SMIF Experiential Learning, a Smart Investment in the Future

In the School of Management Finance Lab, the SMIF team engage in data analytics

In the School of Management Finance Lab, the SMIF team engage in data analytics


RIC finance students aren’t waiting to trade on Wall Street, they’re investing now, using capital from the Student-Managed Investment Fund (SMIF).

With assets in excess of $100,000, the SMIF allows students to take the financial strategies learned in the classroom to make investments in the real world.

RIC’s SMIF was established in 2007 by a $100,000 donation from RIC alum Ken Weakly ’89 and was one of the earliest among business schools, said Dean of the School of Management Jeff Mello. “Within the network of business school deans, I discovered that a lot of business schools are only now in the planning stages of doing this,” he said. “It makes me proud that we have been a benchmark for other institutions.”

This semester, after a competitive selection process, RIC students Michelle Asels, Adetokunbo Oni, Justin Pereira, Kelli-Jo Vazquez and Shuab Nouyi Yang were selected to take charge of the SMIF portfolio.

In order to engage in this experiential learning opportunity, students must be enrolled in FIN 463: Seminar in Portfolio Management, taught by Professor of Finance Abbas Kazemi. Once selected, the SMIF team works within the parameters of the fund and are given complete responsibility and autonomy in managing the fund, with Kazemi acting as advisor.

Though the fund decreased in value by 35 percent in the first three years, since then, it has outperformed its tracking index every year. Currently the portfolio is valued at $115,000, underscoring the utility of practical, hands-on learning. “I am very proud of our students,” said Kazemi.

From left, RIC students Shuab Nouyi Yang and Kelli-Jo Vazquez; RIC Professor of Finance Abbas Kazemi; RIC students Justin Pereira, Michelle Asels and Adetokunbo Oni

Analytics are carried out in the School of Management Finance Lab, which offers 12 Bloomberg terminals powered by Bloomberg Professional software – the “gold standard” for financial research. The terminals allow students access to up-to-the-minute news, financial market data and global trading as it is happening. This data not only informs their research, it aids them in making smart business decisions.

Though the fund’s objective is to generate annual income and capital appreciation for the SMIF portfolio, the learning objective is for finance students to build skill sets that they can transfer to the real world. Kazemi and Mello cited leadership, teamwork and communication as three critical skills students gain through this experience.

A strong advocate of experiential learning, Rhode Island College President Frank D. Sánchez said RIC plans to make greater investments to increase these opportunities.

“What we want for RIC graduates is to make them more competitive and to give them the practical project-based experiential learning opportunities so that they can be competitive and excel,” he said. “Our developing Strategic Plan calls for significantly more experiential and project-based learning opportunities for students, including internships in local industries, practicums in the classroom, senior capstone projects and study abroad opportunities.”

“Today, over 90 percent of RIC students are already engaged in some form of experiential learning, making us a regional leader in this area. It is our intent to make experiential learning a requirement for all of our students. In the spirit of learning innovation, RIC will be launching a 21st-Century-Skills Task Force this spring to examine how to provide 100 percent of its graduates with the skills they’ll need for tomorrow’s workforce.”