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Small Business Funding in Charlotte – Obama is Coming!

March 28, 2010

I met with Mayor Foxx a couple of weeks ago about my idea for small business funding. 

I have to say that the entire office had such a positive feel about it. I don’t know what I expected, exactly, but every member of his staff as well as other personnel were friendly and welcoming. Every single person who passed me as I sat in the reception area smiled and greeted me. In my experience, the demeanor of the office usually reflects the management, and in this case, I was fairly impressed.

The Mayor spent close to half an hour with me discussing my proposal. He likes the idea very much; now we just have to see if it’s feasible. I’ve met with someone who works closely with the governor’s office to create new jobs here and next week I meet with someone who might be a corporate sponsor – or at the very least – will be able to offer some direction on where to go next.

I’ve spent the last few weeks lobbying (and by lobbying I mean BEGGING) the MBA programs at my school for help since I’m in WAY over head at this point. Unfortunately, we are coming close to the end of the semester and everyone is way too busy. On the plus side, one of the women in Alumni Relations reached out to our MBA alumni group and I’ll be meeting with someone on Tuesday who is willing to help. He works for Bank of America – would be nice to get them involved!

President Obama is coming to Charlotte this week to talk about small businesses and job creation. I’m sure he’ll call (grins). Ok, a girl can dream, right?

I’m so busy right now it’s feeling a little overwhelming!

This past week I gave a speech at our scholars luncheon. One of my grants is the Pat and B.D. Rodgers Fellowship. I met them at the speech – really kind people. I hope that I will be able to get to know them better. Pat was just named Charlotte Businesswoman of the Year. She is an amazing woman – very inspirational in what she has done with her life. I love the fact that they are so involved with philanthropy. I think each of us has a responsiblity to effect change to the best of our ability – and the fact that they funded a fellowship specifically for non-traditional students is incredibly generous.

Meeting Mayor Foxx About Small Businesses in Charlotte

March 8, 2010

I realize I completely disappeared from the blogosphere. I promise to do better. :) I’ve had lots going on, from arguing my first legal case in Moot Court at school, to writing my speech for the Scholarship/Fellowshop/Donor luncheon later this month to mid-terms to creating a proposal for the Mayor – and actually getting a meeting with him! You know – the usual. It’s been a whirlwind month.

I’ll try to catch up with everything over the next week.

In the meantime, I really am meeting Mayor Foxx tomorrow at 2pm. I really love how democracy works – it’s kind of amazing to me that I can come up with an idea, email it to the mayor’s office, and then have a chance to present it to someone who can do something about it. How cool is that?

One of the Mayor’s goals is to help small businesses here in Charlotte. The economy being what it is, so many businesses are having an impossible time finding funding. My idea is a creative way to provide funding; it will be interesting to see what he thinks – and where it will go from here. I’ve spoken with the powers that be at The Center for Entrepreneurship at Queens University of Charlotte. I’m hoping that there might be some synergy between them and my idea…I’ll let you know what happens tomorrow.

It’s Too Late to Go Back to School

January 28, 2010

Lots going on this week – I think I could write a novel! I had my first oral presentation in Constitutional Law – Dred Scott v Sandford – arguably one of the most notorious decisions of the Supreme Court (and I got an A!).  The more I learn in this class, the more I appreciate the Constitution. It is an amazing document – amazing because of its flexibility and how it can be applied to legal issues today that could not have possibly been anticipated when it was written. This appreciation makes me even more disappointed to see Judge Alito’s visible reaction to Obama’s State of the Union last night. I’d like to innocently cling to the hope that the judiciary is an impartial, neutral, apolitic body (as it is supposed to be) that considers only the law when making its decisions. Sadly, it is painfully obvious that is not the case.

Last night I went to a dinner for Psychology majors at Hayworth College. Hayworth College is the college for non-traditional students at Queens University in Charlotte. And yes, shameless plug – the staff there are terrific. It’s a great school and I recommend it to any non-traditional student in the area!

After the dinner, I sat down with three of my fellow students and talked about some of the challenges for non-trads. I have to admit, I was pretty surprised – after many of the interviews I’ve had with other students, I expected to hear concerns about financial aid and paying for school.

