Elaina Mulé was fortunate to have a rewarding undergraduate and graduate experience due to impactful mentors, work and research opportunities, igniting her own personal passion for higher education. Today, working on the Community Development team at Charles Schwab Bank in Las Vegas, Elaina is helping to guide efforts to give back to the community by helping build systems and improving career readiness through financial capability. Her work with higher education partners focuses on using data and evidence to better understand challenges that students encounter along their way to academic, personal and career development.
While Elaina and her team look to best practices around the country to improve the student experience and student support, her work in the state of Nevada is focused on the story behind the data points and the realities students face. This information helps her team and partners to create innovative solutions for student success. Elaina wants to not only know who is not graduating or who is facing financial barriers, but the factors that are leading up to the “why” and what additional data points are needed to solve these issues.
“How can we make data-driven decisions but also redefine what we think of as data? How do we include student voices and client voices and make sure data isn’t just information? How do we broaden that definition to make sure that we’re inclusive and we have the right information when we’re making decisions?”
Equipped with a background in labor economics, international development, and experience working with nonprofits, Elaina is interested in ways that social innovation and rigor come together in one space to create programs and policies that not only create change, but create the most change. Through her experience in discovering the impact of policies and programs internationally, Elaina witnessed firsthand how innovative programs can lead to massive community benefits for the poorest of the poor.
Today, the cornerstone of Elaina’s work at Charles Schwab Bank aims to also use innovation, collaboration, and data to create financial well-being for low to moderate income individuals. Charles Schwab Bank is focused on helping to pilot programs that alleviate some of the financial burden that students face by offering financial coaching, technological resources, and training to higher education and non-profit professionals. Their goal is to build capacity within the higher education sector by embedding those skills and tools with the professionals who work directly with students. Recognizing the value of information in creating effective policies and programs, Elaina incorporates a philosophy to understand the true barriers students face through a human-centered design approach. The State of Nevada works to align their data on education and career paths, and Elaina’s work is helping to bring the student voice to inform the creation of these pathways. She believes student voice and the systems that are responsive to that voice are critical factors for success.
“Creating the infrastructure for us to collect and prioritize the student voice in a systematic way is critical. That we don’t just listen to one or two stories, but we somehow bring rigor and a system to how we’re listening to students and embedding it into the way we make decisions.”