Launching dreams and supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs, the 17th annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl (BYOBB) provides a platform for today’s startups to become tomorrow’s next big hit.
The event, organized by the Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), awards $160,000 in cash prizes, plus more than $40,000 in non-cash prizes including legal, accounting, and public-relations services. Winners also will participate in Temple’s summer accelerator, a program in which participants will receive mentoring and assistance in reaching key milestones, and have opportunities to meet potential investors. Further details of the accelerator will be forthcoming.
The BYOBB is open to all faculty, alumni, staff, undergraduate and graduate students across Temple’s 17 schools and colleges. Any burgeoning entrepreneur with a financially sound venture is encouraged to vie for one of the 13 prizes available this year, said Ellen Weber, IEI’s Executive Director. The competition attracted 163 registered teams and 180 participants in 2014. Once again, it will be held at Alter Hall, and all interested parties are urged to begin crafting their business plans now for the April 16 final competition. (Completed business plans will be accepted as early as mid-February. For now, interested parties can apply to receive a mentor.)
For Weber, the BYOBB aligns with the vision set forth by Temple University President Dr. Neil Theobald, whose commitment to the university includes a “real-world ready” emphasis for all students.
“The BYOBB gives our students the tools they need to be entrepreneurial in the workforce or to start their own businesses and to take control,” said Weber, who also serves as Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at the Fox School of Business.
New for 2015, the competition focuses on selecting business plans that appeal to the accelerators and investors needed to take it from paper to practice. Encouraging team entries, as opposed to individuals, to ensure a high-quality product, this year’s BYOBB winners will participate in a summer accelerator program in which they will engage with experienced startup advisors, attorneys, investors and marketing experts to help turn their dreams into a profitable reality.
As Executive Director of the IEI, Weber oversees a BYOBB competition that is one of the most lucrative of its kind in the country. Helping successful startups for more than 15 years, the BYOBB has refined its entrance requirements to ensure its legacy of success. The panel of 300 reviewers is looking for a business plan, a pitch deck and the detailed financial assumptions and projections necessary to craft a realistic and sustainable company.
Looking for persuasive quality, BYOBB nurtures both the traditional for-profit ventures as well as companies with significant social impact. The social-impact track is for new ventures whose primary focus is to create social value. Social-impact plans must incorporate a measurable social and/or environmental bottom line into its mission and practices, and plan to attain financial self-sufficiency primarily through earned revenues, Weber said.
Thirteen companies will be selected for the final competition. They will participate in scrub sessions with investors and startup advisors to refine their pitch decks to be presented April 16. The final judges, comprised of business professionals and Temple alumni, will gather to critique presentations on how well its entrants pitched their services or products, how its entrepreneurial qualities solve a critical problem and gauge the entrants’ chances for success.
“We want Temple students to be known as people who can identify problems, come up with solutions and execute those solutions. That’s what entrepreneurs do,” Weber said.
The Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) at the Fox School of Business is looking to build upon its previous networking successes to make its next event one of the best yet.
The Spring Connection, which is scheduled for Feb. 11th, is set to mirror the CSPD’s Fall Connection. The Spring Connection follows up September’s Fall Connection, and has secured nearly 60 employers from various industries and is expected to add an additional 20 employers. Student registration is steadily rising, and CSPD expects about 600 to 700 students in attendance.
“For the past seven years, on average, our Spring Connections have hosted 65 employers, we’re well ahead of where we’ve been” said Holly Pfeifer, event coordinator and CSPD Assistant Director for Corporate Relations. “We’ve developed strong relationships with the employers.”
To help students prepare for meetings with top-tier employers such as Comcast, Deloitte, Wawa, and Verizon Wireless, the CSPD hosts one-hour workshops and résumé critique sessions. The workshops introduce students to the resources the CSPD office has to offer, as well as helping students to illustrate their achievements by producing the most-effective résumé. The CSPD career competencies staff also coach the students on professional and polished communication techniques, to help students speak with employers and “build their brand,” in CSPD parlance.
“Our staff does a phenomenal job of preparing the students to put their best foot forward. They know how to research the organizations, they know how to network, and they know how to have impactful conversations,” Pfeifer said.
