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Oklahoma State University

Real-World Experience

Eric Sisneros
Eric Sisneros will leads OSU’s new Student Investment Fund (SIF) course.

By Jim Mitchell

There’s nothing quite like accepting your first job and knowing that you have the real-world background to quickly contribute to the company’s success.

That advantage will become a reality for a select number of finance students in the Spears School of Business this fall with a class that offers them the opportunity to manage an actual $500,000 portfolio of financial assets.

“They’ll essentially make the decisions on how the money will be invested,” said Eric Sisneros, assistant professor of professional practice in finance, who will be teaching the Student Investment Fund (SIF) course. “Our goal is to give students practical experience that they can take with them to the job market.”

The students will learn the role of a financial analyst and conduct rigorous research on equity securities, which are stock shares that are designed to provide steady income as dividends or stock value growth for investors. Because the shares are subject to the ups and downs of the stock market, safeguards have been built into the process of managing the fund.

“The $500,000 was obtained from donor gifts to the OSU Foundation,” Sisneros said. “The funds will remain with the foundation, and all the transactions the students decide to make will be executed by the foundation. The students’ investment recommendations will also have to clear the approval of an advisory board that consists of investment professionals, contributing donors, representatives of the OSU Foundation, members of the finance department, and the SIF faculty adviser — me.”

Of course, without serious contributions from donors like OSU alums Matt and Kirsten Daniel, the SIF would never have become a reality. Daniel said he and his wife are happy to help make this happen for students.

“Who among us wouldn’t have appreciated the opportunity to apply the fundamentals of our coursework to the real-world experience of investment decisions while still a student?” he said. “That’s the reason we decided to support this effort and look forward to how it will add to OSU’s competitive advantage when coupled with Spears’ beautiful new facility. We are thrilled to be able to contribute to the founding of this great program.”

That reaction is echoed by a corporate donor who knows how important such experience can be.

“BOK Financial is proud to be the lead donor for the new OSU Student Investment Fund as we know that hands-on experience is critical for students to develop the practical skills they need to excel in finance,” said Scott Grauer, executive vice president in wealth management at BOK Financial. “Having the opportunity to apply techniques of investment analysis and portfolio management to actual companies and securities will significantly accelerate their career readiness.”

At the end of the spring semester, finance students applied to be among the 25 students chosen for the first SIF course this fall.

For those who are fortunate enough to be in the first class, as well as those who follow, Sisneros warns it will require a significant time commitment.

“The undergraduate and graduate students, selected through this process, will be applying theories and models learned in class to the real world,” he said. “After researching and evaluating current portfolio holdings and prospective holdings, students will be expected to give presentations on their findings.”

The course will be a mix of instructor and guest lectures, class discussions, and debate. In addition, students will utilize the latest software such as Bloomberg and Capital IQ.

“This class will give students a new level of confidence that will be of benefit from the very start of their career,” said Betty Simkins, head of finance in Spears Business. “Dr. Sisneros is the ideal faculty member to ensure students cover all the bases both before and after the investment.”

More than 300 colleges and universities worldwide have similar student-directed investment funds, and several have performed quite well over the years.

Donor Steffany Sharpe-Leach, Class of ’84, invited others to join her in supporting the fund.

“I am very excited OSU is offering the student investment fund practicum to students,” Sharpe-Leach said. “This program will provide them hands-on experience with investments and a greater understanding of how the investment world works.”