World-Class Investments Program

It’s not every day that you walk into
 class and are handed control of tens of thousands of dollars. But such will be the luck of the 21 College of Charleston students taking Applied Portfolio Management this fall. Under the advisement of finance professor Mark Pyles, the students will
 take charge of $50,000 at the beginning
 of the semester and begin analyzing and evaluating different ways to create and manage an investment portfolio.

To do so, one group of students might be tasked
 with researching financial opportunities in healthcare, while another group researches technology companies. Upon completing their research, the students will make recommendations to their “colleagues” in class about potential investments. Then comes 
the hard part for the students: taking a vote on how to invest, knowing that real money 
is on the line.

Steve and Maureen KerriganSuch real-world decision-making better prepares students for the business careers they will begin after college, says Steve Kerrigan, who, with his wife Maureen, is providing the funds for the course – and then some. In 2012, the Kerrigans committed 
over $800,000 to the College. More 
than half of their pledge was designated to establish the School of Business Investment Program, which – kickstarted by the Applied Portfolio Management course – teaches students how to manage financial investments using actual cash.

“There are very few schools around where the students are investing real money,” says Kerrigan, whose son Sean graduated from the College in 2012, and whose daughter Cailen graduated in 2008 and was one of the School of Business’ first M.B.A. graduates in 2011. “That’s real-world experience.”

“We want our graduates to have better chances for better jobs. And, with the Kerrigan gift, students get a chance to start their careers at school,” says Pyles. As for the portfolio management course, when the fall semester comes to a close, any financial gains made by the business students will remain within the portfolio, which will then be passed on to be managed by the spring-semester class, with Pyles staying on to supervise. Dr. Mark Pyles

The portfolio will be boosted as the Kerrigans fulfill their pledge over the next few years and by additional gifts made by individuals who are interested in supporting the program. The gift not only creates a remarkable hands-on opportunity for students, it’s also consistent with the School of Business’ goal to produce graduates who make an immediate impact once they leave campus and begin professional lives.

“It’s one thing to turn out students who know a lot. We want to go beyond that and teach them how to do something,” says Pyles. Thus, the focus of this fall’s course will be less on lecturing and more on doing, and Pyles imagines that in the years to come the students will go beyond public equity investments, and trade in fixed income, derivative assets, real assets and even enter private equity investments. “We want our graduates to have better chances for better jobs. And, with the Kerrigan gift, students get a chance to start their careers at school.”

And that’s the kind of priceless opportunity that doesn’t just get handed to you every day.

Reprinted from the Spring 2013 Momentum newsletter.