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Augustana University to launch first financial technology program of its kind in the region

Augustana University will launch its newest academic program, Augustana University Fintech Program by Pathward,™ in the fall of 2023. With the support of Augustana’s key strategic partner, Pathward™ NA, formerly MetaBank NA, the major will be the first of its kind in the region.

Dr. Raymond Leach, assistant professor of computer science and business administration, has been named the inaugural director of Augustana University Fintech Program by Pathward.

“Dr. Leach is a fantastic teacher,” said Dr. Colin Irvine, provost and executive vice president. “He’s able to convert problems, possibilities and ideas into curricula that are experiential, that take data sets, issues and problems from these intersecting fields and convert them into open-ended, authentic student learning experiences.”

Before Augustana, Leach served as a research associate at the Claremont Institute for Economic Policy Studies and statistics instructor at California State University, Los Angeles. Leach earned a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in Economics from Claremont Graduate University and Bachelor of Science in Economics and Statistics from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He also earned a certificate in machine learning from Stanford University.

“Fintech is the use of technology to make financial services better, faster and more convenient,” Leach said.

Fintech consists of four verticals or specializations: payments space or the process of transferring money electronically; lending, which includes peer-to-peer and micro loans; wealth management or optimizing portfolios, as well as buying and selling stocks and assets; and blockchains, which are public ledgers of cryptocurrency transactions that exist across a network.

The Augustana University Fintech Program by Pathward major will be interdisciplinary; students will take accounting, finance, computer science, statistics and economics courses. Students also will complete an internship arranged by Augustana with local companies.

In addition, Leach developed three courses specific to the program. The introductory course, Principles of Fintech, will be an overview of the four verticals. The other courses, Financial Institutions and Banking as a Service, will take an in-depth look at the functions of commercial banks, regulations of banking services and emerging bank technologies.

“The program is immediately going to stand out and appeal to students who are looking for practical knowledge that applies to the workforce,” Leach said. “The skill sets and tools we’re going to be able to teach them — that specific bundling of computer programming and data analytics, and the topics specific to fintech, along with internships — are going to be huge.”

As a bank that has relationships with many fintechs through its Banking as a Service strategic business line, Pathward said it’s excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Augustana and provide students with the ability to learn about the banking and payments industry.

The first Augustana University Fintech Program by Pathward course is set to be offered in fall 2023, and the first cohort is projected to graduate in 2027.


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