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President's Blog: From the Heart

A Smart Investment

By Eric F. Spina

Finance students at the University of Dayton manage a $30 million slice of our endowment, using it to buy, sell, and trade stocks.

Crazy, you say? Nope, not at all. This is a smart investment and represents a wise decision by our board of trustees.

Our student money managers — working in a high-tech, interactive center that simulates Wall Street’s trading floor — recorded investment returns last year that catapulted them to the top peer group of professional money managers in the U.S. These young stock pickers outperformed the S&P 500 benchmark last year by returning an amazing 24.26 percent, well above the national average.

Each semester, more than 40 undergraduates manage a diversified portfolio in the Davis Center for Portfolio Management, where they use the same analytical software and database subscription services employed by financial institutions around the world. It’s an unparalleled real-world learning opportunity with a pay-off for the University of Dayton in more ways than one: $5.5 million in investment returns last year alone, and one of the richest and deepest experiential learning opportunities around. When they graduate, these students are highly sought after in the world of finance.

In my interactions with former trustee Richard (Dick) Davis and his wife Sue, who together endowed the Davis Center 15 years ago, along with trustee Mike Ruffolo, who chairs the board’s investment committee, I know there is a great deal of pride in what has been accomplished by the students over time and by the impact that these experiences have on each and every student who participates.

As an example, Mitchell Schleyer’s experience in the Davis Center helped land him a highly competitive, prestigious summer internship with Goldman Sachs in San Francisco. “It’s harder than getting into Harvard,” he says. “About 10,000 college students apply for internships, and only 2 percent are hired.”

Not only did Mitch obtain an internship, he also secured a full-time job offer as a sales and trading fixed-income analyst with Goldman Sachs in New York City upon graduation in May. His classmates were offered a record 19 summer internships at some of the biggest names in the investment world, including Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and BlackRock, and the graduating senior are on track for full-time jobs.

What makes these students so marketable? As the students develop portfolio management skills, they’re also learning valuable lessons about collaboration, communication, and leadership. For every stock decision, they must articulate why they believe in a particular investment and convince the rest of the team to agree with their recommendations.

As Mitch winds down his final days as senior manager in the Davis Center, he spoke about what sets the University of Dayton’s student money managers apart:

Strong culture. “Working together in the Davis Center has taught us how to act in a professional setting. As college students, we blend social and academic lives, but at 8 a.m., we have our game face on.”

Work ethic. “We work hard. We approach this with a chip on our shoulder and with a sense of pride, knowing this experiential-learning opportunity gives us an edge.”

Selfless spirit. “We’re here because the students who came before us paved the way. We’re not competitive. We help each other find internships. We don’t get jealous. We’re here to make everyone better.”

Initiative. “We schedule everything — from work hours and staff meetings to developing pitches and bringing in speakers in the field of finance. We absolutely don’t ‘count hours.’ We do what needs to be done to succeed.”

Passion. “At the end of the day, it’s all about passion. We care so much about the University of Dayton, and our passion reveals itself in the performance of the portfolio.”

That’s a winning strategy for achieving success in the finance world — and in life.

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