With a Ph.D. in economics and accounting, Radha Maharaj, a sessional instructor in UTM’s ICCIT department who is referred to as Dr. M or Prof. M, has a unique way of resolving a problem that many students face when it comes to financial literacy, which is through her research project: Elly.
Her research project is aimed to help raise awareness of financial literacy amongst students. Her sole platform of gathering research from students about financial matters is through an online survey that ends in June 2019.
“Elly,” the name of Maharaj’s research project is not necessarily an acronym but was derived from the concept of “Establishing the Level of Financial Literacy of the Student Body to Assist in Developing Appropriate Pedagogical Methods to Ensure Active Student Engagement.”
There are three components to Elly: the survey, the competition, and the interviews.
Currently, Maharaj teaches corporate finance in the Digital Enterprise Marketing (DEM) program. However, she hopes to address the major interests and concerns about finance through a course she believes will be made available to UTM students in 2020.
Maharaj wants to cover concepts such as: how to maximize taxes, how to invest, and what to invest—topics that are of interest to students. The new course will be comprised of economics, finance, and sociology and any student, no matter the program they are in, would be eligible to enroll in the course.
The course, Maharaj says is, “a different type of course not just a regular course,” in the sense that, “it will be really taking an in-depth look at [students’] personal goals and objectives.” They would be learning concepts “not at the level where [they] would be doing an exam on it. But at the level of how it’s affecting [their] life.”
Her ultimate objective is, “to give students tools and techniques but also to instill behavioral change and change their mindset and perception when it comes to looking at the economy and the world and the way that it works.” Aside from that, she “[wants] people to be present and engaged and thinking about their life in real terms.”
When asked how she came up with the idea, Maharaj says that, “after class, every year, students would come to [her] for personal finance advice.” She had seen a demand for it and so she started running finance workshops for the last couple of years. Wanting to do more than just workshops, Maharaj created her research project, Elly. Elly is not just a survey but contains a creative aspect towards it as well. Through Elly, students are given the opportunity to creatively express themselves about financial matters.
On January 17, 2019 in the Blind Duck Pub an event called “Elly in Action Extravaganza,” will be held as a celebration of “Elly in Action,” the financial literacy campaign. Students will compete for a $300 cash prize through song, art, dance, or through short film and digital art. Contestants are also given the chance to earn a CCR notation. Each category winner receives $300.
Contestants are able to choose from a list of financial topics such as: how it feels to be in debt, how interest rates make them feel, and what exactly does money mean to them. They are not limited to these topics provided.
To Maharaj, the event taking place is a “celebration of all those admissions and awarding the winners in each category.” The audience will be able to vote for the contestant who they believe to be deserving of the prize.
Not only will there be the competition taking place but there will also be additional entertainment afterwards. There will be other performances and a DJ present. There will also be information booths, such as one from UTM’s Career Center. Through the booths, “students have a chance to figure out where they could get jobs, tips on how to improve [themselves], and how to make [themselves] more employable, and what resources are available.”
For the third aspect of Elly, the interviews, those who choose to participate are given the opportunity to address their questions related to finance. Those who attend are able earn a CCR notation.