1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
From the outside, Room 109 inside the University of Wyoming’s bright, spacious and state-of-the-art College of Business (COB) looks like any ordinary classroom. It’s when you open the door and walk inside that you realize it’s not.
Your eyes are immediately drawn to the four, 42-inch flat-screen televisions mounted on the back wall.
You see a row of clocks showing the times in New York, London, Moscow and Beijing.
Glance to the front of the room and you see two large projection screens.
And, no, your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s another flat screen, this one of the 60-inch variety, on the room’s southern wall.
Then you see the 12 student workstations, each equipped with a top-of-the-line computer and not one screen but two.
That’s not all. Behind you, on the north wall, is yet another 60-inch TV.
Add a Blu-ray player, microphones and a sound system and this room is like no other space on the university campus in Laramie.
“I was kinda shocked the first time I walked in here,” says Matt Stewart, a senior business administration major from Rawlins. “It was like, ‘Wow!’”
“The first time I went in there, I felt like I couldn’t be in a better place to personally further my expertise in trading and investing,” says Cameron Nazminia, president of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW) and a senior finance major from Denver. “The room is great. It provides a different perspective on business and finance that truly sets our College of Business apart from others.”
The type of learning that happens inside COB 109 is just as unique as the room itself.
There are no lectures. No quizzes. No assigned homework. Who has time for any of that stuff when each student is responsible for making real-life investment decisions while managing money -- real money -- allocated to the College of Business from the state of Wyoming and the UW Foundation.
Under the watchful eye of Walt G. Werner, the university’s Chamberlain Visiting Professor of Free Enterprise, UW senior-level business students gain hands-on training in investing and portfolio management with an emphasis on long-term investments. The experience is as real as the money. Each of Werner’s two 12-student classes oversee a seven-figure stock portfolio, much like financial professionals do on a daily basis at a large investment bank or a mutual fund.
“I absolutely love it,” says Elyse Newman, a senior finance major from Golden, Colo. “My dad has a master’s in finance and he’s just amazed that I have this opportunity in college. What other university has this opportunity to deal with a seven-figure portfolio? “It’s so different than other classes, where, hypothetically, they might say you have $50,000. We actually have $50,000,” she adds. “This is what you’d be doing in the real world, and you can get that type of training right here at the University of Wyoming.”
Which is why Werner expects students to treat his class as if it were a job. They are to dress professionally, research their stocks, provide insight and analysis, offer advice and work together as a team.
“What sticks out to me, versus other business classes, is Walt always asks you, ‘Why?’” says Michael Reimer, a graduate student from Newcastle and a former Werner student. “He wants common sense answers and that’s why he doesn’t just let you get away with textbook answers. He wants to know why and he wants you to explain why.”
Adds Stewart, “We might have less ‘assigned’ homework but we’d better be following our stocks every day and be ready when we come to class. If we don’t, Walt definitely gets on you. He’ll put you on the spot, and that motivates you to know what you’re talking about or else you’re gonna be embarrassed in front of the class.”
Another student, Kimberly Kuhn, recalls an instance in which Werner quizzed one of her classmates, seeking advice on whether to buy a particular stock. “He asked, ‘Are you sure?’ and the student was like, ‘Yeah, I think so,’’” says Kuhn, an agriculture business major and finance minor from Cheyenne. “Then Walt says, ‘What if your grade depends on it, A or F, are you that confident?’” Kuhn cracks a smile and continues, “All of the sudden, the kid was like, ‘Oh no, I’m not that confident.’”
She adds, “We don’t have a final and we don’t take tests, but every day you walk in there, you have to be professional and you have to be ready to defend your reasonings. We have to treat it like it’s a job.”
A day in COB 109 -- also known as the Trading Room -- is fast-paced, frenetic and intense.
Seated in the middle of the 12-station horseshoe, Werner quizzes his students, wanting to know how they reached their conclusions, calculations and answers. Most importantly, though, Werner wants to know why. Why buy? Why sell? Why keep? Why did the price drop? Why did it go up? After one student reported his stock had increased by $4, Werner asks, “You still love it?” “I still like it,” the student responds. “Why?”
A moment later, after another student reports a $10 drop in one of his stocks, Werner tells him, “If I were your customer, I’d be on the phone screaming at you.” Then, he adds, “Why is it down?” Next, Werner grills another student about one of his stocks, wondering aloud if the class should sell shares. The student doesn’t want to sell and tells Werner, “I like where it’s sitting.” “But, why? I want you to tell me why.”
Werner’s students, though, don’t mind the steady dose of questions. After all, they say, that’s the best way to learn.
“Walt was great at challenging us and putting us on the spot,” says Alex Kimmet, a former Werner student from Powell who now works in the corporate finance group for McKinsey and Company, a private management consulting firm in New York. “He expects a lot from his students and that’s great because it makes you think on your toes and really prepare for class every day. “I do a lot of evaluation work as part of my job now and when we’re hired by a client, I usually have a CEO or a CFO of a Fortune 500-type company asking me, ‘Why is my stock price trading here and my competitor’s stock price trading there?’ I really have to be able to dig in and find out why.”
Werner’s experience is another true asset for students. After earning degrees at the University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University and serving in the military, Werner spent 35-plus years on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he built an extensive network of contacts in the financial industry. Today, in addition to teaching at UW, Werner operates his own private consulting business and serves as director for two small hedge funds.
“My hope is that the students come away from this class with the realization that they are able to compete in the field of security analysis with anyone, anywhere,” Werner says. “They are in an atmosphere of a real, live trading situation and are actually investing real money based on their own decisions. “Running this class in a simulated trading room makes me feel that I am back in the real world of investing again,” he adds. “The major difference between my experience and the current facility is the level of sophistication that technology now provides. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the amount of progress my students attain in the 15 weeks I am with them.”
The students’ progress begins small -- “When I used to watch the news, even two years ago, I would see the ticker and be like, ‘What does that mean?’” Kuhn says with a giggle -- and only continues to grow.
Newman, for example, is now managing her own stocks, given to her at birth by her grandparents. But, she cautions, “Without this class, I don’t think I’d feel confident enough to do that.”
Then there’s UW graduates like Kimmet who have taken what they’ve learned and begun to make a name for themselves in the real world.
Werner’s list of former students also includes Derek Armah, who works at Fidelity Investments in Raleigh, N.C.; Emerald Reid Holden, who works for the U.S. Department of Defense in Denver; Michael Lucas, who works for Northwestern Mutual Life in Fort Collins, Colo.; and Justyna Podziemska, who works for the New York-based Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).
“The experience that students get at the University of Wyoming is not something that many students at other universities get,” Kimmet says. “It’s so much different managing real money than fake money. You have to answer to somebody and you have to be accountable for your decisions, and that experience and that accountability is very beneficial. “I definitely have fond memories of Walt and his class, and there’s no doubt that my experience at Wyoming has helped me in my career and my life.”
The Trading Room, which opened last fall in the newly renovated College of Business, only enhances students’ experience and learning.
As he looks around the room, Stewart says, “It’s an incredible room. The tickers are running, the stocks are running, the major news of the day is on one screen, the stocks are on another screen. It really does give you a truly professional feel.”
“Walt always proudly tells us that Wyoming is the best business school and that we aren’t just Wyoming, we ARE Wyoming,” says Kuhn. “And when you walk into the Trading Room every day and you learn from a professor and an investor like Walt, I think you figure out pretty quickly that Wyoming is the best.”