GCU three-peats in Stock Market Challenge
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
The just completed Money Week at Grand Canyon University was all about financial literacy, creating good financial habits and putting students in touch with financial professionals. The events were packed, both with information and, more importantly, students.
Then a group of eight Colangelo College of Business students showed Thursday night that they’re more than just financially literate – they’ve got a good read on how to apply it.
For the third straight year, GCU was the winner of the university division in the Stock Market Challenge, which raises money for Junior Achievement of Arizona. In fact, the two four-person teams from the University finished 1-2.
The Scottsdale event condenses two years of typical stock market fluctuations – such as President Trump announcing a tariff on steel or the market taking a sudden downturn – into two hours, and teams of college students and industry professionals react to the news by buying or selling make-believe stocks.
GCU’s Cash Cow team, with Damon Pilon, Eli Miller, Benjamin Sobek and Morgan Zerwas, increased its portfolio by nearly 80 percent and also finished in the top 10 overall in a competition that included about 50 teams of professionals.
The Colangelopes, with Jordan Sieben, Dominic Russo, George Williams and Gabrielle Unruh, finished second.
They merged their talents well, even though only half of them even knew each other when they started preparing a month ago. That’s not a lot of time to build a team, but that’s what happened.
“They’re very competitive,” said their coach for the Stock Market Challenge, CCOB instructor Mark Jacobson. “They’re watching every movement, every little blip, every little change. They really get into it.”
What Jacobson likes best about the competition is the educational aspect and how it gives students a glimpse of what the industry is all about.
The meetings to prepare for the Challenge simply were an extension of their regular coursework.
“I teach that way in my classes,” Jacobson said. “What does it mean with this news? What happens when this economic data comes out? What’s the reaction in the stock market? What’s the value of the stock, the company? If we did GDP data of this, what does that mean for this industry?”
When Jacobson debriefed them at the end of the Challenge, he wasn’t surprised to hear that it moved faster than they expected.
“I like the fact that they have to use their heads, they have to be thinking on their feet,” he said. “We’re trying to teach financial literacy, and part of it is saving for retirement, investing, knowing how it works, knowing the intricacies.
“Nowadays with everything online through an app, they don’t really get to see the activity that a market can bring. It’s a little bit of a throwback, but it’s also current in the sense that you can see the impact and how it moves.”
The Challenge is sponsored by some of the same companies that frequently come to campus to recruit. Now the students get to compete against those industry professionals.
“We use it also as a networking thing for the kids,” Jacobson said. “They get to talk to these companies and see them in action, too.”
And while most of the GCU students competing this year had never done it before, it’s not as if they’re unfamiliar with the stock market.
Pilon, for example, is president of the Finance/Economics Club and has been dabbling in stocks since he was 13. He was playing the Guitar Hero video game one day and wondered who owns it. Before long, he had bought stock in Activision.
He had a good teacher at home: His mother, Jennifer Pilon, teaches finance at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn.
“She’s always emphasized using your money to make more money,” he said.
Pilon was one of the Challenge first-timers and said of the competition, “We knew it was going to move fast, but there were a lot of unexpected events. We had to learn on the fly.”
A lot of financial literacy going on
CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb saw it as the perfect conclusion to a stretch that has included a number of significant events for students.
The list of recent speakers includes Dan Bachus, Chief Financial Officer of Grand Canyon Education, and members of the Arizona insurance industry talking about blockchain, and then Money Week has featured a financial career services panel with representatives from Vanguard, Merrill Lynch, Schwab; a Home Buyer Prep event; and a Financial Literacy event hosted by the Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships team.
The official CCOB tally is that nearly 2,000 students participated in Money Week. And then there were the eight at the Stock Market Challenge.
“I’m so happy for the students,” Gibb said. “The Finance Econ Club has done an amazing job this week hosting events and, even more importantly, driving students to the events. We expanded significantly the number of students we spoke to about financial literacy.”
Ultimately, though, it’s all about future jobs.
“I’m trying to plug these students into a job, into a career path, so they can pay it forward and bring it back,” Jacobson said. “I’ve started to see my first generation of students come back through job fairs, through events, and they’re now so excited about what’s going on here, they want to hire the next round. We want to keep that cycle going – they love this school, they’re very loyal to it. Events like this will perpetuate that.”
Then Jacobson, who has picked up in the Stock Market Challenge where Dr. Ernie Scarbrough left off before he retired, had an interesting idea:
“Maybe we’ll have an alumni Stock Market Challenge team. Bring Ernie back — he could coach it.”
Maybe GCU could win both divisions – the universities as well as the professionals. That would make this even more of a win-win.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].