HSC’s Brittany Brookens wins national award for promoting financial well-being

Brittany Brookens holding an award.
Brittany Brookens holds her Smarty Award.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s Brittany Brookens recently won a Smarty Award for her on-campus promotion of SmartDollar, a financial well-being tool available at no cost to students, faculty and staff.

Recipients of the national award are chosen by the company. Brookens, a project manager for HSC’s Office of Culture and Experience, won in the category of Hero of the Year — Large Business.

More than 4,000 companies across the country use the program created by author, businessman and nationally syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey of Ramsey Solutions. In 2020, HSC became the first organization in the country to offer the SmartDollar to students.

“I have seen firsthand how deeply Brittany cares for and serves the team and students,” said Brian Belt, senior relationship manager at Ramsey Solutions. “She and her team have worked hard to present financial wellness benefits to the employees and students at HSC. Not only do they send out monthly communications about SmartDollar, but they also set up booths at employee service fairs, offer learning sessions on campus and share a presentation about SmartDollar to incoming students and their parents explaining the benefits of the program.

“Brittany’s passion for this benefit comes out in everything that she does, and we are thankful to have the pleasure of working with her,” he continued.

SmartDollar’s seven-step process helps people make actual progress with money, not just live paycheck to paycheck, according to the company’s website. By focusing on one goal at a time, participants get quick wins and build momentum to move through the plan and make lasting changes. The average SmartDollar user reports more than $16,2000 in paid debt and saved money during their first year.

The step-by-step plan has worked for millions of people, according to the website. The program offers an online budgeting tool, video lessons and expert advice.

“I am very honored to have the opportunity to share the SmartDollar program at HSC,” Brookens said. “I was humbled to be nominated for the Smarty Award — and then to find out that I won was really an incredible gift. I’m thrilled that we are able to offer SmartDollar here at HSC and have the opportunity to share about a program that is truly changing lives for the better.”

The program was introduced to campus in January 2020 at the behest of then-president Dr. Michael Williams, who is now the UNT System chancellor. SmartDollar was one of a series of initiatives designed to make the university into a Best Place for All, a designation given by Fortune Magazine based on employee work surveys.

“Our goal of transforming HSC into a Best Place for All is about helping team members reach their full potential at work — and in their personal lives,” he said in the launch announcement.

The relationship between HSC and Ramsey Solutions has strengthened since the launch of SmartDollar. Celebrity podcaster and author Dr. John Delony visited campus in April and spoke to an enthusiastic audience. Earlier this month, a team from Ramsey Solutions was on campus to interview employees and students who shared their SmartDollar testimonies and ways they have found success.

Among a few of the program’s on-campus wins, Brookens said, include a staffer who used the tool to help plan her wedding; multiple stories about how couples have created a better future for themselves by planning and budgeting; an employee who had so much success with SmartDollar that her husband’s company signed up to use it; and an employee whose husband was deployed overseas and used the program to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

One benefit of having the tool available on campus is that students have seen their mental health improve and are better equipped to focus on their studies instead of the looming specter of debt, Brookens said. The program is also consistent with HSC’s values, particularly the university’s value to “serve others first.”

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