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Q&A with Naomi Boyd: “You don’t have to plan your entire life at 20 years old”

Naomi BoydNaomi Boyd, chair of the finance department and associate professor, has been with the College of Business and Economics for eight years. Below is a Q&A about her life story: how she came into her career, what she loves about teaching and the future plans she has in store for B&E and its students.

What did you do before coming to B&E?
As a young adult, I had trained for a career in ballet and majored in dance at the University of Texas at Austin, before my career took a different turn. When graduate school for my husband took us away from Austin, I got a job working for the Economic Development Company for the City of Lubbock, Market Lubbock, where I worked in business attraction and recruitment.  One of the companies we brought to Lubbock, an Australian-based firm called SupaChill, hired me to develop a partnership with Texas Tech University. I started back part-time getting my MBA, and ended up, after a semester, deciding to pursue my graduate studies full-time. When my husband and I moved to Washington D.C., I taught at George Washington University during my doctoral program, while working as a student scholar for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

How has your job changed since becoming the finance department chair in August 2015?
My job has changed a lot; many positive things and just a few negatives. I teach less, which I see as a loss, personally. So I miss having that chance to get to see them grow over the years. On the other hand, the demands are different and I’m trying to do a lot of fundraising and work more closely with the development office. The best part about the job is having the opportunity to shape the future direction of the program and be creative and innovative in developing strategies to come up with new resources. I am working hard to try to bring the department to a new level; it comes with its own challenges, which include developing a strategic plan and trying to get us to move forward. We need additional resources to bring our research and teaching to where it needs to be, now that we are an R1 school, and I see that as my primary job right now. I do have a lot less time for research and less time with the students, but there are some interesting and exciting opportunities there as well.

What do you like the most about teaching?
There is so much that I like about teaching. I like being able to interact with students, and have a direct and meaningful impact on their lives. I think all instructors at all levels talk about that “a-ha” moment, when the student actually gets it - and there are definitely those moments. But it really is about watching them grow and develop as students that I enjoy the most. Having the ability to shape their knowledge base and become a part of their lives and careers to ensure that they are successful, not only while they are at WVU but also once they leave, is important to me. The cherry on top is when they come back to speak to and recruit our current students. That's the really rewarding part; getting to see them out there in the real world, doing what we trained them to do here.

The Center for Financial Literacy and Education has been one of your biggest projects. How did that get started?
I am really excited about the Center. It is something that we have been working toward for a long time. There are a lot of us within the college who work on activities and organize events related to financial literacy. There are also a lot of parties across campus who are engaged in financial literacy in some capacity. We started the center as a mechanism to house all of our programs related to financial literacy and wealth management, but also to provide a platform for the community. Since starting the center we have had groups across campus reach out to us and we are starting to expand our footprint. There are a lot of opportunities to increase financial literacy, and the Center for Financial Literacy and Education is allowing us to become more involved with the University and the community at large.

What are your future plans for the Center?
Bill Riley and I work with the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office each summer to train primary and secondary educators in the state on topics related to financial literacy. We try to empower them to go back and teach their students, while also making better financial decisions in their own lives. Financial literacy needs to start at a young age, and we need to build a foundation so that when they get to college, we've already reached them in some way. We are hoping to expand these efforts, as well as work on and develop other partnerships with private industry so that we can increase our outreach programs. We are trying to create a financial literacy workbook for high school students who would be entering college in the next two years, which would cover everything from student loans and scholarships to what life is going to be like living on your own (such as budgeting techniques) and provide them with resources and education. I would love for all WVU students to eventually have to take a financial literacy course as part of their GEF requirements. The more outreach and education we can provide, the more empowered individuals are going to be to make better financial decisions - which will positively impact our economy.

How different are the two fields – professional dance and finance?
I think sometimes people who work in business look at those in the arts as if it’s a separation of left brain and right brain, but being a dance major, you have to be very analytical, very committed and, of course, dedicated. There is a quantitative side to dance, with musicality, rhythm and and choreography that has actually served me well in finance. There’s a certain amount of creativity involved in finance. To be a good researcher, you have to be creative and you have to want to investigate things, and you have to be committed to investigating those issues and problems.

Did you ever think, during your time as a dancer, that you would find this whole new career path?

The message that I always give to my students is that it is really difficult to plan your entire future when you're 20 years old. But the nice thing about life is that you don't have to plan your future at 20 years old. A lot is going to change. I tell them to look at where they want to go and try to integrate the steps that it is going to take to get there, but if along the way they decide that it isn’t for them, they can always go back to school and change their trajectory. I like my unique path because it shows that anything is possible. I tell them I was a ballet dancer, and now I'm chair of the finance department. You can do whatever you want; you just have to work hard and get there.