SMIF Experiential Learning, a Smart Investment in the Future

Finance lab students

These students aren’t waiting to become traders on Wall Street, they’re investing now, using their own capital from the Student-Managed Investment Fund.

With assets in excess of $100,000, the Student-Managed Investment Fund (SMIF) allows students to use the financial strategies they learned in the classroom to make investments in the real world.

This semester, after a competitive selection process, RIC students Michelle Asels, Adetokunbo Oni, Justin Pereira, Kelli-Jo Vazquez and Shuab Nouyi Yang were selected to take charge of the SMIF portfolio.

In order to engage in this project, students must be enrolled in FIN 463: Seminar in Portfolio Management, taught by Professor of Finance Abbas Kazemi. Once selected, the SMIF team, working within the parameters of the fund, is given complete responsibility and autonomy, with Kazemi acting as advisor.

Analytics are carried out in the School of Management Finance Lab. The lab offers 12 Bloomberg terminals powered by Bloomberg Professional software – the “gold standard” for financial research. Along the wall is a ticker board that provides live feeds of news, financial data and global trading as it is happening. 

Established in 2007, RIC’s Student-Managed Investment Fund was one of the earliest SMIFs among business schools, said Dean of the School of Management Jeff Mello. “Within the network of business school deans, I discovered that a lot of business schools are only now in the planning stages of doing this,” he said. “It makes me proud that we have been a benchmark for other institutions.”

Though the fund objective is to generate annual income and capital appreciation for the SMIF portfolio, the learning objective is for finance students to build skill sets that they can transfer to the real world. Kazemi and Mello cited leadership, teamwork and communication as three critical skills students gain through this experiential learning project.

From left, RIC students Shuab Nouyi Yang and Kelli-Jo Vazquez; RIC Professor of Finance Abbas Kazemi; RIC students Justin Pereira, Michelle Asels and Adetokunbo Oni
From left, RIC students Shuab Nouyi Yang and Kelli-Jo Vazquez; RIC Professor of Finance Abbas Kazemi; RIC students Justin Pereira, Michelle Asels and Adetokunbo Oni

The SMIF was established in 2007 by a $100,000 donation from RIC alum Ken Weakly ’89. Though the fund decreased in value by 35 percent in the first three years, since then it has outperformed its tracking index every year. Currently the portfolio is valued at $115,000, underscoring the utility of practical, hands-on learning. “I am very proud of our students,” said Kazemi.

“I recently conducted exit interviews with our senior finance students,” added Mello, “and when I asked them what they saw as the strengths of our business school, they immediately said the technology we use and the experiential learning opportunities we offer like SMIF.”

A strong advocate of experiential learning, Rhode Island College President Frank D. Sánchez said RIC plans to make greater investments to increase these opportunities:

“What we want for RIC graduates is to make them more competitive and to give them the practical project-based experiential learning opportunities so that they can be competitive and excel,” he said. “Our developing Strategic Plan calls for significantly more experiential and project-based learning opportunities for students, including internships in local industries, practicums in the classroom, senior capstone projects and study abroad opportunities.”

“Today, over 90 percent of RIC students are already engaged in some form of experiential learning, making us a regional leader in this area. It is our intent to make experiential learning a requirement for all of our students. In the spirit of learning innovation, RIC will be launching a 21st-Century-Skills Task Force this spring to examine how to provide 100 percent of its graduates with the skills they’ll need for tomorrow’s workforce.”