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Michael Burwell on Wayne State to Offer Real-World Experience for Students in Managing Stocks


While college and graduate school are intended to provide the foundational bedrock that students will use in their later careers, real-world experience in some of these endeavors is often lacking. As Chief Financial Officer at Willis Towers Watson, Michael Burwell, notes, this is a glaring omission from a student’s curriculum as it is incredibly important for them to understand the stakes and how to best manage it before they find themselves in the situation in a career capacity. This is why students at Wayne State are now going to be given the chance to get actual hands-on experience with managing real stock portfolios and training, something experts like Burwell find to be invaluable for preparing students for the future work environment.

The Kresge Foundation announced that it will be providing some $2 million in funds to be allocated for a portfolio management class – this will give students the chance to actually experience, first-hand, what managing a portfolio of stocks and other financial assets actually entails, and as Michael Burwell and others mention, this is experience that can never be taught from a book, but it is vitally important to future career success. Having experience while still in school that is directly related to what you will be doing upon graduation is something that not enough students get. This means when they graduate, the learning curve they face in the actual work world is great, indeed.

The Foundation has pledged some $3.8 billion in an endowment that is designed to be a pathway for students who are interested in investment careers. The endowment is to be used for a wide range of different activities, from the development of new programs, to the funds for this latest venture, to providing capital for building new facilities for students. The relationship is mutually beneficial to both the foundation and the students who benefit from the new experiences they will get to undertake as a result of these funds being provided to Wayne State University. Experts like Michael Burwell and others note that this experience on offer, as well as the other benefits that finance students at Wayne State receive because of this partnership, make it an even more attractive option to potential students, helping the university to attract the nation’s best and brightest young minds.

The Fifth Third Bank Corporation invested $100,000 in initial investments, helping to launch the portfolio management class in 2015. Additionally, they have continued their partnership with the university, assisting in various aspects of the program along the way. Each semester, the investment pool is passed on to the next class of students, allowing this ongoing hands-on curriculum to continue to be on offer to students. With this recent influx of funding from Kresge Foundation, students will be asked to monitor and manage stocks, as well as making buying and selling recommendations. This is overseen by an advisory board of industry experts and individuals from Kresge Foundation also serve as guest lecturers as a part of the program as well, giving the student key insight and first-hand accounts that they won’t get many other places.

The class is being held in a brand new, state-of-the-art building in Detroit near Little Caesars Arena. There will be a finance and data analytics lab, giving them access to new technologies and analytical tools that can help make them better at their jobs. The funds for the construction were also donated, in part, by Kresge Foundation. The classes and new curriculum will be difficult and challenging for students, but it will prepare them with the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to be successful in an incredibly competitive and ever-changing world of finance.

This conglomeration of expert advice, powerful new analytics tools, the leveraging of Big Data, and the hands-on experience offered by Wayne State University provides students with a unique opportunity for a very valuable learning experience. As experts like Michael Burwell will tell you, there is no substitute for experience and being able to give this to students while they are still being educated is an incredibly beneficial skill to offer them. The education will give them insight and experience of what it is like to be on an investmnt team, which will better help prepare them for the career they are going to embark upon once they complete their education.

The endowment and investment provided by Kresge Foundation and the earlier startup funds provided by Fifth Third Bank Corporation provide a mutually beneficial relationship between students and the industry they hope to be employed in the future. The funds and the insider advice and knowledge-sharing provide a resource that, as Michael Burwell and others note, many students don’t have access to. Being able to have actual experience in managing real portfolios, monitoring their progress, and making sound decisions when it comes to by buying and selling, especially while still in school, is invaluable.