American to obtain a Ph.D. from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Arnette knows what it takes to become successful. He says kids have to “see it to believe it,” so, through a partnership between his foundation and SMU Cox School of Business, he shows students what their futures can look like by helping them build financial skills.

Arnette believes that no matter what profession students decide to pursue, financial literacy is the key to unlocking opportunities.

Working in conjunction with high school economics classes, Arnette enhances curriculums to teach students how to invest and manage money. Through the program, students can compete in the Doc Arnette Investment Challenge, a virtual portfolio-building challenge that builds skills in math, business, economics, language arts, and social studies.

Students come away knowing how to select stocks, open checking accounts, and balance checkbooks, as well as understanding how interest rates and credit ratings can impact their futures.

Winners of the challenge also receive scholarships for college, which are fully funded by the foundation. He hopes that the partnership with SMU will expand his foundation’s scholarship opportunities.

“The minute Doc presented the program, I knew it was something that was just amazing…it was worthwhile,” Professor and Director of MBA Diversity Initiatives at SMU Cox School of Business Steve Denson said.

SMU Cox School of Business is active in community outreach and engagement through various programs and with local and national associations such as the National Black MBA Association and Accounting Career Awareness Program.

Denson teaches his students social and corporate responsibility early on, and stresses that no matter how successful in business people may become, they have an obligation to give back.

As part of their support of Arnette’s program, the college provides classroom space and presents lectures by former SMU graduates, current MBA students, and fund managers to the foundation’s students.

SMU students will also serve as tutors and mentors for the students, who often have no experience with college or campus life. The goal of the partnership is to provide tools and resources for students to succeed both academically and financially, no matter their background.

Denson sees the partnership as a way to increase the number of students of color in all programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“I want these kids to come here and fall in love with SMU,” he said. Denson also welcomes anyone interested in the program, whether as a participant, volunteer, or company, to get involved.

“Corporate and academic involvement and the philanthropic interests that Dr. Arnette brings will better address the needs of Dallas,” Denson said.

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