Montalto's mission: Financial security for students
President, provost honor associate professor's hours of service
For Catherine P. Montalto, the third academic mission – service – is just as important as teaching and research. In recognition, Ohio State has selected her for the 2015 President and Provost’s Award for Distinguished Faculty Service.
The associate professor of consumer sciences in the College of Education and Human Ecology is deeply involved in improving her college and university. She contributes on many levels, from using financial literacy to ensure students aren’t burdened with loans, to invigorating student learning and personal growth, to leading faculty governance.
“Dr. Montalto’s long commitment to numerous university committees exemplifies her skillful leadership and pursuit of excellence on behalf of every college and to improving the student experience,” said Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology.
Montalto is a member of the Consumer and Family Financial Services faculty. Her areas of expertise are devoted to family economics, student financial wellness, household saving behavior and household labor supply.
Blocking the path to financial pitfalls
A large part of Montalto’s mission is ensuring college students are knowledgeable about their financial decisions, which is particularly important at a time when they are carrying larger amounts of debt for education. She is an impactful partner in Ohio State’s efforts to provide financial literacy training through the Graduate School and the Office of Student Life.
Her research related to financial stress has provided evidence-based support to the Office of Student Life’s financial wellness program, said a nominator. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has praised the university’s peer counseling and financial education efforts.
Montalto also is a co-principal investigator for a national survey, led by Ohio State, to determine what undergraduate students at more than 50 institutions across the nation understand about managing their resources. Colleges, universities and state and federal governments will use the data to tailor policy and support financial management efforts.
Bringing out the best in college women and men
Nominators praised Montalto’s involvement with the men and women enrolled at Ohio State. She has been an advisor to Ohio Staters Inc. for 19 years, serving as the faculty treasurer for the past 13 years. As the faculty treasurer, she ensures Ohio Staters can continue to help envision the university’s future, facilitate change and promote traditions.
“Meaningful engagement through student organizations is truly a service to the university, and Cathy’s commitment to Ohio Staters Inc. is a reflection of her personal dedication to Ohio State and its students,” said another of the 14 Ohio Staters faculty and staff advisors.
For the Graduate School, she regularly serves on the committees that review hundreds of nominations for Ohio State’s top two graduate fellowships and for one-year Fulbright grants for study and research outside the United States.
Ensuring the highest academic rigor
In the academic realm, Montalto holds one of the most influential positions at Ohio State: membership on the Graduate School Curriculum Committee. The group reviews changes in graduate program and graduate course offerings across the entire university. During Ohio State’s recent conversion from quarters to semesters, the committee reviewed 400 programs encompassing over 10,000 courses to ensure that the new curriculum met high university standards for teaching and learning.
In the College of Education and Human Ecology, she is selflessly active in faculty governance. Her most challenging role may have come in 2001, when she led three separate graduate programs in melding into a single unit.
“She built bridges; she listened; she investigated; she led countless meetings; she advocated,” a colleague remembered.
Under her guidance as graduate studies chair for 10 years, Consumer Sciences created a stream-lined admissions database, implemented a core curriculum and encouraged creative, multidisciplinary research. The result was a “monumental” growth in student success, a colleague said. She also was instrumental in implementing a common core for undergraduates so they understand consumer well-being in the marketplace.
Provost Joseph Steinmetz presented Montalto the 2015 President and Provost’s Award for Distinguished Faculty Service during a surprise visit to a Department of Human Sciences’ faculty meeting on January 29. The award includes a $3,000 honorarium and an increase of $1,200 to her base salary from the Office of Academic Affairs. She and the other recipients of Ohio State’s most prestigious honors will be celebrated on April 27 and acknowledged this fall during halftime of a football game in Ohio Stadium.