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College of Business students achieve top results in TVA Investment Challenge

By Geoff Cantrelltva challenge

The WCU team, from left to right, Earl Styne, Cameron Forbis, Grant Schaffner, Sydny Young, assistant professor Leobardo Diosdado, Lindsey Elias, Dalton Marler and Alison Carballo.

A Western Carolina University team of College of Business students proved their financial moxie with real money in an investment competition sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The team was awarded some $12,000 for their efforts in 2020, outpacing the S&P 500 Total Return Index for the calendar year, despite tremendous market volatility brought on by COVID-19.  

The TVA Investment Challenge provides hands-on experience in financial asset management, with student teams actively managing stock portfolios for the federal corporate agency, designing long-term investment strategies and selecting investments under the guidance of faculty members and within established guidelines.

“The year 2020 was difficult and to see the Investment Challenge teams overcome adversity to outperform trained market professionals is exceptional,” said Tammy Wilson, TVA vice president, treasurer and chief risk officer. At the end of the year, assets managed in the Investment Challenge had grown to $14 million primarily through positive investment returns. Investment Challenge teams have earned $1.3 million in performance awards for their schools over the life of the program.

With 24 universities from seven states participating, the Investment Challenge exemplifies TVA’s legacy of service, said Wilson. “And it’s an excellent program for students to interact with working professionals and gain practical experience by managing real portfolios with faculty oversight and appropriate guardrails,” she said.

The WCU team was Earl Styne, Grant Schaffner, Sydny Young, Dalton Marler, Alison Carballo, Lindsey Elias and Nicholas Forbis. Team adviser was Leobardo Diosdado, assistant professor of finance. 

WCU has participated in the Investment Challenge since the program was originated by TVA in 1998, guided by College of Business professor Grace Allen, who passed away Aug. 19 after a brief battle with cancer. In her memory, TVA announced this week a donation has been made in her memory to the Grace Allen Scholarship Fund at WCU.

“For those of us who knew Grace, she was a joy to be around, with a very kind and encouraging demeanor, and she was such a great ambassador for this program,” said Ben Duby, TVA’s senior program manager of corporate investments. “I can speak directly to her passion in working with students as she would take a group to NYC annually to visit the New York Stock Exchange. During those trips, I would assist her by leveraging different investment manager relationships that they could spend time visiting while in the area. I knew that request was coming each year and would be thinking who I could send her to next. I know Grace placed an enormous value on this relationship and the opportunities it could provide her students…  She will greatly be missed.”

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