The fall 2006 incoming class of Smith School freshmen was the
first to participate in the Freshman Fellows Program, students’
initial opportunity to get involved in the school’s Undergraduate
Fellows Program. Faculty and administrators created the innovative
undergraduate program to help downsize the large university
experience and create small communities of scholars within the
Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Freshman Fellows Program offers students a great hands-on experiential
learning-based approach to business education and college life,”
said Pat Cleveland, associate dean for undergraduate programs.
“Everyone here is excited about the program. Administrators
and faculty like the enrichment opportunities available to first-year
students. And the students are immersing themselves in the Smith
School, interacting closely with classmates, faculty, staff
and alums — they are really enjoying the program and building
Freshman Fellows are grouped in cohorts of approximately
40 classmates according to enrollment in BGMT 110, an introductory
business course. Though the program is not a graduation requirement,
Cleveland said about 75 percent of incoming freshman choose
to participate the first year.
Fellows cohorts move through the first two years at Smith
together, after which they can choose to participate in up to
two upperclassmen fellows tracks in specialty areas such as
investments; research; accounting; entrepreneurship; and logistics,
transportation and supply chain management, among others. Besides
coursework, Freshman Fellows take part in co-curricular activities,
including field trips, lectures, retreats, workshops, volunteer
projects and dinner clubs.
Freshman Fellows find out about program information
and upcoming events by logging onto the undergraduate
Web portal, UNet. The network, designed in-house by
staff members for use by all undergraduate Smith students,
shows calendars, provides information updates and links
to apply for fellows programs, and allows students to
update their personal profiles and RSVP to events. Students
are using the system and checking it often for, among
other things, regular updates on Freshman Fellows activities
planned for the coming semesters.
The program kicked off with Freshman Fellows Orientation,
held in late August before the start of classes. Students met
their cohorts and had a chance to get to know each other through
team-building activities. They played games, bonded over meals,
and helped each other complete a ropes course and climbing wall
at the university’s Outdoor Recreation Center.
“I met a lot of new people that I wouldn’t have had a chance
to otherwise,” said Freshman Fellow Sarah Trippe. “We’re starting
out bonding with Smith classmates.”
The Freshman Fellows have been busy since their orientation.
They participated in the annual Smith Business Week, which included
career workshops, a career fair and networking event, opportunities
to get involved in student activities, and a tailgate party
before a Terps football game.
the Freshman Fellow lecture series, they’ve heard entrepreneurs,
business leaders and business writers, such prominent figures
as best-selling authors Thomas Friedman (“The World is Flat,”
this year’s university-wide freshman book) and Jeremy Rifkin
of the Foundation on Economic Trends. Fellows were also given
the opportunity to attend field trips to area cultural attractions,
including the Phillips Collection art museum in Washington,
D.C. and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on campus,
to learn more about the business behind maintaining such centers.
The freshmen have shared dinner with upperclassman students
and Smith alumni as part of a dinner club hosted by the school,
made possible by a generous bequest Stanley Bennett, ’51, left
to the Smith School in 2003. Three generations of Bennett’s
family graduated from Smith; the surviving Bennetts — nephew
Millard and his son Stephen — took part in the first dinner
Last fall Smith School senior Ron Dalal got a taste
of real-world financial management. As equity analyst
for the school’s new $50K Senbet Fund, Dalal monitored
his sector, kept an eye on investment opportunities,
and recommended stocks to add to the fund’s portfolio.
It was a job that involved extensive research, including
a discounted cash flow analysis, comparables analysis
and other tools used to evaluate potential investments.
a Finance Fellow, is one of ten senior finance majors
working with the Senbet Fund, named for Lemma Senbet,
William E. Mayer Professor of Finance, as part of the
Finance Fellows program. The Finance Fellows program
allows these exceptional finance majors to apply the
theory they’ve learned in class while getting practical
experience in portfolio management. The program is similar
to the school’s Mayer Fund, a $1.2 million fund managed
by second-year MBA students.
Managing real money in real time is a challenge for
even seasoned financial analysts, and one that the Finance
Fellows have embraced with enthusiasm, and a little
healthy fear. “Our analysis of the economy and the financial
markets isn't just part of our grade; it's part of our
fund's financial success. We're dealing with $50,000
of real money, which requires more dedication than any
three credit course I've taken,” says Finance Fellow
“The challenge these students face is to find the
correct balance between liking a stock on a qualitative
basis and then being able to support it on a quantitative
basis,” says Sarah Kroncke, visiting lecturer and faculty
advisor to the Senbet Fund.
The Senbet Fund’s goal is to beat the S&P 500 on
a risk-adjusted basis. The Smith School’s goal is to
provide the best and brightest of its finance majors
with a real-world experience that will teach them things
you can’t learn in a classroom, and make them attractive
candidates to potential employers when they graduate.
The Finance Fellows program will accomplish both.