By ALAN TURNER
Growing up on Long Island, Nan Morrison, president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education, says that she first learned about financial literacy from her father, who owned several radio stations in New York.
She also acquired a love of numbers, and wound up with a degree in Applied Mathematics from Yale University, finishing magna cum laude. She then went on to earn an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
With that kind of educational credentials, it was perhaps a given that she would build a career in business, serving with Morgan Stanley, General Electric, and ultimately becoming a partner with Accenture.
Then she had the opportunity to head up the Council for Economic Education, and she discovered the passion that drives her today….namely, helping to educate kids in financial literacy at all levels. In her role, she works closely with over 240 affiliates across the country, including our own Mississippi Council on Economic Education.
In town for the Thad Cochran Economic Forum last week, which is an annual event hosted by the MCEE, we had a chance to sit down with Nan and learn about the Council’s work around the United States, and how she views our progress in Mississippi.
“The Council was formed 65 years ago,” she said. “It started during the recessionary years immediately following World War II, and worked with many educators and economists in the development of programs and concepts that have proven effective through the years.”
Now there are councils in more than 40 states, employing a variety of programs that benefit kids in elementary, middle school, and high school levels.
Nan points to many changes in recent years.
“For one thing, the shift to tech has been incredible,” she said. “There are of course, many positive benefits to employing technology, but there are also challenges, especially with the demands that are placed on schools and teachers these days.”
Among other things, the Council is active in producing online modules that teachers can pull down, along with professional development videos, workshops, programs aimed at Hispanic kids, and more.
“Today, over 25 percent of all kids entering public school in America are Hispanic,” she said. “That’s inevitably going to be an important demographic in our work.”
Asked how Mississippi stacks up against other states with the programs and participation of schools, teachers, and students, Nan had good things to say about the MCEE’s work in our state.
“Mississippi was No. 3 on the economic challenge program in terms of participation last year, and that’s definitely something to be proud of,” she said. “The MCEE is definitely one of our strongest councils, and here, you have a strong and a committed board leader” (referring to MCEE President Selena Swartzfager.)
Nationally, Nan said that councils collectively engage over 50,000 teachers, and upwards of 5 million kids.
“I’m a true believer that you really can make a difference in education,” she said, pointing to a number of keys to progress, including showing teachers how easy it is to teach economics, showing how math and numbers work in real world applications, providing sufficient state funding to support economic education, and linking education to real world scenarios.
“Really, you have to address the whole system, and it’s still all about the interaction of good teachers with students, teachers who can make the subject matter come alive for their students,” she said.
Having been active in the Mississippi Council for Economic Education during the past several years, I can certainly vouch for the fact that the Council’s work has produced some wonderful success stories in schools at all levels in our state. Looking at the huge impact the national council and its affiliates are having overall, I’d say we can look forward to a future where kids are much better prepared for the pressures of the real world, at least in economic terms.
A short video featuring Nan can be seen on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.