Instead, we talked about the personal fears we each faced when making the decision to go back to school as older students. We all had to face the fear that it was “too late” to go back to school. It’s fun and inspiring to read the stories about the 89-year old grandmother who just graduated from college; it’s quite another story to face that journey yourself.  And yet, the time passes.  We will all age – so isn’t it better to spend our time learning, growing, positioning ourselves to make a better life?

What is the difference between those who make the choice to commit the time and finances at a later age and those who simply give up or do not try? It was quite an interesting conversation and one which I want to continue to explore. What are your thoughts?

And lastly, in other news, I am going to do a follow up radio segment to my interview two weeks ago with Laurie Giles. Next Tuesday, 2nd at 4pm EST, you can listen online as we discuss the logistics of going back to college. It will include:

School Degrees – What Are The Different Types of Degrees and Want Do They Mean?
Choosing a College or University
Being a  Full Time vs Part-time Student
The Application Process – What you’ll need and how to do it
Common Concerns about being a Non-Traditional Student
Financial Aid
Disabilities
Studying – Study techniques and the time required 

You can listen by going to www.toginet.com/whatnow and clicking on the Listen Now! option next Tuesday. As always, thoughts and comments are welcome!

Older Students and Younger Students in One Class – Can it Work?

January 21, 2010

In my first philosophy class, I walked in to find the stereotypical philosophy students lounging in their chairs. My favorite was the student with dredlocks, rumply unironed shirts and loose cargo pants, who snuck off at every break to smoke and discuss Nietzsche with an earnest, young, freshly scrubbed, free spirited young woman.

Sadly, I had never even HEARD of Nietzsche and certainly was not cool enough to debate existentialism with someone twenty years younger (not then, anyway. My coolness factor is increasing by leaps and bounds, of course).

Some non-traditional students have talked to me about their frustrations with being in class with kids the same age as our kids. When your classmates talk about going out and partying or express a worldview that seems naive, how do you not react like a parent? Or, how do you avoid being the out-of-touch  older student? It can be hard not to feel completely out of place.

Personally, I love being in class with young students. Some of the most interesting conversations I have had are with students 20 years younger than I am. Their viewpoints are often fresh and new and force me to look at ideas in ways I haven’t considered. Every day I sit in class with these brilliant kids and it renews my hope for the future. They are aware of the world in ways that my generation simply was not – globalization has made it possible for them to make connections all over the world. I can’t help but think that these relationships being forged over skype and facebook will have a long-term effect on the kinds of (good) decisions they will make as they grow older.

This is what helps me:

1. I don’t parent. These aren’t my kids, and they aren’t my responsibility.
2. I never make fun of an idea or belief.
3. I accept them for what they are – brilliant, active kids who may party hard – but they work just as hard.
4. I expect to learn from them – I don’t expect them to learn from me.
5. I ask them questions, I ask for opinions and advice – in short, I talk to them – I engage.  I am genuinely interested, and my interest bridges the gap of the years between us. Many of them have become my friends, and I am incredibly proud of that.
6. I am honest. If I am scared or worried about a test, I tell them. Invariably they are my biggest cheerleaders. If I am excited about an achievement, I tell them, and they celebrate with me.
7. Like most things, attitude is everything.

One of my favorite moments this semester was walking into Constitutional Law and having my classmates from the previous semester save a seat for me. Now THAT’S overcoming the generation gap!

Wants vs Needs

January 18, 2010

Last year, I took an introductory course to world politics to fill one of my graduation requirements. I thought I would find it interesting; I never thought I would fall in love with it! (Lots of credit goes to my professor, Dr. Alexa Royden, at Queens University in Charlotte for her knowledge and enthusiasm in the area.) After her class, I trekked over to my advisor and explained my dilemma – and voila! Now I have a double major – political science and psychology.

I tell you all this to tell you why I need a television.

