GFOA is working to get more students involved in the organization. A number of initiatives are in place or in the works for the upcoming year. In early 2018, GFOA updated and enhanced its student membership brochure to reflect the benefits of becoming a student member, and to highlight the low cost of membership. In early April, GFOA awarded scholarships to 11 students totaling $100,000. The scholarship program continues to be a successful way to get students involved in the organization.
GFOA is working with the organization Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) on projects that involve students and that partnership is already paying off. In March, GFOA was the title sponsor of the ELGL On Campus: Inspiring Women to Local Government Careers event at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. One of the students who participated in the event will be working with GFOA this summer as a paid intern. GFOA has already committed to sponsoring five undergraduate events with ELGL during the 2018-2019 school year (dates and locations are TBA).
GFOA staff have had a number of conversations with university staff and students across the country about how to increase engagement and generate interest in government finance as a profession. These conversations are paying off in a number of ways. The University of Kentucky, Georgia State University, Kansas State University, and Northern Illinois University were exhibitors at GFOA’s 112th Annual Conference for the first time. They were joined by the University of Georgia, Ohio University-Pearson, and the University of Connecticut. In addition to 2018’s new university exhibitors, GFOA received positive and constructive feedback on the local student scholarship, which was launched this year.
One of the most exciting initiatives is in its very early stages. GFOA staff are working to launch the organization’s first student chapter. Preparation for the launch involves determining which schools would be ideal pilot candidates and developing a chapter model. In the course of this preparation, GFOA staff have gained insight into some of GFOA’s challenges to student growth, namely, that awareness of GFOA may be limited to professors with public finance specialties and a personal history in the profession. Therefore, GFOA will continue to pursue new methods of communication with and outreach to students.
Last month, GFOA met with state/provincial representatives at the annual conference in St. Louis. The group provided great feedback to staff on steps forward in student outreach, including coordinating some efforts with state/provincial associations. In the coming months, GFOA staff will work to contact leaders of these associations to continue these conversations.
All of the initiatives launched so far have generated confidence that the student initiative will be a success and will be central to GFOA’s mission of serving and promoting excellent government finance officers.