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Baylor Finance Students Win Investment Competition

April 29, 2008

By Ashley Killough

A team of Baylor students took first place on March 19 at the Texas Investment Practicum Symposium (TIPS) hosted by Texas A&M University. This marks Baylor's second year to win the competition.

During the symposium, students pitched their student-managed investment portfolio to a group of judges on why someone should hypothetically invest in their portfolio. The team members included Ft. Worth senior West Gotcher, Plano senior Samer Baransi and Mansfield senior Kyle Moses.

After competing with students from the University of Houston, University of Texas, Rice University, Trinity University and Wesleyan University, Baylor tied with Rice for first place. As a tiebreaker, the judges were asked which team they would trust with $1 million of their own money. They said Baylor.

"I was not surprised, but certainly excited," Gotcher said. "Considering we were defending champions, the bar was set high for the team. We took it upon ourselves to rise to the challenge and take home first place again."

The fund was established in 2000 with an initial endowment of $250,000 from Philip Dorr of Chicago and $150,000 from alumni. It has since grown to close to $6.5 million and is managed by students in the Portfolio Practicum class taught by Scott Pittman, director of investments and lecturer of finance, insurance and real estate. Once a year, the fund provides a cash distribution for scholarships going to athletes who wish to pursue a degree in business. The students presented a check in February at the UT -- Baylor men's basketball game for $215,000.

Pittman said the class is designed to apply a hands-on approach to material that students have been studying in their more academic-focused courses.

"It's real money, and it makes a real impact," Pittman said. "Not only do they get the experience, but they get to see how their work is supporting other students."

The portfolio replicates the Standard & Poor's 500, a stock market index containing the stocks of 500 corporations. Students are divided to cover 12 stock market sectors and provide a weekly report of the best options in each sector. The class votes on how to invest, followed by Pittman making the trade the next morning. An experienced adviser works with students in each sector and remains in consistent communication with them throughout the semester. A highly competitive course, admission to the class is application-based. It meets weekly in the Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center, located in the Hankamer School of Business.

Baransi said he appreciates the class for its effectiveness in teaching students how to operate in real world investment opportunities.

"The responsibility of managing millions of dollars makes it one of my favorite classes," Baransi said. "It keeps us accountable and adds to the value of the work we're doing."

With the economy in decline, Baransi said taking the class this spring was especially timely.

"It was an exciting semester, because we were right up there on the front lines with the subprime mortgage crisis and the buy-out of Bear Sterns," Baransi said. "It was a good time to learn what makes companies resilient."

By working on the practicum's realistic assignments, Gotcher said he got a taste of what life would be like after Baylor.

"The learning experience in the practicum has been tremendous," Gotcher said. "It offers students a chance to get out of the classic classroom environment and gain the experience needed in the world of finance."

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