ASHLAND – There’s no right or wrong in the trading room on the first floor of the Ashland University College of Business and Economics.
“Essentially,” said Assistant Professor of Finance Dennis Witherspoon, “I’m their coach.”
And Witherspoon’s “team” is the Eagle Investment Group, a student-led, student-run organization that manages roughly $1.8 million of the University’s investment portfolio. It is not, Witherspoon said, a co-curricular stock-picking club. Rather, the focus of the group is the management of the portfolio as a whole.
This group means business. And the experience brings with it course credit.
In 2020, the group outperformed the market, keeping the stocks of between 20 and 30 companies in in its portfolio in order to ensure it is adequately diversified. Most recently, students in the group have found a whole new level of research available to them, thanks to the 11 Bloomberg terminals that have been installed in the classroom.
Those terminals sometimes can be found in business schools at larger universities, “but are fairly uncommon for this size of university,” said Witherspoon. “We had a tremendous donor support in the purchase.”
“The Bloomberg terminals have opened my eyes to about any kind of security I could ask for,” said Jacob Boerner, a senior finance major from Delaware. Though he originally thought his career path would lead him to a dental practice, Boerner said he relied on the advice of two uncles, one a dentist and one working in financial services for Prudential. A meeting with Terry Rumker, an assistant professor of finance who preceded Witherspoon in working with the group, got Boerner interested in Eagle Investment.
Friends on campus who had been involved with the group convinced Boerner even further.
In order to participate in Eagle Investment Group, students must first complete an introduction to investing and a security analysis and portfolio management course. In turn, they receive credit for their work in the group, which is incorporated as part of the investment portfolio management class.
Participants are generally, but not always, finance majors. Some are finance minors and others, like Jessica Kritschil, have double majors. While she studies finance and marketing, Kritschil also has amassed nine credits toward her MBA. Ideally, she said, “I wanted to (study) marketing to get into a finance firm” perhaps Vanguard, which has “a lot of internal growth possibilities.”
Both students say the addition of the Bloomberg terminals has made a difference, not only through their use, but as they allow students to work on the tutorials and quizzes that will help them become Bloomberg certified.
It’s another benefit to students in a class where there is no textbook and everything is experiential. This year, six students have joined the EIG’s ranks, fewer than in previous years. And while he’d like to see more students working at those terminals, Witherspoon noted, “size does not equate to quality. These students are all hard workers and they know their stuff.”