University of Georgia Professor Cesar Escalante has been awarded the 2022 Ketchum Prize — the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s (FINRA Foundation) highest honor — in recognition of his pioneering research and advocacy to advance financial inclusion and alleviate racial and gender bias in agricultural lending.
"I am truly honored to receive the Ketchum Prize from the FINRA Foundation,” Escalante said. “At the same time, I feel very much inspired by the realization that my trifold responsibility (in teaching, research and UGA Cooperative Extension outreach) at our land-grant institution contributes to upholding financial inclusivity and improving financial capability among Americans.”
Escalante, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), came to the University of Georgia in 2001 after earning his doctorate from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in Canada. He was born and raised in the Philippines, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and worked in commercial banking for nine years before moving his young family overseas to advance his education.
During his first years at CAES, Escalante repeatedly heard of the challenges minority and women farmers were facing from his Extension clientele. These experiences sparked a passion for applied research focused on racial and gender biases in agricultural lending.
“Dr. Escalante is an incredibly well-known and respected researcher; he is also an amazing teacher,” said UGA Senior Vice Provost Michelle Cook. “He incorporates his expertise and his background in finance to apply a research lens to the lived experiences of the individuals that he works with.”
Escalante's passion is not limited to farmers and agricultural financing — his commitment to his students is obvious within and beyond the classroom.
Escalante has received numerous awards for his research, mentorship and service during his tenure at CAES, including the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Mentoring Award, the 2019 First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award and the CAES Faculty Diversity Award. He has received the Outstanding Faculty Member award from the Graduate Student Association of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics three times. He was also awarded the 2020 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award and the 2020 CAES Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award.
“Professor Escalante’s rigorous and influential work related to equity in farm lending and his strong commitment to mentoring young scholars in the field of financial capability embody the ideals celebrated by the Ketchum Prize,” said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh. “The experts serving on this year’s Ketchum Prize review committee were impressed by the combination of his scholarship and his ability to apply that scholarship in very practical ways to advance financial inclusion among underserved audiences. They noted, too, that his work holds particular importance for rural America, which experiences financial capability and financial vulnerability challenges that are often especially difficult to address.”
“As my work continues to draw attention to the needs of those who are socially and financially disadvantaged in the farm sector, I can only hope that future reforms and efforts will not only safeguard principles of equity and fairness within and beyond farm lending, but also create many opportunities for minority business owners to operate more viable businesses that can thrive in highly competitive economies,” Escalante said.
About FINRA and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation
FINRA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to investor protection and market integrity. It regulates one critical part of the securities industry — brokerage firms doing business with the public in the United States. FINRA, overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), writes rules, examines for and enforces compliance with FINRA rules and federal securities laws, registers broker-dealer personnel and offers them education and training, and informs the investing public.
In addition, FINRA provides surveillance and other regulatory services for equities and options markets, as well as trade reporting and other industry utilities. FINRA also administers a dispute resolution forum for investors and brokerage firms and their registered employees.
The FINRA Investor Education Foundation supports innovative research and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools to make sound financial decisions throughout life.
The FINRA Foundation’s $10,000 Ketchum Prize honors FINRA’s former chairman and CEO Richard “Rick” Ketchum, who retired in 2016 following three decades of distinguished leadership in securities regulation. He also served as chairman of the FINRA Foundation.