Kogod School of Business

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For Kogod’s Investment Fund Students, Learning is Collaborative

Students in the Kogod School of Business’s SMIF and REIT courses reflect on the inaugural SMIF-REIT Analytical Conference and their experiences in the courses.



The weekend is the perfect time to relax, enjoy some free time, and prepare for the week ahead. For members of Kogod’s two student-run investment programs, it’s also an opportunity to spend time on campus to learn from each other and build upon their finance skills. On January 27 and 28, sixty-five students in the Student-Managed Investment Fund (SMIF) and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) gathered for the inaugural SMIF-REIT Analytical Conference. Throughout the weekend, the two funds’ current teams gave presentations, participated in workshops, and heard from program alums who took what they learned into their post-graduate finance careers. Though attending the conference was not mandatory, nearly every student in the course showed up for the entire weekend—an achievement that Kogod student and REIT fund manager Lily Oelschlager said is a testament to the teams’ commitment to these programs.

“We were so impressed by the fact that almost every single person involved in these programs showed up on time and stayed the whole time on both days—that’s a lot to ask from people who want to do other things with their weekend!” Oelschlager said. “It really is such an incredible demonstration of the passion that these students have for finance and research.”

The conference was born out of a desire to make both SMIF and REIT more accessible to students just starting their investing journey. The courses are open to students at any academic level and in any program, and the funds’ veterans know firsthand that getting started can be intimidating, especially when you’re going in without experience in the field.

“Our goal with the conference was to make it a little bit easier to transition into the programs so that you’re not spending the first couple of weeks trying to explore on your own. You get the baseline, and then you’re able to use your creative outlets as you see fit,” said Katie Sartori, a fund manager for SMIF. “We wanted to have this conference early in the semester so we could break down that barrier, so it doesn’t seem as scary.”

As a first-year student, SMIF junior analyst Ruth Pietrzykowski came out of the conference with plenty of takeaways to guide her through the course. Between presentations from upper-level students and conversations with SMIF alumnus Jacob Brawley about the real-world applications of the program, Pietrzykowski feels newly prepared to work with the funds.

“The conference was beneficial, as someone so new to everything,” she said. “It made us all feel much more confident in the rest of the semester, with everything we learned.”

As a junior analyst, Pietrzykowski works with a portfolio manager to develop pitches for the fund. She attends all of the fund’s meetings, works closely with other students, and will eventually take on additional responsibilities as she continues her finance education. Students with more experience, such as Sartori and Oelschlager, can serve as fund managers, whose duties include selecting the fund’s management team, integrating new analysts, and maintaining the investment portfolio. Though both SMIF and REIT are supported by finance professors Tim Timura and Catalin Stefanescu, the students handle everything from organizing class discussions to deciding where to invest their funds. The fund’s performance over the semester determines the students’ grades, providing even more motivation to ensure they make well-informed choices.

A lot of universities in the country have investment clubs, but none of them are as student-run as AU’s is.”


Zac Aghdaei

Fund Manager, Student-Managed Investment Fund

“Many don’t use real money, and most are driven by the professor or the instructor. Professor Timura does a fantastic job of enabling this organization to be truly run by the students,” said Zac Aghdaei, a SMIF fund manager.

Students in the courses know that the idea of such a hands-on course with real financial implications can be intimidating; the steep learning curve and focus on collaboration can both take some getting used to. SMIF fund manager Ricardo Sarraf Aboumrad emphasizes the importance of coming into the courses ready to learn and work hard to get the most out of the program.

“It’s glamorous, and it’s very fun if you’re into it, but it’s not easy,” he said. “I’ve seen people come into the program and come out the same, and I’ve seen people come in and come out completely changed—myself included. You get as much out of it as you put in.”

What Sarraf Aboumrad has gotten out of SMIF has been more than worth the hard work. Not only has he gained an in-depth and hands-on understanding of investment and finance as a whole, but he’s also found people he enjoys sharing that experience with.

“I’ve found a group of like-minded people here who are driven, curious, and ready to do what it takes to keep learning in an environment where everyone learns something new every day,” he said.

Whether it’s the experience itself, the friends made along the way, or a combination of both, SMIF and REIT students alike know that they’ll take their time in the course with them long after they graduate from Kogod. Aghdaei credits the program with equipping him with the necessary skills to succeed at his internship with a hedge fund this past summer and hopes that it will enable him to work there after he finishes school.

“I really owe SMIF everything,” he said. “The connections I made that let me get that opportunity were made in SMIF, and the fact that I had a reasonable understanding and in-depth dialogue with the people on the trading floor was because of my experience with SMIF.”

Gabriel Cortes, the director of research for SMIF, also credits the course with preparing him for a career in a completely unique way. The collaborative nature of SMIF allows him to ask questions and learn from his peers, a skill he’s found exceptionally helpful as he brings his understanding of finance beyond theory.

“SMIF really prepares you for the work of going into the industry,” he said. “It’s taught me that there are always competing ideas, and you have to ensure you’re bringing what you want to do to the forefront. SMIF has taught me how to interact with people and to be in the right mindset to present my ideas.”

The skills learned in these investment funds extend beyond the immediate world of finance. Oeschlager, who hopes to work in the nonprofit or legislative space after graduation, is confident that her combined business and political background will benefit her no matter where she goes.

The knowledge base I’ve accumulated here is second to none. Whatever field I work in, I have a great foundation in research and in finance and economics that can only be an advantage for me.”


Lily Oelschlager

Fund Manager, Real Estate Investment Trust

SMIF and REIT are open to any students interested in learning about finance and investing in a unique, fully experiential way. To learn more, Aghdaei recommends reaching out to Professors Timura and Stefanescu, talking with students in the program, or even coming by to check out the courses firsthand.

“To people who are interested, I say—come sit in on a meeting!” he urged. “We’re happy to have you there. Ask questions and talk to the managers because we want to talk to you, and we want you in the program.”