In a room full of local high school and middle school students, eyes light up like they’ve won a shopping spree at a GameStop. However, they’re actually in Showker Hall learning how to pitch stocks — and having a blast doing it.

Madison Investment Fund (MIF), a student-run organization at JMU, invited students from all over Rockingham County to come to campus last Saturday and learn about the resources available at a university and what investment banking is all about.

“A lot of these kids don’t have that exposure,” Elias Semaan, an associate professor of finance and adviser for MIF, said. “Many of them were absolutely shocked that some of our students can work on Wall Street. That’s one of the driving forces behind doing this — showing the kids in this area what can happen if you go to college.”

MIF is a student-run organization that invests a portion of the JMU endowment into large-cap equities (the highest valued of stock companies) with the goal of getting real world investment experience and growing the fund with a reasonable amount of risk factor. In 1999, when MIF was created, the university handed over $100,000 to the organization. That amount has since grown to about $220,000. 

“It takes everything we learn in class and applies it to the real world,” Emily Platt, a sophomore finance major and vice president of external affairs of MIF, said.

A rigorous application and training program process are required to get into MIF. Applying entails an extensive, two-hour interview process that mirrors a Wall Street-style interview. It’s so intense that the organization has meetings with the prospective members to tell them what’s expected during the interview. Platt even said the MIF interview was harder than the one for her Wells Fargo internship that she was able to get because of MIF.

When students are accepted into MIF, the first semester of their time in the club is spent training like they would in an actual bank with mentors. Students of all majors are welcome to apply as long as they are willing to put in the work and effort to learn.

While other universities do have similar investment fund organizations, MIF is unique in the way that members have no incentive to be there other than the hands-on experience that the fund offers.

“Everybody in our fund really wants to be here,” Danny Burkhart, a junior finance major and president of MIF, said. “They’re not there for class credit or to make a little bit of money. I think that’s truly our differentiating factor.”

This morale combined with heavy support from the members who have already graduated from JMU is behind the success of the fund.

“We have a huge alumni base which is one thing that makes MIF as special as it is,” Platt said. “They give back constantly.”

A few of the MIF alumni serve on a board of advisors dedicated to providing the organization with whatever assistance and advice they may need. They also play a role in helping members get internships all over the country. 

Platt was able to shadow alumni on Wall Street last summer because of MIF and will be interning in investment banking for Wells Fargo this summer. Burkhart had an internship in New York City with Richard Bernstein Advisors last summer and is returning to the Big Apple this summer to also work in investment banking with Credit Suisse Group.

“I wouldn’t have had either of those opportunities had I not joined the investment fund,” Burkhart said.

MIF has significantly improved and grown since its conception in 1999. Its success has led to JMU becoming a target school for The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., which means that employees actively recruit students for internships. That not only means that JMU students will have a higher chance of landing high-profile internships, but also that firms are starting to notice how well JMU students are performing in those internships.

“I call them the pride and joy of the College of Business,” Semaan said. “In many ways, they’re the pride and joy of JMU.”

Before Platt even knew she wanted to study finance, she was drawn to the members of MIF at CHOICES when she was still in high school. 

“I realized that these people were the type of people I wanted to surround myself with,” Platt said. “When you surround yourself with motivated people, it’s easy to be motivated yourself.”

 

Contact Julia Nelson at nelso3jl@dukes.jmu.edu.