Goldman Sachs. Raymond James. JPMorgan Chase. If you’ve ever wondered what brings these nationally recognized firms to our liberal arts college on the coast, look no further than the School of Business Investment Program.

Thanks to a transformative gift from College of Charleston parents Steve and Maureen Kerrigan, the School of Business established the investment program in 2013 as an experiential learning course where, each semester, students manage a portfolio of more than a quarter million dollars in securities of their choosing, all the while developing top-notch professional skills.

The program has seen approximately 140 students and seven cohorts since its inception eight years ago. As a result, a tight-knit network of high-performing alumni who work for nationally and locally prominent firms has formed.

The program’s goal has always been to turn textbook knowledge into a practical application that fuels successful careers. But that doesn’t mean the program hasn’t had to change with the times. Much like the investment industry, the program has evolved right alongside it.

“We can never be satisfied in this business,” says Mark Pyles, professor of finance and director of the program. “The program is completely different now than when we first started.”

In the beginning, there was only a value-based equity fund. Now, it has added both private equity and quantitative funds (software driven). Nearly a decade in, the program is also keenly aware of its competitive edge.

“We may not be able to out-tech or out-quant some of our competitor schools, but what we can do is out-communicate and produce young professionals who can think multidimensionally,” says Pyles. “Ultimately, we have kids you want to work with.”

Soft skills such as communication, intellectual flexibility and working on a team – paired with relevant and high-impact technical skills – make the difference in one of the world’s most competitive industries. Students leave the program more than capable of competing for the best jobs industry has to offer.

“Solid presentation skills and knowing how to get in front of a group of people is just as important as the knowledge you bring to the table,” says Steve Kerrigan, an involved donor and mentor who sits on the program’s advisory board. “All of these things come together.”

And, as the program has found its footing, its growing alumni network is paying it back by paying it forward.

“I get a call almost daily from a graduate who wants to share opportunities for students,” says Pyles. “We now have former students interviewing current students. They have done well, and they are
coming back.”

Now, many alumni take part in the same recruiting process they went through and appreciate being able to further the relationship between their employer and their alma mater.

Today, the 2020–21 Investment Society – the program’s eighth cohort – boasts 21 students majoring in areas such as finance, math, accounting and international business. And just like the students before them, once they graduate, they will be equipped with the interpersonal skills, technical ability and network that will make them the most qualified in the room – all while representing the College of Charleston.

That is what you call coming from good stock.

Photo by Leslie McKellar. Image taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.