Humans At Sam: Patsy Collins

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As the Director of the Student Money Management Center, Patsy Collins has a wealth of knowledge and wisdom concerning finances and economics from her past experiences. She continues to cultivate and steward this wisdom by sharing it with students through different programs and workshops.

Collins has always been a Bearkat at heart since she attended Sam Houston State University in 1976 as a music major. However, she ended up with a business degree with a major in management and a minor in economics.

“Music is very math oriented,” Collins said. “And I loved the romance of playing the French horn as opposed to the math and science behind writing. I just wanted to play my French horn.”

Collins moved to Houston and worked at Texaco for 16 years, first as an accountant, and then in Risk Management on the trading room floor where the company bought and sold physical natural gas.

“I was able to use the finance and economics I had learned in the trading room and that was truly one of the most exciting jobs I have ever had,” Collins said. “I did a lot of trading room reports, working with traders and making sure their trades were profitable.”

After Texaco, Collins worked for a subsidiary of Shell called Coral for a little over a year and then went to NRG.

“It was a very fun career, but my daughter was going to be a freshman in high school, and I felt like we had Houston just as good as we were going to get it,” Collins said. “And I thought ‘gee, I really don’t know my daughter anymore,’ so we decided to simplify our lives.”

Collin’s husband was a pharmacist who worked at UT MD Anderson in Houston. He transferred to the UT Medical branch in Huntsville.

“We thought I would never work again, and we moved to Huntsville in 2000,’ Collins said.  “I worked on probating the will of my husband’s grandparents and built our house. I volunteered with the school and the church, and tried to become part of the Huntsville community. I love Huntsville. I also wanted to raise my children to be members of the community.”

Through her love of being involved with the city and community of Huntsville, Collins began working again over the summer camps at SHSU.

“It was really funny that I worked with summer camps because I came here as a summer camper,” Collins said. “It is a recruiting ground as I am evidence of that. They work to bring high school band camps on campus as well as soccer, football, basketball and more. Between that and the NCAA cheerleaders, this is a hopping place during the summer.”

After enjoying her time with the summer camps, she began working in the financial aid department as an accountant and a senior advisor.

“Financial aid is a big component with many of the students here of their being able to pay for school,” Collins said. “I think you need to have a really good understanding of that to help the students.”

Collins said that she developed a burden for students while working in financial aid.

“When I was in financial aid I helped students budget to a certain point when they would come in and they were having trouble,” Collins said. “Especially when students would come in with their parents and they would say ‘we really don’t know if we can afford this.’ I would sit down with them and work with them to see the different income streams.”

Later, Collins began working on her masters and the Student Money Management Center hired her as the Director.

“I think the way I got here was the unique combination of knowing a lot about accounting and then investments and derivatives, options and swaps, and having that component of knowing about financial aid,” Collins said. “I think I bring a lot of different perspectives to this job.”

The Student Money Management Center holds at least 12 individual workshops per month on campus. During April, which is financial literacy month, the center has held over 30 events.

Collins said the center put in a lot of work to engage students.

“When I worked in financial aid the line was coming out the door of students wanting to know about their financial aid,” Collins said. “But here I am talking about money and nobody was coming. We really had to work to engage the students.”

Collins began giving away prizes at the events and even scholarships. There are two $450 scholarships for attending a certain number the center’s sessions.

The center trains “peer coaches”- students that get certified as personal financial counselors. These students then work with other students.

“Sometimes a student may not want to talk to someone like me because they think I would judge them,” Collins said. “They spend a bunch of money on a gaming system and they don’t want to tell me that. The peers are still students so it opens up that communication.”

The center also trains the peer coaches in leadership and presentations skills for presenting at some of the events. Collins said that the center is losing all their peer coaches, and they are on the lookout for more to help other students.

Collins said that the top two things the center counsels students most on is budgeting and student loans.

“I really don’t think that college students should live pay check to pay check,” Collins said. “They really should have the skill sets to be able to thrive. And that is what we really work to do every year.”

Collins said that the center works with many first generation students as well.

“These students tend to linger in college a little bit longer than the other students, so they may run out of financial aid. If that happens, where do they go?” Collins said. “We are trying to develop those income streams, but sometimes it just comes down to employment. We work really hard with financial aid to secure that employment.”

Since Collins has become the Director of the center, her hard work to engage students has made an impact on the university. Her hard work earned her a Sammy award and an AFCP National Counselor of the Year award in 2015.

“I beat out some colonels in the army, university professors, and doctorates,” Collins said. “I was very proud to have won that competition. I think part of what led to that was the success of the Student Money Management Center.”

Collins said that her love for the students is what inspires her to do what she does.

“We have great students here,” Collins said. “When you go out on the quad and see all the students, there’s just so much life, so much youth, and hope. They’re all working to build their lives to by going to college. It’s an exciting time.”