URI’s student-managed Ram Fund more than triples to $325,000

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KINGSTON, R.I. — December 6, 2016 — Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, about 15 students enter Ballantine Hall, Room 103 at the University of Rhode Island for The Ram Fund class. In a typical classroom, the students settle down, open up their notebooks and patiently wait for the professor to start his or her lecture. However, the Ram Fund class is a bit different.

The Ram Fund is an investment portfolio managed by University of Rhode Island College of Business Administration students. Now in its 15th year, the fund has tripled in value. The work is done by students enrolled in the class taught by Dennis McLeavey, professor emeritus of finance at the College of Business Administration and fellow instructor Deborah Imondi who is the executive director at Rhode Island 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. and URI business alumna B.S. ’83, M.B.A. ’86. The students work at computers with their assigned teams and discuss their decision-making processes and goals with each other and the instructors.

Established in 2001 with funding of $100,000 from the Alumni Association, the program’s goal was to give advanced business students the preparation and experience needed to excel in the world of investments. As a part of the Ram Fund class, students were given the opportunity to invest and manage money while also practicing presentation and portfolio management. Originally, the class was only open to finance majors, but as the program became more successful, more students from other business majors applied for and won spots in the class.

As far as tripling the value of the Ram Fund, this was not something that happened overnight. McLeavey, a resident of West Kingston, explained that “each semester students are buying and selling securities so they do a lot of fundamental analysis. Looking for value stocks, in a quantitative value process, it is an actively managed fund. We manage against a completion index giving us the market except for the S&P 500 as a benchmark. So there wasn’t one exact decision that tripled the fund. It was years of carefully calculated analysis that allowed students to increase the fund.”

Oliver Davis from Wakefield, is a senior finance major in the class. “It’s all very collaborative. Our entire class works as one machine and every student runs a specific part,” he says. “My public speaking and presentation skills have been taken to a whole new level.”

McLeavey said students in the class take on many different responsibilities. They need to keep track of the securities the fund buys and sells, their portfolio performance presentation, and marketing the Ram Fund.

“Their grade isn’t based on how well the Ram Fund does,” emphasized McLeavey. “It’s based on four pivotal criteria: teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, and presentation. Their biggest project is the weekly research that prepares them for their final presentation at Fidelity Investments in Smithfield. The presentation is a cornerstone in the finance field. Finance professionals present to their teams on a weekly basis,” he said.

In preparation for their presentations, Imondi from Johnston, advises the students: “When presenting, you need to show these professionals that you have done a great deal of in-depth research and sell your idea.”

The Ram Fund students develop a solid foundation for future careers in money management and are well prepared to apply for the Chartered Financial Analyst or the Certified Financial Planning programs. The students also may join a LinkedIn group of Ram Fund class alumni as an outlet for advice and to further their career networking.

When asked where he sees the Ram Fund in the future, McLeavey says he would like to do more work online. Instead of having just 15 students in the classroom, he would like to have more online participation by others. With great faculty and motivated students, the Ram Fund is likely to continue its growth at URI.

The Ram Fund involves team effort not only on the part of the students but also from many others at the university. Each year, Sarah Lobdell ’96 of Wakefield, senior director of development for the College arranges for the Ram Fund Class to visit with Boston and New York alumni and coordinates with students to represent the Ram Fund at the Money Management Institute Annual Conference. College of Business Academic Advisor Kathy Conlon of West Kingston suggests the class to promising students and Kathleen Jackson of Middletown head of career development helps students prepare their resumes for the Ram Fund Presentation Book. URI Alumni Association Executive Director Michele Nota of Jamestown, and Assistant Director Cathy Hanrahan of North Kingstown, help to coordinate the fund’s alumni and Fidelity interface.

The URI College of Business Administration, with more than 2,000 undergraduate students and 350 graduate students, has served as the leader in business education, research, and outreach for the State of Rhode Island since it was founded in 1923. It is the first accredited business school in Rhode Island (1969) and has the first accredited accounting program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Northeast (1993).

Joshua Reyes, an intern in the University’s Department of Marketing and Communication, wrote this relea