By Adam Rivera
The New York Stock Exchange may seem far removed from daily life at Rider University. Between attending classes, working, and involvement with clubs and organizations, for students, Wall Street is, at best, a dream for when they enter “the real world.”
However, every fall, the Student Investment Challenge gives aspiring investors a chance to experience the risks and rewards of the stock market. It’s a learning experience without the fallout of actually losing money.
“It all started in FIN-305: Personal Financial Planning,” said Dr. John Farrell, assistant dean in the College of Business Administration. “I was looking to incorporate an interactive component into the class, something beyond studying for tests and guest lecturers. Then I found this software. When people heard about what I was doing, they came up to me and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you open this up to the whole school?’”
Farrell first held the competition with his class in 2010, which grew into the first university-wide competition in fall 2011. Farrell and the College of Business Administration have run the event every year since.
“It’s about teaching financial literacy, something we try to do for the entire student body out of this office,” Farrell explained. “So while it’s not part of my job per se, we do it every year. It’s fun. The main motivation for students is bragging rights.”
The contest draws anywhere from 45 to 60 participants who work in teams.
“I think the team component is really important,” Farrell said. “Ideally, I would like teams of three, but realistically, I’ll allow teams of two.”
In its short history, the contest has become a major part of some students’ Rider experience. Emerson Bursis, MBA graduate student, has been involved since his freshman year as an undergraduate student at Rider. Originally an entrant, he spent the last two years working with Farrell to organize the event.
“People think, now that I’m running it, that, ‘Oh, you must have won all the time,’ but I did terrible,” Emerson recalled. “One year, I was last; one year I was in the middle, but it was fun. My point was always to try new things.”
The competition’s continued success owes much to Farrell’s efforts to maximize learning for the students. “The entire College of Business Administration is really supportive. We used to assign each team an adviser. We’ve since made it optional, since we found that some teams would never contact their adviser. But we had advisers from the finance world, from places like Merrill Lynch. We also had professors serve as advisors. [Dr.] David Suk had a winning team one year and [Interim Dean] Anne Carroll did, as well.”
The competition has also developed an international aspect. CEFAM, Rider’s sister school in France, also incorporates the Investment Challenge as part of the curriculum for one of its classes. In fall 2013, a team from CEFAM set a record high for the challenge.
“They adopted a high-risk, high-reward strategy that I don’t think they would have pursued if they were using their own money,” Farrell said. “But it worked for them. That year, we had one award ceremony at Rider and one in France.”
Emerson believes that having the Investment Challenge as part of a class gives the CEFAM students an edge. “When they’re learning options, they’re investing in options. When they’re learning futures, they’re investing in futures.”
In 2014, the Rider-based team of Rajan Patel, senior finance and management double major, and Shuai Zhang, MBA, took home the prize.
“I’m looking forward to entering the competition next year,” Patel said. “I would encourage every business major to do this. It’s a great learning experience. If you’re losing, fine, but you’ll learn. Even if you don’t know anything, partner with someone with experience and you’ll learn so much.”