Applied Portfolio Management Program celebrates two decades of hands-on learning.
Before Dean Johnson was appointed dean of the School of Business and Economics (SBE) at Michigan Tech, he was a PhD student, interviewing for his first faculty position—with a very clear vision. “Right away, I intended to establish a portfolio management program for students,” says Johnson, who was hired on as faculty in 1996 and became dean of SBE in 2016.
Back then, giving college students a large sum of real money to manage in financial markets was a particularly novel—and perhaps risky—idea, and Michigan Tech was just the place.
Hailing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, which boasts one of the oldest student investment programs, Johnson laid the foundations for the then nameless and fund-less investment program during his first year on campus. He recruited undergraduate business students and pitched the concept to campus and donors.
Built It. They Came.
The very first supporters of the would-be Applied Portfolio Management Program (APMP) include Dewaine Olson ’62, SBE National Advisory Board member, and Hugh Makens ’61, member of the Dean’s Advisory Council. Through their initial donations, the pair made the launch of APMP possible. APMP further evolved in 2003 with a commitment of support from APMP board member Joe Dancy ’76, and wife and lawyer Vicky, who sponsored the LSGI Trading Lab. Located inside the Academic Office Building, the space is a technology hub for APMP students.
"Teamwork and collaboration are pivotal in today's workforce, and APMP helped me develop those skills."
In the 20 years since APMP’s founding, teams of Huskies have grown the portfolio into one of the top 50 student funds in the nation, now valued at nearly $2 million. Students in the program have opened the Nasdaq Stock Exchange and become regulars on CNBC. And although APMP is a for-credit class, the intensive experience often becomes much more of a commitment—and reward.
Experience of a Lifetime
“The concept is centered on students managing money, but it’s also an entrepreneurial endeavor,” says Johnson. “They are founding a new firm, the product of which is portfolio management services.” Students fulfill various roles ranging from president to marketing officer.
For spirited competition, the cohort splits into two teams—gold and black. Throughout the year, students work on presentation skills, attracting the client, and getting comfortable taking calculated risks. They report to an advisory board but have full control over their investment philosophy.
Teams are intentionally multidisciplinary, comprised of a blend of business and STEM majors, and there is also a junior-level apprenticeship program.
“APMP students have access to modern portfolio management tools and theories to produce detailed buy reports,” says Johnson. “This is much more sophisticated than a stock-picking club.”
Feedback from employers and graduates working in the industry indicates that APMP experience is what clinches their pivotal first job. “Industry views this almost like work experience,” Johnson affirms. So, who gets in the class? That’s another benefit to being at Michigan Tech: “You are not vying for a spot amongst thousands of other students. In the School of Business and Economics, if you really want to do something, you will be able to. There are many more opportunities per student than in larger business schools.”
APMP Grads—Where Are They Now?
Vice President, New York City
Amanda (Vogt) Conner ʼ10 works for S.N. Phelps & Co., the investment office of the late Stan Phelps, APMP portfolio investor and pioneer of the Wall Street junk bond market, a career she embarked on right after graduation. Conner says that APMP took learning beyond textbooks to applied strategies in real-world circumstances. “Without APMP, I would have never had the opportunity to work where I do.”
Deputy Treasurer, San Francisco
Since graduating from Michigan Tech, Tim Bailey ʼ04 has worked at large hedge funds. He is a director with a diversified global investment manager, focusing on liquidity management, FX and rates hedging, counterparty risk, and credit facilities. Bailey credits APMP for providing him a base of financial knowledge that he continues to draw upon. “Teamwork and collaboration are pivotal in today’s workforce, and APMP helped me develop those skills.”
Chief Investment Officer, Hong Kong
Maggie Chen ʼ04 oversees a global multi-asset portfolio. Prior to her current role, she managed a large US equities portfolio for China’s Sovereign Wealth Fund SAFE Investment Company. According to Chen, APMP was her first real-world exposure to portfolio management and she still turns to the people she met through the program for mentorship when in need of advice.
Senior Business Analyst, Minneapolis
Donzell Dixson’s ʼ14 experience and degree in finance led to a tech-focused role with Target Headquarters. Through mentoring and with a hunger to learn more, Dixson delved into software engineering roles, crediting Michigan Tech for merging business with technology. His time at Tech also influenced his desire to explore entrepreneurial pursuits—the former MiCup Scholar founded Dixson Dynamics, a business that motivates and inspires others to achieve their full potential.
Senior Team Manager, San Francisco
Annette Felton ʼ11 spent the first five years of her career forecasting companies’ revenues and expenses to reflect expected product demand and strategic initiatives. Today, she sensitizes those same revenue and expense forecasts based on hypothetical unfavorable economic scenarios published by the Federal Reserve. This capital stress-testing plays an important role in ensuring sufficient capital is available to firms’ clients in the event of a recession or financial crisis.
Regional Business Development and Planning Manager, Switzerland
Flavio Macorig took part in APMP in 2003 during an exchange program with the University of Lausanne. The experience, he says, had a big impact not only on his now 15-year career in finance for a multinational company, but also on his personal portfolio.
Institutional Equity Research Sales, Chicago
In Jessica Chlopek’s ʼ07 role with William Blair, research, sales, and trading converge. From her Chicago-based trading desk, she helps advise multimillion- and billion-dollar institutional-level funds that are based in one of the financial capitals of the world—NYC. “When I pitch a stock, I think about all of the investment tools and strategies that Dean Johnson taught us,” Chlopek says. “I talk with intelligent investors every day, and the APMP program helped me to build a strong foundation for these interactions.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.