By Malachi Petersen '17 B.A., '18 M.P.A.
For many first-year students at the University of South Dakota, choosing a major, much less a specialization within a major, is sometimes a difficult and arduous task. Nowhere is this truer than within USD’s Beacom School of Business where business students have 10 different business-related majors they can choose from for possible career paths.
Sam Giessinger was among this group of wide-eyed and slightly overwhelmed freshmen in the fall of 2015, so he decided it couldn’t hurt to tag along with his fraternity friends to a meeting of the Beacom School of Business’ Coyote Capital Management (CCM) group on campus. The organization managed university investments, but other than that, Giessinger said he didn’t know much about the group or about stocks for that matter.
“I had no idea about anything related to investments or stocks or anything like that,” he said.
During that first meeting, Giessinger listened as other students presented their research on various stocks and advised on whether or not they thought the stocks were doing well enough to warrant further investment from the organization. As he listened to the presentations, he became more and more interested in the work CCM was doing. Pretty soon he was regularly coming to meetings and participating in the group’s activities.
Now a junior finance major and a senior member of CCM’s executive team, Giessinger leads CCM’s diversified industrial sector — managing seven other students and keeping the group up-to-date with the goings on of companies such as 3M and GE.
The group has given him the confidence and experience needed to be competitive when interviewing for prestigious internships, as well as helped him develop professional skills such as public speaking he says.
“Since I’m presenting to 70 people every week, it’s helped with my speaking skills and taught me how to get up there and talk in front of people which is a skill I’ll use my whole life,” he said.
Giessinger interned for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in the spring semester of this year and is now looking ahead to his senior year and potentially enrolling in a Master of Business Administration program after graduation. After he finishes his schooling, he said he would like to go into banking or some other investment-related field.
Giessinger’s story of academic and professional success is similar to that of other students who have become involved in CCM over the years at USD since the group’s founding.
The student-managed investment fund is designed to give students hands-on experience as money managers. The fund was started with a $10,000 donation from Larry Ness of First Dakota National Bank in December 2001. Through additional contributions from various donors as well as cooperation from Beacom School of Business International Programs and the USD Foundation, CCM now manages assets in excess of $2 million.
Every year, a small group of students from CCM travels to New York City to a student managed portfolio competition at the Global Asset Management Education (G.A.M.E.) III Forum hosted by Quinnipiac University. While in the city they also meet with USD alumni within the financial sector, learning how to navigate the cutthroat world of business negotiations and job interviews while networking with the movers and shakers of the financial industry. In March 2018, the group took first place at the forum in the Undergraduate Core Portfolio category.
Sophia Lima, a sophomore accounting major at USD, who will be interning with Deloitte this summer, and the president of CCM, said the organization is a one-of-a-kind group on campus, allowing its members the hands-on experience to practice and improve upon the material they learn in the classroom.
“Especially if someone is interested in anything involved in business, specifically accounting and financing, CCM is the best student organization to get involved with,” Lima said. “You develop both soft and hard skills when you’re a part of CCM. By soft skills, I mean communication, public speaking, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking — all of these things that employers are looking for in individuals right off the bat you get to develop those in CCM from day one.”
CCM’s success, Lima says, would not be possible without the continued support from USD, the Beacom School of Business, and the USD Foundation.
“The USD Foundation is a really big one who has given us money in the past to manage for them and that’s really cool,” she said. “It’s not just that we’re managing money, but it’s also like we have clients. Once a year we go and present to the Foundation and tell them how we’ve been doing, ‘this is how we’ve structured our organization, here’s operations, here’s financial performance, here’s an outlook on the future’ — it’s just a really good experience.”
Christine Tjelmeland, chief financial officer for the USD Foundation, said she believes CCM is an excellent source for students to use to become more familiar with the world of investments and the organization in and of itself has “done really well from a performance standpoint.”
“They basically act as an investment manager,” she said. “They buy and sell stocks within the funds that they have available. Those funds are then incorporated as with any other active manager that we have managing funds with the portfolio into our other funds. Those are then distributed across our endowment portfolio.”
Tjelmeland said CCM is unique in the fact that the USD Foundation doesn’t oversee the group or direct the students within the organization on how to invest funds. '
“This is a real-world experience,” she said. “They’re actually managing dollars in an investment portfolio which is amazing for the students to see what is happening in the market and how to evaluate which stocks they buy and which stocks they sell.” This experience is invaluable in the long-term, as the students are able to then bring that experience to bear in job interviews and on their resumes.
Rita Stange, a junior finance major and business analytics minor who became involved in CCM a little later in her college career, said the group has helped her realize an interest in health care. It wasn’t until she was assigned to the health care sector in CCM that she began to see the impact the industry has on the economy and became interested in the field as a potential career path. This summer she interned at a clinic with the goal of helping its administrators to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the clinic’s services.
After college, Stange said she hopes to continue working in the health care sector and using the skills learned in CCM and her different hospitals or even other business in health care optimize where they’re inefficient or losing money,” she said.
Thanks to CCM, she said she feels she has a competitive advantage when it comes to getting a job after graduation.
“I never realized just how much spending does happen within the health care industry and so I think that the organization kind of helped me realize a part of the economy that I never had interest in before and I also think it kind of gave me a competitive advantage in interviews for internships and things like that as well,” she said. “I think it helps you present yourself in a better way, gives you confidence and improves your leadership skills.”