Professor Saundra Davis is a life-long learner. Having joined the Navy straight out of high school, Davis went to community college later in life to further her education. Her mentor, Doris Holmes, told her that there are no shortcuts to getting what you want and helped her get a scholarship to Golden Gate University, a 4-year university “that changed everything,” she said. “University reminded me that I was able to do everything that I wanted to do. From that point on, there was nothing sufficient to keep me from getting where I wanted to go,” Davis said. After running a successful organization management firm for about 10 years, she returned to Golden Gate University to complete an M.S. in Financial Planning.
“My passion is to ensure that the personal financial planning gift is accessible, competent, and ethical for all people irrespective of their income and wealth,” she said. Davis is the Founder and Executive Director of Sage Financial Solutions, a San Francisco Bay area-based organization that develops comprehensive financial capability programs for low- and moderate-income communities internationally and throughout the United States. Her goal is to have both professionals and consumers work with their wealth at all levels. She wants finances to “no longer be a burden or a barrier.”
Her role involves training financial planners, helping consumers find people who can help them, and building and developing programs for low and middle-income communities. She founded her company after working in the non-profit sector for 25 years or so. “People who were getting help from community-based organizations were not getting long-term help that was sustainable. They weren’t getting comprehensive support,” she said. Her role is to “make complex financial topics accessible for all people.”
Her Passion for Teaching
Davis is currently in her first semester of teaching at California Lutheran University, however, she has been teaching since 2006. She is recognized as a distinguished professor at Golden Gate University and she also teaches at the American College. “I teach because I want people to see someone who does something other than the traditional financial planning path. I want them to have the opportunity to broaden their perspective on what a financial planner is” Davis said.
Davis enjoys watching students reconcile something they thought they already knew. “I am a believer that students can’t learn something they thought they already knew,” she said. Learning these skills enhances their whole life, she explained, not just their work. Davis recalled a time when one student told her how the class material helped her at an annual family event. Usually, she would find it stressful, but this time around it was enjoyable and she was able to engage with people in a different way due to what she learned.
Davis’s Favorite Part of Teaching
“I teach by example,” Davis explained, “all of my classes are practicum based. The students actually have to practice what they are learning. My favorite part about it is taking academic concepts and making them practical through practice,” she said. Davis wants her students’ time in the classroom to be hands-on and for them to learn by doing, not just by reading from a textbook.
Instead of being a teacher or professor, Davis describes herself as a facilitator, “I have information and I lead with curiosity,” she said. She doesn’t want her students to repeat what the book or lecture said but she wants to hear what they think about it.
What Makes a Good Professor and Student?
To be a great professor Davis believes you need to be a lifelong learner. Along with allowing students to have the space to share and learn from their own experiences. To be a great student Davis believes they should lead with curiosity. She explained that a student should be willing to question what they know and be willing to explore beyond what you already know, allowing yourself to be uncomfortable as you explore rather than focus on the grade.
Davis’s inspiration was a professor who taught insurance, however, it wasn’t the typical reason you may expect. “In every class he said ka-ching,” explained Davis. This was followed by a statement when money could be made. “It inspired me to not be that way and everything I did is to be in service of the human I am working with,” she said. Davis spends her time training others to do the same in hopes that they too can find their “why” and that money isn’t the only reason behind doing what they do.
Advice to Others
Davis’s advice to others is to be “able to connect with people where they are, whatever that means to them. Understanding their unique concerns and abilities and barriers as well as their perspectives,” she said.
Outside of the Classroom
When Davis isn’t working or teaching she enjoys pursuing life-long learning by trying new hobbies. Most recently, she has found a passion for gardening her own vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Things I’ve learned about being a gardener is to have patience and timing is everything,” she said. Being part of a community garden she has found it as a constant learning adventure and discovers something new every day.
About Saundra Davis:
Saundra is a US Navy veteran, financial coach, educator, and consultant who is nationally recognized as an expert in the financial coaching field and for her work with community-based organizations. Ms. Davis is the founder and Executive Director of Sage Financial Solutions, a San Francisco Bay area-based organization that develops comprehensive financial capability programs for low- and moderate-income communities throughout the United States.
She developed and facilitates the Financial Fitness Coach (FFC®) certification program to promote the highest standard for professional services for all people, irrespective of wealth, and income. As a Financial Behavior Specialist (FBS®), her philosophy of the financial health continuum of care has shaped the financial coaching efforts around the country.
Saundra holds a B.S. in Management and an M.S. in Financial Planning from Golden Gate University where she is currently a Distinguished Adjunct Professor in the Personal Financial Planning program.
About the Author:
Rosie Baker graduated Magna Cum Laude from California Lutheran University in May 2021 with honors and departmental distinction. Her bachelor’s degree is in Communication emphasizing in PR and Advertising, minoring in Creative Writing. In July 2020, she published her first book, Mirrors & Windows: Unlocking a New Framework to Envision Your Success, with New Degree Press.