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Real-World Career Experience Starts Here

  • By: Victoria Lawson
  • Published:
Three students working together in a classroom

The education Taylor students receive is never limited to the classroom. Every major requires or provides real opportunities to gain practical experiences that shape students’ understanding of possible career tracks. 

In Taylor’s Business Department, students interested in Accounting, Marketing, Management, or other business majors are expected to develop real-world experience to supplement their coursework.

One of the many opportunities business students can participate in is the Endowment Team, an applied course in equity analysis and portfolio management. Students set objectives, strategize, and create selection criteria for managing millions of dollars in Taylor’s endowment fund. For students who want to be a part of the Endowment Team without taking the class, the Investing Excellence (IXL) club provides similar experience and collaborative opportunities. 

For seniors Jacob Ferguson and Justin Fath, the Endowment Team course has been a valuable resource in shaping the trajectory of their careers.

Exceeding Expectations

According to Assistant Professor of Finance Justin Henegar, one of the most significant skills that students take away from the Endowment Team course is learning how to establish an investment process that will guide all of their investment decisions. He said most students find this drastically different than only investing in companies they hear about on the news. The investment process allows students to see how stocks are selected for inclusion in the portfolio, which exposes them to companies they may be unfamiliar with. 

Students must also learn to deal with psychological factors such as their own investment bias and behavior biases, understand investment research, and evaluate professional analysts research reports, since these reports are the basis for their investment decisions.

“Students in the Fall 2020 semester did a phenomenal job in constructing a repeatable investment process that outperformed our mandate, which is to outperform the S&P 500 Index,” Henegar said. “Our students earned a weighted average return of 18.93% compared to the weighted average return of our benchmarks of 7.73%. In total dollars, our students added $737,321 in return to the portfolio for calendar year 2020. The students this past semester exceed in all areas and I am excited to see how our next class of students can keep the momentum going.”

A Wealth of Experience

Jacob Ferguson, a Finance major and Bible minor, can’t wait to use the skills he has developed at Taylor post-grad. This past semester, he and his classmates worked hard to take what they’ve learned and apply it to managing real money on the Endowment Team. 

“I think working on the Endowment Team has been by far the most valuable experience through Taylor’s business department, because very few college students can graduate and say that they’ve already had experience managing a multi million dollar portfolio for a client,” Ferguson said. “We’re managing a portfolio for Taylor as if they’re a client, so we have a responsibility to steward the money in that portfolio really well and get the greatest return for the school. I think we did that, which we’re very proud of.”

To develop their strategies, the team uses a variety of tools to work toward the best outcomes. 

Recent graduate Justin Fath ’21 said mastering new Excel formulas and learning to use a Bloomberg terminal—a software system through which business professionals can access and monitor real-time financial market data—have been especially notable privileges. 

“Not many finance majors have the opportunity to invest 4 million during their senior year, so it’s really unique,” Fath said. “We feel like you can actually put into practice some of the things that we’ve learned during this time at Taylor, so it’s pretty cool.”

For both Ferguson and Fath, working on the Endowment Team also provided them with insight about their future careers. As they approach graduation, they will not only leave with a wide variety of tangible skills; they will also leave armed with a deeper understanding of their strengths. 

“It’s one thing to learn these concepts in a classroom—like learning about risk, the behavioral side of finance, practicing buying a stock and holding it for the long term, being confident in your strategy—it’s another thing to actually get to do that,” Ferguson said. “It helps you figure out if handling money, bearing risk or helping clients is something that you’re good at and enjoy doing. Being able to figure that out before you graduate is amazing.”

Mentored by Faculty

Fath began his Taylor journey as a Math and Physics Secondary Education major because he loved working with numbers. However, he soon wondered if a different field would suit him better. He wanted his passion for politics, economics, and helping people to intersect.

Nationwide, nearly 80% of college students change their major at least once. Taylor’s Pre-Major program and faculty academic advisors help guide students towards the degree program that’s the best fit for them. 

He decided to pursue Finance, where his love for mathematics could move directly towards his goals. He also added a second major in Management and kept a Mathematics minor so he could incorporate the rest of his interests.

Fath said the relationship-building aspect of the business department has helped him develop into a confident young professional. He is thankful for how his Christian liberal arts education has helped him explore different aspects of business. 

“I really love how broad you’re able to go with the Taylor business track,” Fath said. “You have to take a bunch of different classes—I’m a finance major, but I’ve taken multiple marketing classes, and I’m a double major in management, and I’ve taken accounting classes…  I think the broadness really allows you to understand multiple aspects of business. So the relationships I’ve made and the broadness of the degree are two things I’ve appreciated.”

For Ferguson, the benefit of Taylor’s smaller-sized business department is the close connections students can cultivate with professors, a similarity shared with other academic departments. In fact, Taylor’s 13:1 student-faculty classroom ratio means students can be truly known by their professors.

Ferguson said his professors are always accessible for questions and he never feels left behind, allowing him true mastery of the material he studies. He has also enjoyed the camaraderie among the business students, especially the finance students. They help each other out and he enjoys knowing he can always have a great study group. 

“The network that you build is deep. I know a lot of people think, ‘Well, you’re not going to make a lot of connections with a school so small,’ but I’ve made so many connections over the past few years, and those connections are deep and meaningful,” Ferguson said. “I’ve worked for different companies across the country and I’ve always run into people who either know about Taylor or went to Taylor. That is a strong bond, and there’s a certain level of trust in that that’s really valuable.”

Want to learn more about what sets Taylor academics apart from the rest? View our full list of academic programs here