Personal Financial Planning Graduates First Cohort for Hybrid Master’s Program
For employees at Fidelity Investments, Texas Tech's Personal Financial Planning master's degree is available in a new hybrid-style of delivery. Enrolled students spend four weekends per semester at the Fidelity Westlake campus with classes every Friday and Saturday evening.
After 5 semesters, students are eligible for graduation and have the option of earning a graduate certificate in Charitable Financial Planning with strategically selected elective courses. The hybrid-education program is designed for financial service professionals who are ready to take the next step in their careers by specializing in charitable giving, behavioral finance, life-centered planning, technology, and more.
This past May, the program celebrated its first graduating class of 17 students. Associate Professor and director of M.S. Programs, John Gilliam, Ph.D., CFP®, CHFC, CLU, said that the main goal for the program is to provide the highest level of financial planning education in the industry.
"Texas Tech PFP has the only M.S. program in Personal Financial Planning in the state of Texas," he said. "While we have this competitive advantage, we plan to expand into the Dallas area. As this goal is being reached we will expand this program to other large financial services firms both in Texas and outside of Texas."
Dr. Gilliam notes that often committing the time and resources to complete a graduate degree can be challenging. For this group of graduates, many were joyous and relieved to celebrate their accomplishment.
"The staff and faculty continue on with the second cohort," Dr. Gilliam said. "It's what we do and we love it!"
Personal Financial Planning Chairperson, Vickie Hampton, Ph.D., CFP®, said she is proud of all hybrid program students and each makes for an amazing group of Texas Tech alumni.
"They completed a rigorous M.S. degree while working at Fidelity Investments," Dr. Hampton said. "This inaugural class has been instrumental in helping us improve and grow the program."
The group of graduate students quickly became a tightknit group. For graduates like Andrew "Andy" Powers, the networking opportunities and connections that were built made for a great opportunity to further his professional career.
"Fidelity is a huge company and I met new people from different business units I probably never would've crossed paths with," Andy said. "I also made some great connections at TTU!"
Back before the program officially rolled out, Andy went looking for an online master's degree in Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech—which is not currently an option. After speaking with Dr. Gilliam, the need for a hybrid-style degree program quickly became evident.
"Once Dr. Gilliam and I started communicating we realized there was an opportunity for a fantastic partnership," Andy said. "Two years after he and I started communicating, the inaugural cohort started at the Fidelity campus in North Dallas in August 2017."
Once a month, Texas Tech professors travel to the Fidelity Westlake campus to teach the weekend classes. All other coursework and communication are completed online.
Christopher Greenlaw heard about the program through a colleague.
"I remember going down to one of the conference rooms to learn more about it and met Dr. Gilliam," Christopher said. "Dr. Gillliam presented the program as a new and unique way of earning your master's as well as the opportunity to sit for the CFP®."
Christopher explained that the structure of the program enabled students to attend various financial conferences and seminars for course credit.
"After being in the workforce for 16 years I was very excited and a tad nervous to become a student again as it had been a while since I picked up a textbook," he said. "It afforded me the opportunity to network with my classmates who were from various departments and business units within my organization. We were lucky to have been taught by some of the best faculty in this particular major and each one of them brought something unique to the program."
As an added convenience, classes were located just ten minutes down the road from Christopher's home.
"I'm not originally from Texas but I remember having a great sense of pride enrolling at TTU," Christopher said. "My first visit to Lubbock happened to be on the weekend of graduation and walking to get my diploma and having my family there was truly a remarkable experience. Not many dads have their daughters watch them as they graduate—it's usually the other way around!"
Christopher plans to sit for the CFP® exam in November. He still is in touch with Dr. Gilliam and other PFP faculty to assist with the incoming fall cohort.
"It's been an honor to be a part of the inaugural program and I'm thrilled that many more of my colleagues are taking advantage of this unique offering in the marketplace."