A group of Simpson College finance students celebrated a major milestone during the 2021 fall semester when the investment portfolio they manage surpassed $1 million.
Students enrolled in Econ 338 – the Eberhart Student Aid Fund (ESAF) – gain real-world investment experience by managing a sub-portfolio of the College’s endowment. Since the initial funding for the portfolio was provided in the 1980s, students have researched the stock market, provided recommendations on potential investments and actively traded stocks.
“Lots of small schools do something similar, but as a simulation,” said Mark Juffernbruch, chair of the department of business administration and economics. “That’s something unique for institutions of our size. This isn’t Monopoly money, these are real assets.”
Hundreds of students have benefitted from the course since its inception. Under the supervision of Todd Kielkopf, adjunct professor and executive director of the Emerge@Simpson entrepreneurial development program, students spend the first part of the semester researching companies and examining investments. The second half of the semester is spent targeting new companies.
“The students do a really good job of questioning each other’s thoughts in group discussion,” said Kielkopf, who also serves as president of Kielkopf Advisory Services. “It’s really neat to observe the different student perspectives.”
In addition to learning the technical skills required to effectively manage investments, students build transferable skills applicable beyond the finance world.
“There’s a lot of team-building, collaboration and communications skills used as these students work together,” Juffernbruch said. “The students gain a lot of these transferable skills that are paramount to a liberal arts education. There are a lot of skills that these students can apply every day.”
Brooke Tucker, a senior economics: finance major enrolled in the course when the portfolio surpassed the $1 million threshold, echoed Juffernbruch’s sentiments.
“My favorite part of the course is the group work,” Tucker said. “Having group discussions along with open-ended opinions makes you look at things from a different perspective. Many other students reported on stocks I wouldn’t have chosen until they came up in conversation.”
The growth of the portfolio over the past three decades is impressive. Looking at a snapshot of the portfolio’s performance since the 2017 spring semester, the equity portion of the portfolio sustained gains of 152% of today. If the equity portion of the portfolio had been invested in an S&P 500 index, it would have gained 107% of today.
Equally impressive is the number of careers that can be traced back to the ESAF course.
Trevor Shaner, a senior vice president and wealth management financial advisor at UBS Financial Services Inc., took the course every semester but one before graduating in 1992 with a degree in business administration. At the time, the course acted as more of a club than a class. But the lessons he learned from professor emeritus Frank Colella were the same.
“I was attracted to research and discovering unknown facts about different companies,” Shaner said. “I was empowered by investing real money with real consequences. That’s what struck me most about the process.”
Shaner remains involved in the ESAF course. He often visits the class as a guest speaker and is impressed by the knowledge and curiosity he observes in the students.
“Today’s students are way more informed than we were,” Shaner said. “They have that excitement about new things and still want to uncover hidden gems. That’s why I love talking to them. They have such a unique perspective.”
Initial funding for ESAF was provided by E. Kingman and Lola Eberhart. Ongoing support is provided by the Eberhart family and the Wilson Trust. Funds from ESAF are earmarked for ESAF General Scholarships.
Learn more about the department of business administration and economics.
About Simpson College
Simpson College is a private, liberal arts college located in Iowa with campuses in Indianola, West Des Moines and online. Founded in 1860, the college has 1,078 undergraduate and graduate students. Simpson offers 75 majors, minors and programs in addition to three graduate programs. Outside of the classroom, Simpson is a member of the NCAA Division III American Rivers Conference, hosts eight Greek houses on campus and sponsors many extracurricular options for student involvement.
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