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Ups and Downs

Virus provides student investors with valuable object lessons

Wild swings in the stock market sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic left many people reeling. But on the upside, Bridgewater State University students participating in the student-managed investment fund saw an opportunity to sharpen their financial literacy skills and prepare for their careers.

“It helps me get my foot in the door and gives me something to build on versus coming in a complete novice,” said Petroy Thompson, ’20, who aims to work at an investment firm after finishing his business degree this summer. “Having some sense of what’s going on is priceless.”

The program began several years ago with $200,000 raised by a group of benefactors led by Louis M. Ricciardi, ’81, and President Emeritus Dana Mohler-Faria. The money was divided equally between a traditional Standard & Poor’s 500 fund and one focused on socially responsible investing.

Students researched companies, identified sound investments and presented to the fund’s governing committee of financial experts. This marked the first time the program was also tied to a course.

“For most students, this course was their first real exposure to stock market analysis,” said Dr. Jeanean Davis-Street, who serves as dean of the Ricciardi College of Business and taught the class. “They were able to participate in an investment simulation, learn ratio analysis, assess their own risk tolerance, and learn the nomenclature of investing.”

They accessed real-time data using on-campus Bloomberg terminals and resourcefully found other sources of information when the pandemic forced classes to move online.

“In a time of so much uncertainty, it gave us a great opportunity to buy when the market is low,” said Ben O’Brien, ’23, an aviation science major from Belchertown, who recommended buying Molson Coors Brewing Company stock. “You really don’t see that many opportunities, thankfully.”

Working with actual money instead of a hypothetical situation added an essential dimension to the course.

“It’s one thing to teach that and another to actually experience that,” said Petroy, who is from Hyde Park and recommended buying Royal Dutch Shell stock.

Petroy and Ben are putting their knowledge from the course to use with personal investments.

“I learned a lot about financial investments and picking the right stocks,” Ben said. “It’s so well run and the content you get out of it is absolutely worthwhile.” 

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