Successfully garnering student and employer support, Pfeifer notes, takes the careful integration of social media. The CSPD advertises the event on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. At the event, the center organizes a LinkedIn photo booth, which invites students already dressed in their business best to pose in front of a backdrop to capture the perfect Linkedin profile picture. Reaching out via Linkedin also has helped the CSPD attract its record number of employers as professional use continues to grow.
In selecting the employers, Pfeifer and the CSPD not only look for those who are leading in their field, but also the companies whose strategic direction are on par with the programs the Fox School offers and whose talent portfolio aligns with the students the Fox School produces. There hasn’t been a mismatch yet, Pfeifer said, and the record number of employers attending each event year after year is not only evidence of the stellar working relationship between the school and the employers, but also the style of the networking environment in which the event is set.
“It’s more of a synergistic energy,” Pfeifer said of the event’s atmosphere. “We focus on an organization’s trends and how the Fox School students can complement that.”
The Spring Connection helps students attain full-time employment, and also caters to those seeking strong summer internship placement. Since 2012, 100 percent of graduate students have completed summer internships and over 90 percent of undergraduates that utilized the Center attained full-time employment after graduation.
“I’m noticing more and more that employers are looking to develop their pipeline and start making relationships with our students early on,” Pfeifer said.
Three Temple University alumni, including a pair from the Fox School of Business, have been chosen for inclusion in DreamIt Ventures’ recent round of accelerator programs.
Fox alums Yasmine Mustafa and Ofo Ezeugwu, and School of Media and Communication alumna Bethany Edwards, comprise Temple’s best showing in a DreamIt Ventures batch. Founded in 2008, the Philadelphia-based idea incubator invests $25,000 in seed money in exchange for a 6-percent equity stake in the entrepreneurs’ business plans. DreamIt Ventures also provides a vast network of industry professionals with whom to network.
Mustafa, a 2006 alumna of the Fox School, founded self-defense technology company Roar for Good, which produces wearables marketed toward women. Mustafa’s devices are designed to alert the authorities, flash lights, send text messages and sound an alarm, among other features, in cases of emergency. Mustafa recently won first place in two categories at the 2014 Innovative Idea Competition, organized by Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute. She also won Temple’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl in 2010 with a separate venture.
Ezeugwu, who graduated from the Fox School in 2013 with a degree in Management Information Systems, is President and Chief Executive Officer of WhoseYourLandlord. The site gives users a platform upon which to rate the people from whom they rent, to “know what they’re getting into before they even sign the lease,” Ezeugwu said. Ezeugwu is a past winner of Temple’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl, having won $20,500 in 2014.
Edwards, who graduated from SMC in 2006, founded LIA Diagnostics. The company designed a flushable pregnancy test, which won the grand prize at last year’s Innovative Idea Competition.
Mustafa, Ezeugwu and Edwards are among the 12 companies to have been selected into DreamIt Ventures’ accelerator program.
An orthopedic surgeon and spinal specialist, Alex Vaccaro maintains a tightly organized schedule. He’s the Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Sidney Kimmel Medical Center at Thomas Jefferson University and President of Philadelphia’s Rothman Institute.
He’s also pursuing his Online Master’s of Business Administration through Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
In January, U.S. News & World Report named the Fox Online MBA the No. 1 program in the nation, in its 2015 rankings of the best online graduate business programs. Vaccaro estimates he commits two hours daily to his Fox Online MBA. Often, it’s more.
“I’m being honest when I say this: It’s one of the hardest and one of the most-rewarding things I’ve ever done,” said Vaccaro. “You know what you do for a living. Getting your MBA helps you figure out why you do what you do, and you’re able to do it better.”
Vaccaro is one in a growing number of accomplished medical professionals, with a slew of letters following their surnames, who are supplementing their clinical educations with a business education at the Fox School. As the landscape in American healthcare continues to evolve, medical professionals like Vaccaro are learning that one of the greatest issues in their field is a business-related one.
“Those in medicine who plan to lead need an MBA,” Vaccaro said.
Healthcare spending in the United States reached a record-high $3.7 trillion in 2013, according to a 2012 Deloitte study, titled, “The Hidden Costs of U.S. Healthcare.” And that figure is expected to continue climbing. Physicians equipped to tackle the challenges of operating a medical facility, in relation to both patient treatment and business management, are in high demand. According to a 2009 report in Academic Medicine, trained physicians were running a mere 3 percent of the nation’s more than 6,500 hospitals.
