UMass President Marty Meehan participated in a student investment finance class and visited the Venture Development Center Monday night, as he concluded his daylong tour across the UMass system on UMass Boston’s harborside campus.
As his visit came to a close, Meehan had high praise for the students, alumni, and faculty he met.
“I’m inspired by all of you," he said.
Meehan covered 325 miles and made stops at all five UMass campuses as he launched his inauguration week by highlighting the achievements of students, faculty, and staff throughout the UMass system with “Five Campuses, One Mission.” Watch a video from the visit.
In Professor of Finance Atreya Chakraborty’s Asset Management Practicum, Meehan spoke with College of Management graduate students about how classes like this one can help close the skills gap.
Chakraborty started the course four years ago with $25,000 for students to invest and one Bloomberg terminal. The class now has a dozen terminals and $89,000. The professor is looking for funding mechanisms to help build the student managed fund to $2 million, with any additional profit going toward a scholarship fund for first-generation students.
Students manage real money in live time, gain portfolio management and financial analysis experience, present their cases, write annual reports, and network with contacts in financial services.
“I tell them, as you go into the business world, there are no solution manuals,” Chakraborty said. “All I can give you is a fundamental set of skills which can solve for you any problem you encounter.”
It has worked for Chris Reece, who aspires to be an accountant at a nonprofit.
“Five years ago, I was packing boxes in a warehouse, and struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “This has given me the ability to go back to the job market and be competitive.”
Meehan told the class that since taking office in July, he has met with the CEOs of financial companies in the Boston area. He said he would speak about this class, and see if companies may be interested in investing in financial literacy programs.
“We need more private funding,” he said.
Meehan also visited the Venture Development Center, UMass Boston’s startup incubator created to support technology and life science entrepreneurs.
He met students like Haydy George and Emal Lesha, two Biology students who helped author a paper published in Science magazine, and several entrepreneurial students and alumni who are working at the region’s most prestigious startups.
Hacer Demiroers ’11 is director of operations at Localytics, one of the fastest growing startups in the region. She credits her success with the help she received in the VDC.
“UMass is a diamond,” she told Meehan. “It’s a hidden diamond. ... I’m glad I had the experience and opportunity.”
Meehan said he wanted to see the university system continue to grow its research and entrepreneurship.
“Cutting-edge universities are getting students to focus on entrepreneurship,” he said. “It’s critically important given the economic trends today.”
“There’s so much talent here. You can set the prototype for what UMass ought to be doing,” Meehan told the crowd.
VDC founder and executive director William Brah found Meehan to be energized by the group of students and graduates, even after a long day.
“After all, their aspirations are just like his,” Brah said. “I especially appreciated his remark, ‘We need more places like the VDC,’ when asked how to make the entire university system more entrepreneurial.”
Meehan said that as the first undergraduate alum to lead the UMass system, his passion for UMass and its students is unmatched.
“I will never ever compromise the quality, never give in, never let anybody think that it’s just OK because it’s UMass,” he said. “I want the best. I want everyone who graduates here to compete with folks no matter where they graduate from, because I did.”