Students invest university money in COBA class

It’s been called the hardest class a student will ever take – so much so that registration is by invitation only.

The Applied Security Analysis course, created this semester in the College of Business and Administration (COBA), allows hand-selected students to invest money from the university endowment fund into the stock market.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” said Laurie Briggs, a communication and marketing officer for COBA.

Seven students pitched their last proposals to local business professionals – many USF graduates who chose which proposal USF would accept – Tuesday, suggesting how the University should invest $80,000.

“The goal was not to make the class hard,” said Jack Rader, the class’ professor. “The goal was to give them the opportunity to move beyond the classroom into the real world and to put them into situations where they would be held accountable for their performance by professionals.”

Students were divided into two teams: the Green Team, which pitched investments in Goldman Sachs bank and Nu Skin – a beauty and nutritional products manufacturer and distributor – and the Gold Team – which proposed investments in Citigroup bank and Darden Restaurants, a company that owns establishments like Longhorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden.

Ryan Kania, a senior majoring in economics and finance and Green Team member, said he was confident about his presentation.

“We’ve done this a few times now … At the beginning of the class, it was much more nerve racking,” said Kania, who worked on the Goldman Sachs proposal.

That confidence paid off, causing professionals to select Darden Restaurants, Citigroup and Kania’s proposal as the most “prudent” for investment, Rader said – a vast improvement from their previous presentations.

When the teams gave their first presentations at the beginning of the semester, Rader said none of the stocks presented were approved by professionals for purchase. Students only had two out of four proposals approved in the second presentation.

Students also underwent a “cramming session,” reviewing all the material they learned in previous finance classes, prepared an analysis of the home-improvement company Home Depot, and looked at behavioral finance, ethics and legal issues, he said.

“All of the work was their work,” he said. “It didn’t come out of a textbook. It didn’t come out of course lectures. It didn’t come from me. It came from them and that’s the hardest kind of work you can do.”

All money – provided from the USF Foundation – gained or lost from investments will stay within the University, Rader said.

Regardless of the proposals’ success, Rader said grades were based on the amount of work a student put into the class.

He said their performances far exceeded his expectations.

“The students recommended investments that, frankly, professional money managers would be scared to recommend,” Rader said. “This is not because they’re bad investments. I think they’re great investments, but a lot of times professionals tend to look at the past instead of think about the future.”

For Robin Crauthers, a mother of two and a Gold Team member who will be graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in finance, the class has ensured that her future will include more professional contacts than she made throughout her four years of college – something that was worth the effort.

“Students had all heard professors say, ‘This will be the hardest class you ever take,'” she said. “And then when you get into the class, it’s pretty much a full-time job. It’s the hardest class I’ve ever taken but the most rewarding as well.”