Dr. Maria Chandler, President of the Association of MD/MBA Programs (AMMP), said nearly 70 dual-degree programs exist in the United States. One is housed at the Fox School of Business, through which students pursue the Fox Online MBA. The program, which can be completed in as quickly as 20 months, employs a virtual flipped-classroom model. Students learn content at their leisure through a digital dialogue with peers and professors, before putting into practice what they’ve learned in an integrated, synchronous online classroom.
“Using this format, students come to a virtual class once a week ready to share their professional and personal experiences, and take what they’ve learned to the next level and apply it,” said Dr. Darin Kapanjie, Academic Director of Fox’s Online MBA.
A dual-degree program, according to Chandler, gives students the skills, vocabulary and applicable training to succeed in both arenas following attainment of their degrees.
“I once met a surgeon who was in charge of a $6 billion budget and had absolutely no business training,” she said. “In what other industry would someone be tasked with managing a budget of that size and have no business training? That’s the current state of the healthcare industry.”
Jamira Burley’s professional mission involves doing what’s right, and not what’s necessarily popular, which includes her recent move away from her hometown of Philadelphia.
Burley, FOX ’12, recently accepted a position as a Senior Campaigner for Gun Violence and Human Rights with Amnesty International USA, the domestic division of the global human rights organization.
To take her current position, Burley relocated to Washington, D.C. The native Philadelphian had been employed as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Youth Commission, a position she had held since graduating from Temple University’s Fox School of Business with degrees in International Business and Legal Studies.
The 26-year-old Burley said she’s “still working on the same issues” by focusing on reducing gun violence and trying to create opportunities for young people to have platforms upon which their voices can be heard.
“My goal is to eventually come back to Philadelphia because it’s where everything is,” Burley said recently. “It was extremely bittersweet to leave, but I know there are other ways I can contribute to my community, even from another city.”
With Amnesty International USA, Burley hopes to shed light on human rights issues on a much-larger stage than simply in her hometown. She will work with federal agencies and government officials toward the engagement of young people, the reform and affordability of education, and the reduction of the nation’s murder rate and gun violence.
In short, Burley strives to do good. Along the way, she’s doing good work, too – and people have taken notice. In December, USA Today highlighted Burley’s activism and named her one of five American young women who are changing the world.
“Five years ago, I never would’ve expected to be where I am,” Burley said. “I try to remain humble and remember that life isn’t just about the opportunities you have but also how you share them with the world. My opportunities are through doing good work, my relationships, and people giving me a hand up, and I’m very cognizant of that.”
Burley does not hesitate when asked to pinpoint her font of inspiration. In 2005, her 19-year-old brother Andre was shot and killed by a friend. That moment, while devastating, spurred social activism from Burley.
One of 16 children, she was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. She was a mayoral appointee and chairperson of Philadelphia Youth Commission during her undergraduate career at the Fox School, advising the mayor and Philadelphia City Council on issues, legislation and policies affecting young people in Philadelphia. She spoke at the 2010 Campus Progress National Conference, as one of three students selected to speak to more than 1,500 young people.
“There are things that transform how you see the world, your place within the world and the contribution you can make to it,” Burley said. “My brother is the driving force for the work that I have dedicated my life to. It fuels my mission and my purpose, but though the course of this work, I recognize that its much bigger than my brother; it’s for every young person who wants to be more than their predecessors and is just searching for the tools to do so.”
Accomplishments in social activism are nothing new for Burley, whose resume is dotted with recognitions from the White House, People for the American Way Foundation, BET, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Philadelphia Tribune, among others.
“In life you never stop learning, you never stop growing and there is still so much of the world I want to see,” Burley said. “My long-term goals have always been to help others and just be happy, but what that looks like changes every day.”
Big Data Institute has big ambitions for Year 2
Discussed in this issue:
• Big data, the new face of statistical and computational analysis.
• Big data is the collection of data sets so large that it is difficult to process them with traditional methods.
• Fox School of Business creates the Big Data Institute
“Trailblazer” Ira Lubert honored as Musser Award recipient
Discussed in this issue:
• Temple University’s Fox School of Business recognized Lubert as the recipient of the Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership.
