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Staff Snapshot: Charah Coleman, beekeeper and advocate

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Around UC Merced, Charah Coleman is known for empowering students to reach their goals by starting with a solid financial foundation. In her free time, she’s passionate about protecting the planet — beginning with some of its smallest inhabitants.

Charah has been working in financial wellness since 2003 and isn’t slowing down — in fact, just the opposite. In March 2020, two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic her department would have to transition to fully remote work.  During this transition, Charah began founding the UC Merced Financial Wellness Center. She wanted to show students that UC Merced cared about their financial well-being and believed in their ability to navigate economic uncertainty. She also wanted them to have an opportunity to play an active role in shaping their financial future.

Since in-person meetings weren’t possible, she created a streamlined online platform where students could schedule individual financial coaching sessions online. “Coaching sessions put them in the driver’s seat of their financial reality, in hopes to empower them and give them the confidence to weather the pandemic storm,” she explains. She also began conducting her “Best Life Listening Tour,” to learn more about students’ challenges and how the Financial Wellness Center could grow to meet these needs.

The Financial Wellness Center services reach beyond typical discussions about budgeting. Students learn to navigate personal finances and plan ahead for healthy financial habits after graduation. This holistic approach has a far-reaching effect. “I have seen, firsthand, individuals transform not only their economic trajectory but also their generational financial trajectory, by shifting their mindset about their personal finances,” she says. “When a student is supported in this way, they, in turn, enrich the civic and economic life of their communities. I am inspired to hear of the amazing things our students are doing for their communities. I want that spirit to flourish, and reducing financial stress and uncertainty is key.”

“UC’s mission calls out ‘providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge.’ By educating and empowering UC Merced students financially, we are elevating the future leaders in California, our country, and the world.” 

 Charah’s second passion is creating a more sustainable planet, one bee at a time. “I fell in love with bees when I held my first frame and felt the gentle buzz of their fluttering wings under my gloves,” Charah says. Her affinity for beekeeping is a natural extension of her commitment to preserving wildlife and resources for future generations. “Pollinators form the food chains for a lot of other animal species – including humans,” she says. “I think of myself as a bee-advocate, who tries to change the way people see them, consider their food sources, and support sustainable agricultural practices.”    

If beekeeping seems like a novel way to make a difference, it may be. “I am a builder, a strategist and thrive in innovation. That’s what the UC is all about,” says Charah.

Meet Charah

Name: Charah Coleman 

Job title: Financial Wellness Coordinator

Department/unit: Financial Wellness Center/Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships

Location: UC Merced

When you started working for UC: February 2020

In five words or less, what do you do for UC? Build bridges to student success

Why do you love working for UC? I get to flex my innovative and strategic strengths by building programs that not only grow with our campus, but also with our students. I get to make a positive impact in the lives of our students, their families and the surrounding community every day.

What’s something people don’t know about you? I’m a bee-keeper.

Name one person (living or dead) with whom you’d love to have dinner. Dr. Jane Goodall. She exemplifies the service model of leadership that I strive for daily. Her compassion for all creatures fuels her and inspires us to leave this world a better place than we left it. As she once said, “What you do makes a difference, and you decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? See the humanity in others and seek to amplify their dignity.



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