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Poole Advisory Board Spotlight: Diane Chen ’93, ’95

One of Poole College’s newest board members might not be a college alumnae, but she has seen first-hand the impact of the college through her professional journey. Diane Chen, Ph.D., moved to the U.S. from China in the early 90s for graduate school and found her way to Raleigh, N.C. 

“I received my master’s degree in adult education and doctor of education degree from NC State’s College of Education,” Chen says. “But even with my education background, I’ve always been a serial entrepreneur.”

She founded her first company, the New China Development Corporation, after graduate school. Here, she helped several North Carolina businesses, government agencies and educational institutions establish partnerships with China and worked as a consultant to facilitate the trade and business missions between the two countries. 

After six years, she decided to start a nonprofit credit counseling agency – Consumer Education Services Inc. (CESI). 

“I started CESI with one other employee and grew the company to more than 120 employees,” Chen says. “We became one of the nation’s top credit counseling agencies offering credit card counseling, affordable housing, spirited loan and bankruptcy counseling. I stepped down from my role as CEO five years ago to launch a new nonprofit, the Institute of Consumer Money Management (ICMM).”

As ICMM’s founder and executive director, Chen leads the organization in its mission to conduct and provide funding for research and studies that promote positive spending behaviors and consumer asset building – with a focus on improving the low-to-moderate income population’s financial well-being. 

And it’s what led her back to NC State once more.

“ICMM provided a $2 million grant to Dr. Bob Clark, one of the economics professors at Poole, as well as ​​two other leading economists, Dr. Olivia Mitchell at Wharton School of Business and Dr. Anna Lusardi at George Washington University. Their four-year project examines retirement financial security for the low-to-moderate income population,” Chen says. “We’ve also given other grants to graduate students within the college. Because I work with Dr. Clark and some of the other faculty so closely, I decided to give more of my time to support the college.”

Chen has been impressed with the quality of the college’s leadership team and the diversity and breadth of experience of its board members. And she hopes, as part of the board, to provide Poole College with valuable insights in order to increase its research and funding opportunities.

I’d really like to see the college increase its funding from the private sector, as well as non-profits and government agencies.

“I’ve spent nearly 30 years in executive education and working with private industries and government agencies, and have a great deal of experience being a funder as well,” she says. “I’m currently serving as a member of the board’s research task force. I’d really like to see the college increase its funding from the private sector, as well as non-profits and government agencies. That will help us attract and retain top faculty, which will be critical to the success of the college going forward.”