• The Musser Awards dinner and reception gathered Philadelphia’s leading business executives under one roof.
•Temple University President Neil D. Theobald reflected upon Fox School’s prowess.
Dressed in business-professional attire, Fox School of Business students exited Alter Hall’s elevators and streamed into the seventh-floor MBA Commons. With their shoulders straight, the students found their places beside two rows of corkboards, as industry leaders walked aisle to aisle and quizzed them on their respective research findings.
These activities marked the culmination of The Co-Op in HRM.
In the course, an elective offered by the Fox School’s Department of Human Resource Management (HRM), students swap classroom learning for professional experience. Dr. Crystal Harold, Associate Professor of HRM, assigns students a co-op with one of the program’s industry partners, where they report to work 10 hours weekly. The students, who numbered 22 in the Fall 2014 semester, are tasked with tackling a pressing issue in the human resources industry, and producing an evidence-based management paper that presents their research toward pinpointing a solution.
Students communicated their research findings and the best solution to addressing the HR issue they had selected during The Co-Op in HRM’s final presentations, held Dec. 5 at Alter Hall. Professional mentors representing the companies and non-profit organizations to which students were assigned were in attendance, as were industry leaders considering future partnerships with the program. Professionals from both camps submitted index-card notes to the students for on-the-spot input on their respective presentations.
“Internships and co-op assignments like the ones offered by this course, are salient learning opportunities that help make Fox School’s students more competitive when they enter the job market,” Harold said. “Some of the students who have taken this course in years past are offered employment opportunities with their co-op organization. Others use their co-ops as an opportunity to segue into their next position.”
And for some students, like Jeannine Rudolph, FOX ’12, companies create positions in order to retain them. During her co-op with Cigna, Rudolph, who majored in both HRM and Legal Studies in Business, worked in various areas within human resources and, before the semester had come to a close, her mentor and direct supervisor asked if she’d stay on as an intern in the spring semester. Both opportunities eventually amounted to a full-time position with Cigna, where Rudolph is an HR Consultant.
“As a student, I really engaged myself so an opportunity like mine would be a possibility,” she said.
HRM major Erica Smith, one of Harold’s 22 students, spent the semester with the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN), an intermediary organization dedicated to connecting systems and leveraging resources to equip young people for academic achievement, economic opportunity and personal success. Slated to graduate in May 2015, Smith investigated whether merit-based pay would be a viable option for non-profits like PYN.
“She was exposed to every facet of HR, and that task variety is what’s exciting to me,” said Priscilla Tennant, an HR generalist with PYN, who served as Smith’s mentor. “Certainly, compensation was an area of focus and it was important for her to research the benefits and drawbacks of across-the-board pay vs. merit pay and what culture shift is required to make that change. She served as a true thought partner in considering all elements involved in a major change that will impact employee compensation.”
Working with Tennant, who completed her undergraduate coursework at the Fox School in 1997 and later attained her MBA from Fox in 2000, was a boon for Smith, who pointed to professional development as another incentive of the co-op.
“Waking up, getting dressed and preparing yourself for a professional work setting that’s not a classroom was critical,” Smith said. “It was a matter of ‘How can my career benefit from today’s opportunity?’ instead of ‘How can I benefit from this class discussion?’”
An undergraduate program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business has been recognized among those with the finest graduation rates in the country.
The Fox School’s Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management earned a No. 7 national rank in a recent report that highlighted the country’s top-25 such programs, published last month by HumanResourcesMBA.net.
“The Fox School and the Human Resource Management department are honored to be included in this rankings report, which speaks to the quality of our students, faculty and curriculum, and our reputation as a leader in business education,” said Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat.
The website’s report recognized undergraduate human resource management programs that have aligned their respective curricula within the guidelines provided by the Society for Human Resource Management, as well as those housed within business schools exclusively accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. HumanResourcesMBA.net also noted that recent rankings by U.S. News and World Report guided its rankings report.
“The faculty and staff within the Fox School’s Human Resource Management department are excited to have received this recognition,” said Dr. Deanna Geddes, Chair of the Fox School’s Human Resource Management department. “We have worked to not only design a curriculum that provides students with the knowledge, skills and experiences that make them attractive to employers, but one that also emphasizes the importance of pro-social and ethical approaches to managing the firm’s most-valuable resource: its people.