Turns out that as a poli-sci major, I am expected to know what is going on in the world. Why is the health care bill so divisive? Who will Obama nominate if and when Supreme Court Justice Stevens retires? Why is partisan bickering holding up the business of the people because we have so many unfilled vacancies in the judicial system? What happened at the summit on global warming? And on and on.

And frankly, when a professor asks your opinon about Plan B – it’s not really a good plan to squirm in your seat and admit that you don’t know because you don’t have a TV.

As a non-traditional student, I have to watch every penny that goes out the door. I pack my lunches, I make my own coffee, I wear extra sweaters at home when it gets cold, I clip coupons, and I never use my credit cards unless there is an emergency – in short, I do everything I can to watch my expenses, and I don’t have alot of disposable income. I spend money on my needs, but not my wants.

This brings me to my current want vs. need dilemma. I need a TV – not to watch sitcoms, but to hear the political talk shows, to watch CNN and BBC America, to really watch, learn and understand what is happening in the political arena. What I WANT is to be able to watch these shows on a magnificent 52-inch flat screen TV. I’ll even settle for a smaller 32-inch flat screen. I can whip out my credit card and pay for it! I have even rationalized that since this is really a school expense I can use student loan money to pay for it.

And then I see the horrifying pictures of people in Haiti…and that really puts life into perspective. People who have lost simply everything, begging for a cup of water, some food, medical care – the basics of survival. They have needs that many of them have no way to fill – and they will die.

Suddenly going into debt for a flat-screen TV seems unappealing. Tomorrow I’ll head to Habitat for Humanity and buy a little TV for $35 and count myself so very fortunate that my needs are filled – and yes, some of my wants too.

I Can’t Get Student Loans – Now What?

January 14, 2010

Tuesday I interviewed Brian Cox with TuitionU.  Quoting directly from their website, TuitionU “is an education finance network with a simple purpose: to provide students and their families access to a community of low-cost college financing sources through social networking, not-for-profit credit unions, traditional lenders, individual and corporate sponsors, and charitable donors.” (www.tuitionu.com)

In simpler terms, they provide access to a coalition of resources that provide student loans. Brian estimated that only about 10% of their users are non-traditional, making this a very under-utilized resource in our sector. It will be interesting to see if they begin to target older students through their marketing; we are certainly an under-served community! I have to say that I really liked Brian and the TuitionU concept; please let me know what experiences, if any, you may have had with them.

With all of that an an intro, what this blog is REALLY about  is a cool concept called peer-to-peer financing. I hadn’t heard of this option before although Brian said there are a few companies out there doing something similar (but without  the focus on educational funding). TuitionU acquired GreenNote (www.greennote.com) in March of 2009 to provide a peer-to-peer lending service.

Peer-to-peer financing allows students to raise financing through micro-loans from family, friends and other contacts. Basically, you use GreenNote to connect with your social network to let them know you need assistance in paying for college. GreenNote formalizes the borrowing relationship – exactly like a “normal” student loan. They give the lender confidence because they verify the borrower is enrolled and going to school, and they disburse the funds directly to the school and administer loan repayment after the student finishes school.

So…for example, let’s say I need $10,000 in funding for this school year and I can’t get it from traditional lending sources. GreenNote contacts my school and verifies my funding need is real and communicates my needs to my network. I get 5 friends and family to that each loan $2000. I sign loan papers with a current interest rate of 6.8% (same as the current Stafford loan rate). The lenders provide the money to GreenNote who sends the money to my college’s financial aid office. When I graduate, I make one payment to GreenNote who disburses the funds back to the lenders.

How great is that? I am a huge believer in the micro-loan concept. And, in today’s economy with investment options so shaky, a great opportunity for your lenders to invest their money in a proven entity – YOU.

Going Back to School – What Was I Thinking?

January 12, 2010

On the personal side, just a short note to update you on my schedule…I’ll be blogging Tuesdays and Thursdays and sometimes Saturdays!

I have a full schedule this semester – the Psychology of Learning, Adolescent Psychology, American Politics, and Constitutional Law. What was I thinking??!

Of course I’m excited – I love school. At the same time, it’s a fairly heavy load – I have 100+ pages to read every day just to keep up – not to mention the day job. Yikes!

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