Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University is bringing Wall Street to west Phoenix – and doing it, as it always does, as a force for good.
It’s what finance professor Alan Klibanoff sees as the role of the new Charles Schwab Foundation Finance Center, which opened Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The space, nestled on the first floor of the Colangelo College of Business, will be financial planning central for the college and will bring the world of finance to life for students.
The 34-seat classroom is where students will delve into a lab for the Securities Industry Essentials exam, the first exam prospective securities professionals take to get their license so they can launch their career in the industry.
“Recruiters this summer said, ‘I will hire every one of your SIE students that either takes the course or passes before they graduate because it’s the precursor to the industry,’” said Klibanoff, who worked as the Senior Vice President for JP Morgan, Citibank and Morgan Stanley before joining the college’s faculty.
The finance learning center, one of the campus’ hands-on Lopes Live Labs, is also where students will take classes, such as Introduction to Finance or Senior Portfolio Management. It is ground zero for finance club meetings and guest speakers and is where students can soak up the information scrolling on the center’s Bloomberg Terminal, a computer system chock full of real-time financial data and news feeds that light up the room like a Christmas tree.
“We’ll get them Bloomberg certified, which is the Ph.D. of knowledge” in the financial world, said Klibanoff, who emphasized that “these students have the ability to basically sit in Wall Street in Phoenix, Arizona.”
It was in 2018 that Finance Chair Mark Jacobson started building the college’s first stand-alone finance program and reached out to Charles Schwab.
“This entire partnership with Charles Schwab resulted from his leadership and vision,” said Colangelo College of Business Dean Dr. Randy Gibb.
He added at Thursday's opening how “Charles Schwab was on campus sponsoring content, teaching and supporting testing, and then that led to internships and jobs, which led to more teaching, testing and job opportunities, as well as growing the Charles Schwab brand on campus.”
In 2020, the Charles Schwab Foundation committed to funding the Certified Financial Planner program at GCU, which will launch in the fall of 2022.
And the foundation, in partnership with Schwab Advisor Services, awarded the college a multiyear grant to support awareness of the Registered Investment Advisor profession. The grant funds the finance center and builds the college's financial education offerings. The college also acquired a subscription to a Bloomberg Terminal, established collegewide Wall Street Journal access for more than 17,000 students, is funding scholarships and hired finance professor Dr. Joy Clady.
“Our objective,” Gibb said, “is to take the GCU Finance Program to the next level. We want to graduate our ‘Colangelopes’ into the talent pipeline for the next generation of Registered Investment Advisors.”
During the grand opening ceremony, GCU President Brian Mueller celebrated the business college’s faculty for their dedication to their students. The finance center is the latest example of that.
“The difference here is that our professors get behind their students’ initiatives in a major way,” said Mueller. “The culture here is to try to figure out who the students are and try to figure out what their goals are, what their dreams are, what their ambitions are, and then get behind them.”
But that dedication goes beyond educating students and helping them move on to their first job. It’s about supporting them in their faith, too.
“What really distinguishes this student body is certainly their academic potential,” said Mueller. “But it’s also their commitment to the Christian faith. … It’s why we now have 20 advisory boards and 500 companies represented on those advisory boards -- because people desperately want access to our graduates.”
Mueller also stressed the importance of the two foundational ideas that make America the best country in the world: the free market system and Christian worldview.
“You put those two things together and you unleash human potential in a way that no other economic system does,” he said.
Bernie Clark, Schwab Managing Director and Head of Advisor Services, also sees that human potential. He said he has talked to many college students who have told him that going into finance is more than just a career path for them.
“They tell me they’re participating because they watched their parents struggle, and they want to help them think about the future. … They want to go on to help their fellow man, which is so important to continue to do.”
Clark added that he hopes the finance center can help tap into the talents of GCU’s diverse campus.
What’s unique about GCU’s Schwab Foundation Finance Center, he said, “is your population of students – I think it’s the diversity that can be found here.”
The University’s student body is 28% Hispanic and 7% African American, and more than 40% of students are students of color.
“I know the Schwab Foundation has a big goal to get diversification into the financial planning (world),” Mueller said.
Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, also one of the event speakers, shared the findings of the state’s Task Force on Financial Literacy. Its members want to ensure students understand money management from a young age, so a law was created in 2019 that requires Arizona high schools to teach financial education before graduation. The task force discovered, too, that it’s not only young people that need to be educated in money management, but senior citizens, too, and those on government subsidies.
She spoke directly to students about internships offered by her office: “When you are ready to go, I’ve got a job for you, I believe, because I want people of character, people who stand first with God, and you are a servant. It says servant leadership right on the walls when you walk into this building.”
GCU students Adrianna Romero and David Fonseca, who interned with Charles Schwab over the summer, expressed how the finance center will be an incredible asset to students.
Romero said not every college offers access to top-of-the-line financial tools such as the Bloomberg Terminal.
She watched the recent GameStop stock market phenomenon transpire and the rise of online investing apps that are popular with college students. She sees the Schwab Foundation Finance Center as yet one more tool in students’ financial arsenal.
“Obviously, they’re not analysts, they’re not traders, they don’t have the education. This tool allows them to be educated before they go and make a speculative decision, such as a meme stock or foreign currency or cryptocurrency,” she said.
“All of what’s happening now is just hype, per se,” added Fonseca of what happened with GameStop. The campus’ new finance center will go beyond the hype. “When we dive deep into it, you can actually understand the fundamentals of each investment. So that’s the benefit of this” – to enhance any student’s analytical abilities.
More than feeding Arizona’s financial talent pipeline, Gibb sees the finance center and its partnership with Schwab as aligning with the University’s core values.
GCU is educating students and helping them get jobs, but that's not all. “We want to highlight how business is a force for good,” Gibb said. “… We are all here living out our faith by serving others.”
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
Fox 10: GCU opens new finance center
GCU Today: Schwab Foundation Learning Center coming to GCU
GCU press release: Colangelo College of Business creates Charles Schwab Foundation Learning Center
AZ BigMedia: GCU establishes Charles Schwab Foundation Learning Center