“Our efforts have enabled us to develop a curriculum that both instructs students on the fundamentals of managing human resources, and also challenges them to apply their knowledge to solve real-world HR problems.”
The Fox School’s BBA in Human Resource Management received praise from HumanResourcesMBA.net for its four-year and accelerated three-year options.
To view the rankings in full, click here.
Admittedly, Cassandra Reffner said she does not have as great of an understanding of mathematical analytics as business-school students. And she said she only understands the most basic functions of Microsoft Excel.
What Reffner does know, however, is how to analyze data and display it in a creative, understandable manner. A junior graphic design student from the Tyler School of Art, Reffner won the $2,500 grand prize at the second annual Temple Analytics Challenge.
The month-long competition, organized by the Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT) at the Fox School of Business, culminated Nov. 17 in finalist presentations at Alter Hall. The challenge tasks students from all of Temple University’s schools and colleges with making sense of data through visualizations and infographics.
The Temple Analytics Challenge awarded 10 prizes totaling $10,000, from corporate members of IBIT and the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies at Temple University.
In its second year, the Temple Analytics Challenge received 130 submissions from more than 300 participants. The finalists came from both undergraduate and graduate programs across the University, including the College of Engineering, the Tyler School of Art, and the Fox School of Business.
Reffner used a test tube illustration to demonstrate the residual impact felt by employees following the proposed relocation of Merck’s corporate headquarters. Judges reflected favorably upon Reffner’s infographic, which displayed the raw number of employees whose commutes would be negatively affected by 30 or more minutes. (Other Merck Challenge finalists opted to use percentages.) To circumvent the issue, Reffner offered what she called “prescriptions,” using a medicine-bottle design to provide Merck with alternatives like incentivizing carpools or public transit usage, or implementing break time for employees who make longer commutes.
“I think the judges liked how I gave solutions, or as I called them ‘prescriptions,’ to help benefit those employees and to look at this in a less-negative term,” Reffner said. “
Corporate partners of the Temple Analytics Challenge provided data sets and specific problems from which the students had to create an original visualization that also provided clear and meaningful insight. The NBCUniversal Challenge pertained to the allocation of advertising dollars for midterm elections; the Lockheed Martin Challenge focused on employee behaviors predicting security threats; and the aforementioned Merck Challenge centered around the overall impact of a corporate site’s relocation. The 20 finalists presented their work before a panel of professional judges, including representatives from QVC, Campbell Soup Company, and RJMetrics.
“The breadth of majors and students that excelled in the competition was really impressive. Analytics and the ability to interpret and visualize complex data is such an important skill, it’s exciting to so many students get involved and the final presentations were outstanding,” said Nicholas Piergallini, Program Manager at Lockheed Martin and a judge for the competition.
“We’re proud to once again see such a great set of entries from students across the University,” said Dr. David Schuff, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems and organizer of the challenge, “A key goal of the challenge is to encourage students from different disciplines to build their data analysis and communication skills, and to see how these skills apply to their careers.”
Reffner and five fellow Tyler students were among the competition’s 20 finalists, and she was one of three from Tyler to win one of the Temple Analytics Challenge’s 10 cash prizes. Encouraged to enter the competition by Tyler professor Abby Guido, Reffner said she hopes her grand-prize win helps push other students at Temple University to compete next year.
“Being a graphic design student, it was difficult to figure out what the data was and what we had to look at, what we had to analyze, and how to design it in a way people would understand,” Reffner said. “Most of my class doesn’t know Excel.
“But the Temple Analytics Challenge was an innovative way to bring students from around campus together and show we can translate what we do know to a broader spectrum. It was that multidisciplinary aspect of the competition that, I think, was the most fun.”
Doug Seiwert echoed Reffner’s point. Seiwert, the Vice President of Information Technology and Enterprise Applications Development at QVC, said the popular home-shopping network produces one terabyte of data every month.
“For those of you who don’t know, that’s a lot of data,” said Seiwert, the event’s keynote speaker, “and it can be daunting when you’re processing this much data. Our challenge, and (the students’) challenge in this competition, was finding ways to make the data widely consumable, and I think you all did an outstanding job.”
Sandra Myerson’s interest in healthcare began early, dating to a conversation she had in her adolescence with her mother, Patricia Keating Myerson, a now retired registered nurse.
