Professor Michael Mullen could see that many students at Stonehill had the talent and work ethic to compete for post-graduate opportunities beyond the typical entry-level jobs in finance and accounting. He also knew that to attain those highly sought after positions, these students needed some advanced coursework and a year or more of hands-on investment experience that provided tangible evidence of a their skills and abilities.
So he combined his extensive experience in the field and financial support from a College benefactor to create a way for them to get that experience before they had even graduated: The Stonehill College Investment Finance Initiative (SCIFI).
“SCIFI’s development was truly a team effort that would not have been possible without the complete support of our outstanding business faculty, administration and alumni,” Mullen says. “It’s a program that allows students to build on their Stonehill education, invest real money and hone their analytical and critical thinking skills while gaining valuable practical experience.”
The return on investment has been extraordinary.
“The Excel modeling and ability to understand companies on a fundamental level have allowed me to compete with top MBA students who have 3-4 years of experience in the finance industry,” says Will Husic ’15, who took advantage of Stonehill’s academic partnership program and is now at the University of Notre Dame, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in accountancy. His commitment and experiences at Stonehill and Notre Dame helped him land an investment banking analyst position with Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC in Chicago within months after starting on his master’s degree and he is expected to join the firm this June following graduation.
Combining Theory and Practice Leverages Students’ Potential
Begun in 2013, SCIFI is a competitive program that combines advanced academic coursework, workshops, alumni participation and internships with opportunities for hands-on security analysis and investment. It is housed within the business administration/finance program, which holds coveted accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International.
“The opportunity to put what is learned in the classroom to work in real life is a very new experience for most students,” says Mullen, who is an associate professor of finance and SCIFI faculty director. “The investment management goal for each student member of the analyst team is simple - buy undervalued stocks and avoid those that are overvalued. Getting to the goal is challenging but a whole lot of fun.” Having spent more than 30 years as an analyst, portfolio manager and venture capital investor, Mullen started SCIFI as a way to help all interested Stonehill students better see the personal and professional potential. One distinctive feature of the program is that it is open to students of all majors who are willing to take courses in the basic requirements – financial accounting, corporate finance and investments. Interested students are then asked to submit an application and interview with the program’s Academic Committee.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But those who accept the challenge get to participate in a small group of outstanding students who share the same goal of establishing a legacy of success via the yearlong, on-campus internship in which they manage the assets in their “Opportunity Fund.” Based on feedback from graduates of the program, the payoff is immense. “SCIFI is definitely not easy,” says finance major and current SCIFI member Jacqueline Durand ’16. “However, it’s by far the best decision I’ve made. SCIFI exposes me to topics I find fascinating, and I’m able to invest actual money instead of participating in an online simulation.”
The capital comes from the Mary Herlihy Opportunity Fund, which was established in late 2013 through a generous bequest by Mary Herlihy, wife of the late William T. Herlihy, a member of the inaugural class of 1952 and lifelong benefactor to Stonehill College. Additional founding contributions were made to the program through the generosity of Eastern Bank, Stonehill alumni and faculty.
Internships and Professional Networking Opportunities Enhance the Program
Students are chosen in the spring semester and commit to completing assignments and participating in conference calls throughout the summer to monitor the fund. With the assistance of the Office of Career Services, students often find summer internships in the investment finance field to bolster their experience. The program during the following academic year is a combination of coursework and the SCIFI Internship. The analyst team meets twice weekly for coursework and follow-up portfolio sessions to review financial market fundamentals, current stock holdings and new ideas for the portfolio. Each member is required to make at least two new stock recommendations per semester while monitoring current holdings within their assigned industries. The experience is supported by on-campus meetings, conference calls and visits to Boston to meet with alumni and other financial professionals who come to share insights into their work.
“I’ve learned how to analyze companies like actual analysts do,” says Jacqueline. “I’ve met students who participated in years prior and they’ve gone on to be very successful.” Among them was Ryan Blicker ’14, an equity research associate at Cowen and Co. in Boston, and Dan Doherty ’15, now an analyst with Goldman Sachs New York.
“Everything I learned about investing and ‘taking ownership’ from my experience in SCIFI is directly applicable to my current job,” says Ryan. “I can say with 100 percent certainty that without SCIFI and the guidance of Professor Mullen, I would not be in my current job, certainly not straight out of college.”
Dan says SCIFI was critical in preparing him for his current role. “The analytical skills and professional demeanor I gained from the program help me put my best foot forward in the office each day,” he says. He also praises the network created by SCIFI. “As members, we challenged each other’s ideas, supported one another through difficult assignments and shared advice about the job interview processes in a way only other SCIFI members truly understand. These connections continue after graduation.”
Jacqueline says she is looking forward to joining that network of SCIFI alumni when she graduates in May (she’s already accepted a job at EMC in Hopkinton in the company’s financial training program). For all of these reasons and more, she encourages students interested in the financial markets and learning the skills of valuation to consider joining SCIFI. “It may sound very intimating and the topics covered may be overwhelming as a first-year student,” she says. “But if you like to learn and be challenged and you’re self-motivated, it will be the most beneficial and rewarding program you participate in.”