With a benchmark of the S&P 500, 15 students set out every semester to manage a portfolio of 20-25 stocks. Using a Bloomberg Terminal, earnings reports, conference calls and a lot of time, students learn about the strategy, financials and valuation of each company in the portfolio. Student managers learn how to find new investment ideas and challenge existing holdings. With a solid grounding in fundamental analysis, students recommend buy and sell decisions to a board of 12 alumni and friends of the university. The decisions each student makes has a lasting impact on the future of the university, as 5.25% of the portfolio is drawn every year to fund student scholarships.
In the fall of 1992, students at Illinois Wesleyan University were privileged to receive two generous donations which, when pooled, provided initial investment capital of $150,000 to begin an IWU student-managed portfolio class. One donor is an alumnus of the university, with a long-standing interest in introducing students to the investment world. The other donor is a friend of the university, yet someone who has never been on the IWU campus. In his eighties, this donor--a friend and a colleague of an IWU alumnus in Savannah, Georgia--succeeded in turning his modest savings from a job as a bookkeeper into substantial wealth by the time he retired. The purpose of his gift to IWU was to enable students to learn about investments earlier in life than he was able to learn himself. The first student-managed portfolio class met during the spring term of 1993. Today, the value of the student-managed portfolio is nearly $3 million.
"The mission of the student-managed portfolio class at Illinois Wesleyan University is to provide an opportunity for interested students to gain hands-on experience as money managers and to generate sufficient returns on the portfolio to provide at least one scholarship for an IWU student each year. In pursuing this mission, student managers bear in mind at all times that their decisions must be consistent with the general investment policies of Illinois Wesleyan University’s Board of Trustees, and that they must place special emphasis on firms with high ethical standards and a strong sense of social responsibility."