“I think she knew I’d never be bored and that I’d be able to support myself, and those are always good things for a young person to hear about a potential career,” Myerson said. “I’ve always enjoyed the sciences and I like people, too, and those are the other reasons I chose to pursue nursing.”
From emergency nurse to top executive, Myerson has covered plenty of ground in her career path. She is the recently appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Patient Experience Officer, a newly created position at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, a seven-hospital system with more than 35,000 employees. Tasked with developing a vision and strategy to improve the patient experience, the Fox School of Business alumna arrived at Mount Sinai in November from a managing consultant position with Press Ganey Associates.
“Larger institutions are creating this position, and it’s a fairly new one in the industry,” Myerson said. “It’s about setting the course for improving our patients’ experiences – how we can improve our processes to make a patient’s hospitalization, outpatient surgery procedure, and physician’s office visit smoother and more efficient, and how we can improve our communication tactics to show compassion and empathy towards patients and their family members. It really requires changes in clinical, operational, behavioral, and cultural aspects of healthcare delivery.”
“We want our patient experience scores to be a valid reflection of what patients are saying about us, and to be reflective of as many patients as possible.”
Myerson holds a joint graduate degree from the Fox School of Business – a Master’s of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration and a Master’s of Science in Healthcare Finance, both of which she attained in 2001.
With more than three decades of experience as a healthcare practitioner and executive, Myerson said her position at Mount Sinai, which combines training, education and communication, is ideal.
She has served as a flight nurse who provided on-the-scene care for trauma patients. She’s worked in a cardiac step-down unit, in emergency rooms and in intensive-care units. She’s had business cards for positions as the Associate Vice President of Healthcare Services (Einstein Healthcare Network, Philadelphia), the Executive Director of Ambulatory and Emergency Services (WellStar Health System, Atlanta), and the Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President for Patient Care Services (Aria, Philadelphia).
Along the way, Myerson said she started and stopped her pursuit of a graduate nursing degree more than once.
“But I figured I needed to understand the business of healthcare if I ever wanted to run a hospital, and so obtaining a finance degree seemed a logical pursuit,” she said.
That’s when Myerson enrolled at the Fox School of Business. “I learned about Fox’s MBA-MS joint program, and I thought it’d be a good fit for me as I worked full-time. The MBA portion of the program fit well with what I was doing at the time, and I enjoyed it. When I got into some of the more challenging finance portions of the program, it was like learning a whole new language – it seemed so foreign to me.” The hardest part about her decision to attend Fox, she said, was having to relinquish her side job as a flight nurse.
“It was hard to hang up my helmet,” she said, “but it was something I had to do to achieve my goals.
At Mount Sinai, Myerson will have to wear two different hats, bridging the gap between the administrative and clinical sides in regard to patient care. She will collaborate across multiple departments of the health system to improve every aspect of the patient experience.
For Myerson, this is simply another facet of the ever-evolving healthcare industry she loves, a line of work she learned to appreciate early on in life.
“I learned a lot about what it was like to be a nurse from my mom,” Myerson said. “I learned plenty from my patients, too. Finding a way to connect with my patients has always been important to me. I got out of that a lot of positive reinforcement, and it inspires me to do what I do today.”
In City of Brotherly Love, Fox alumna prepares to open co-working space for her entrepreneurial sisters
Discussed in this issue:
• Fox alumna Yasmine Mustafa driven by freedom
• Fox’s Global MBA leaps 20 places in The Economist’s global rankings
• EMBA alum Beth Duffy inducted into Women’s Hall of Fame
The energy among the Fox Fund students is palpable. Gathered in the Capital Markets Room at the Fox School of Business, the students don’t answer to textbooks or professors, but a much-more fickle master: the major stock exchanges in New York.
Students of the Fox Fund, which was introduced in 2012, meet three days a week for approximately 10 weeks. They do not receive academic credit for their work, nor are they financially compensated for their time. Learning how to evaluate and pitch companies for placement in a virtual portfolio, the students hope their practice leads to selection to the Owl Fund Seminar, a two-semester course in which the students manage real money – approximately $250,000 – in Temple University’s endowment expressly designated for this class.
