Students at Abilene Christian University are managing a now-multi-million-dollar investment fund that is part of the university’s endowment. The Student Trading and Research (STAR) Fund gives students first-hand experience with investing and financial management, and their success led to the fund reaching a new high of $2 million at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
“It is unique to have a $2 million fund at a school our size,” said Dr. Jody Jones, assistant professor of accounting and finance and the faculty advisor for the STAR Fund.
The fund began more than 30 years ago with an ACU trustee contributing $25,000 for students to manage. Business faculty members contributed along the way as well, and by 1999 the fund totaled $100,000, and it had become a part of the university’s endowment. When the fund’s current bylaws were established in 2010, it was valued at $280,244, and it has continued to grow from there.
The STAR Fund is managed each year by about 15 students who are enrolled in the Student Managed Fund course in ACU’s College of Business Administration. Course content includes discussion about different sectors of the S&P 500, how current and historical events affect the market, and ultimately, what to buy and sell for the fund, Jones said.
“Our students are free to make choices,” he said. “There’s not a restrictive set of bylaws; they have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. When they go to an employer, not many undergraduate students can say they managed $2 million. That’s a unique experience.”
Joining the STAR Fund group was a natural fit for Jackson Suss, a junior financial management major from Weatherford, who has been investing since age 16. By 18 he was actively managing several portfolios of family and friends as well. Now, he’s the student manager for the STAR Fund and adding new skills to his already impressive portfolio.
“One of the big things we emphasize is taking ownership of our responsibility,” Suss said. “It’s important to be working toward a common goal, and our work reflects that. We want to build off the success of hitting that $2 million mark. Last year’s group did a really good job of following the market trajectory, and we look to continue that, especially now as the market is volatile. It’s difficult but intriguing.”
Bekah Jones, a senior marketing major from San Antonio, works with the STAR Fund and is president of ACU’s Student Government Association. Jones said the experience goes beyond a typical academic course.
“Our class is structured more as a professional job rather than a class setting. We spend our time doing portfolio reviews and reports, sector reports, sector research and trade analyzation,” she said. “Every company we look into is not only analyzed based on financial considerations, but we also speak about the mission behind companies and ensure it aligns with ACU’s mission and goals.”
Students interested in joining STAR should contact Jody Jones at email@example.com. You can follow STAR Fund on instagram at acu_star.