GCU students profit from Stock Market Challenge
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Watching Justin Zimmer’s enthusiasm Thursday night at the Junior Achievement of Arizona’s ninth annual Stock Market Challenge at the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale was like being on the sidelines with a football coach whose team was playing in a big game.
While other participants among the 53 teams mostly stayed at their tables to plot strategy, the Grand Canyon University junior, appropriately attired in his purple dress shirt, was a cyclone of activity as he ran back and forth to check the video boards displaying stock information. At one point, he came out of nowhere just as one of his “GCU Money” teammates was about to make a transaction with one of the “traders” who were roaming the floor.
“Tim! No! Don’t do it! Stay!” Zimmer shouted.
And then it happened. Just before the end of the competition, Zimmer and his teammates, all from the Colangelo College of Business, bought low on one of the fictitious stocks on the board and watched it take off. Their “net worth” kept rising, and when the final standings were in they had jumped to an impressive 17th overall in the competition and second among the eight college teams. The other GCU team, “GCU Uptrending,” hovered around 15th most of the night and finished a still outstanding 21st overall and fourth among the colleges.
Was Zimmer excited? He might as well have been a football coach giving his postgame locker room speech after a thrilling victory.
“We just did so good!” he bellowed while hugging everyone in sight. “I told you guys! Woo! Let’s go! Let’s go! My heart is like boom, boom, boom! I’ve never been so pumped in my life! It’s you guys! Team!”
His teammates — juniors Judd Stickney and Janel Davis and sophomore Tim Long — were almost as fired up, and with good reason. Just like the GCU Uptrending team of seniors Maurice Hamilton and Priscilla Sanchez and juniors Amanda Crozier and Braddon Deak, they had virtually no experience in this sort of thing and, unlike teams from local companies, couldn’t use real money to improve their totals.
The event is a major fundraiser for Junior Achievement, which aims to help prepare young people for success in a global economy, and some of the teams simply bought their way into a high “net worth” by making sizable donations during the competition if their total needed a boost. The only thing the college kids had to rely on was their hustle.
“What I get a kick out of is that each student is engaged 100 percent,” said Dr. Ernie Scarbrough, GCU’s associate professor of finance who was shepherding the students through the event.
Scarbrough is a former investment adviser and portfolio manager, so he has intimate knowledge of what the real thing looks like.
“You know what’s funny about this? When you do this with real money, it’s just as intense but you don’t get to grin as much,” he said.
Each team started with a net worth of $500,000 and had to analyze stock listings for wacky company names such as Sunbucks Coffee, Lockhart Aerospace, Xeroz and WPS and intermittent announcements about important events in the world — an explosion at a plant, a strike beginning and then being settled, a drop in the unemployment rate, fighting in the Middle East and then a ceasefire — to decide how to proceed. “Some news is valuable, some isn’t,” Scarbrough said.
Scarbrough had spent the last couple of weeks preparing the students for what they would experience at the event. There were two 40-minute trading sessions, and each fictitious “day” was 80 seconds long. With the frenetic pace, it passed quickly.
“I want them to see how business people can compete and have fun,” he said. “This is all based on emotions. And we know what happens with emotions.”
Emotions were running high among the GCU competitors before, during and after the event. Especially after, when they saw what they had accomplished.
“I had so much fun,” Davis said. “This is great.”
And what did they learn?
“Deviating from your role sometimes makes it a little tricky,” said Deak, referencing how each team member had a specific task. “That’s why we fell a little bit.”
But most telling was Hamilton’s reaction. He said he “kind of knew” that he might want to do this for a living, but when it was all over there was no question.
“This is my passion. This is what I want to do with my life,” he said. “This is a blessed opportunity, and I’m thankful for it.”
To which Zimmer no doubt would say, “Woo!”
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.