According to Jonathan Beaulieu, a senior Finance major and former Chief Investment Officer of the William C. Dunkelberg Owl Fund, the students (mostly sophomores, with a few second-semester freshmen and first-semester juniors) aren’t playing the stock market. Instead, they’re developing the skills needed to successfully pitch a company to a room full of investors.
“What we’re doing is extremely difficult. Even professionals, if they’re right 51 percent of the time, they’re outstanding analysts,” Beaulieu said.
Beaulieu worked his way through the Owl Fund, from junior analyst to CIO, before he was tapped to bring along the program’s next generation. Volunteering his time, Beaulieu teaches a class of 30 Fox Fund students the process for identifying potentially underpriced stocks and analyzing the subsequent investment opportunity.
The students make full use of the specialized software within the Capital Markets Room, which includes Capital IQ, Morningstar, Bloomberg, in order to prepare their presentations. Pitching to both Fox Fund and Owl Fund members, the students support their presentation with a 10-page report that includes detailed charts and graphs.
“We’re trying to do what professionals do,” Beaulieu said. “This is more work than they’ll ever do for a class.”
The Fox Fund, Beaulieu emphasized, is a learning environment in which he combs through his students’ extensive reports for errors or omissions, and ensures they have identified the right aspects of the investment. The focus, he said, is not on the success of the stock investment or even the results of the students’ portfolio, but that they gain the conceptual knowledge needed to take intelligent risks and learn from past investment mistakes. The class also engages in a short question-and-answer session similar to one employed in the Owl Fund, designed to facilitate growth.
As a student-mentored experience, the Fox Fund’s students mirror the Owl Fund’s members. Divided into five economic sectors (healthcare, financials, energy, consumer markets and industrial/technology telecommunications), Owl Fund analysts work as mentors with their Fox Fund doppelgangers.
This hands-on guidance is crucial when deciding which students will advance to the Owl Fund, said Dr. Jonathan Scott, Director of Undergraduate Programs in Finance at the Fox School and Managing Director of the Owl Fund.
“Everyone is supportive of everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we won’t ask tough questions,” Scott said. “We build a community, but if someone in the Fox Fund doesn’t make sufficient progress, we won’t recommend them for the Owl Fund seminar.”
Part of that “sufficient progress” in the Fox Fund is acknowledging that outside work and an enterprising drive are necessities for successful Fox Fund students. Beaulieu, who joined the Owl Fund as a second-semester freshman, and whose decision to attend Temple University was influenced by his desire to work in the program, looks for the same drive in his students.
“Thrown into a very sink-or-swim environment, I really enjoyed that challenge,” Beaulieu said of his early years with the Owl Fund.
However, as a mentor to younger students who are interested in following in his footsteps, Beaulieu said the Fox Fund is necessary and that it would have been beneficial to learn in a no-pressure environment.
Cynthia Axelrod, Director of the Owl Fund and Assistant Professor of Finance, teaches the six-credit Owl Fund course. She said she values the work put in by Fox Fund students, and said it’s exactly what she would expect of her students in the Fox School’s Finance department.
“The Fox Fund students all show up hungry to learn,” Axelrod said. “That’s our recruiting ground. The Fox Fund allows our students to develop and sharpen their fundamental and analytical skills that enable them to succeed in the Owl Fund.”
If selected to the Owl Fund, students actively manage the Owl Fund Portfolio, which currently approaches $250,000. There are steep restrictions on these funds, which were donated to Temple University’s endowment specifically for management by the Owl Fund students. Students are held to the same standards as professional analysts and portfolio managers in charge of real money.
“Just because they’re students doesn’t mean the rules are easier,” Axelrod said. “In an era where 90 percent of professional money managers underperform their benchmark, the Owl Fund is beating the S&P 500 by 400 basis points. This is truly impressive, and a testament to the commitment and quality of our students.”
Matriculation through the Owl Fund and Fox Fund programs has given students a professional advantage, resulting in all Owl Fund associate analysts procuring strong summer internships in 2014, and senior members securing a job following graduation.
“If you look at the rest of the business school, I highly doubt it’s at 100 percent job or internship placement like that,” said Beaulieu, who has accepted a position at Aberdeen Asset Management.
Energized and motivated, the students look forward to the day when they might join Wall Street, answering to nothing but that opening bell.