Finance remains one of the most popular career paths for University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Business (COB) students, with 23 percent of the Class of 2016 pursuing positions in the financial services field.
By offering students hands-on, real-life investment management experience, the Student-Managed Endowment Fund (SMEF) is a key component of the finance program at UWO. As of Oct. 24, SMEF’s assets under management (AUM) value was $755,000—the largest value ever managed by students at UW Oshkosh.
Professor Stephen Huffman has been involved with the SMEF program since its inception in 2000 and is glad to see the broader mixture of students represented this semester.
“SMEF is open to all majors, but students have to take the initiative to apply to the program. I am happy to report that this semester more than 38 percent of our students are women. This is an encouraging trend as women bring diversity of thought to the investment process,” Huffman said.
One of seven women in the program, Morgan Johnson, of Ripon, is majoring in finance and serving as a SMEF manager this semester. Johnson has found the work to be challenging and rewarding but vastly different from her traditional schoolwork.
“In my other coursework, there is a sense of certainty there is one true answer. In SMEF, the challenge for me lies in the unknown or the lack of a ‘correct’ answer. Market conditions are constantly changing and we research, we analyze and ultimately we make the decisions to properly manage the funds,” she said.
Megan Mohr, of Oconomowoc, has spent most of her educational journey focused on marketing but is excited to get a firmer foundation in finance.
“I knew walking in this semester I would be unique to the SMEF program as a marketing major, but I am also encouraged to see a growing base of women in the program,” she said. “This has been a challenging semester as I strengthen my basic understanding of asset allocations and stock trading, but I have been surrounded by a great group of students. Take the leap and apply.”
Success beyond the classroom
Connecting with alumni who have walked the same path is important for current students looking to break into similar fields.
Alumna Michelle (Murray) Mersberger ’15, has spent four years as a financial adviser with Mersberger Financial group. She attributes the success of landing an internship and, subsequently, securing a full-time position to her three semesters of SMEF experience.
“The trading room was our safe space to be brave about our convictions, make mistakes and to learn from and in front of our peers. This practice is imperative to success. Regardless of whether you pursue a career in finance, you will never regret participating in SMEF because you will walk away with lifelong skills,” she said.
Alumna Andrea (Nichols) Zoeller ’16, recently came back to campus to speak with students about why finance is fun but the SMEF program is a must.
“Most people think we just deal with numbers all-day, every day and that isn’t entirely true. Much of my job is talking with clients to solve problems and create opportunities to make their financial picture. I encourage all students to take advantage of every opportunity that SMEF provides. It may get you out of your comfort zone, but in the end will make you the best candidate for the job,” Zoeller said.