Student-run fund reaches $1 million milestone

The Batten Fund, an investment portfolio managed by second year MBA students at William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business, reached $1 million for the first time in its history. Started with a $500,000 donation from former Landmark Communications chairman Frank Batten, Sr., and his wife Jane Batten, the fund offers MBA students hands-on portfolio management experience, and the rare opportunity to take responsibility for equity market investment decisions.

Each year, up to 17 MBA students are selected to participate. They work with faculty members and experienced executive partners to research specific sectors and pinpoint investment opportunities. Once potential investments are uncovered, students vote on which stocks to purchase.

Like many funds during the recession of the late 2000s, the Batten Fund suffered losses, falling to 60% of its original worth. With careful research and analysis by students and faculty leaders, it began to recover in 2010, rising steadily to pre-financial crash levels. It has been on an upward trajectory ever since.

The Batten Fund is directed by Mason School professor Gjergji Cici, who took over from longtime fund manager Professor James Haltiner two years ago. "I feel greatly honored to be in this position," Cici said. "It is very gratifying for me as a professor to see the transformation of the students from knowing very little about investments at the beginning of the Batten Fund experience to being able to masterfully defend their investment ideas to a very demanding crowd of investment professionals." He believes his current class of students should be proud of achieving this important $1 million milestone but that they must also recognize the contributions by the previous cohorts of analysts and professors. "We are grateful to Professor Haltiner for his many years of oversight and expertise. Building on his contributions, we are positioned well for the Batten fund experience to reach new levels of excellence and innovation," Cici said.

Amy Domiano, a current MBA student analyst, says the experience has broadened her perspective. "This class has opened my eyes to new career opportunities and I have learned so much about what really excites me when it comes to finance in general, private equity, strategic management, and securities exchanges," she said.

Larry Pulley, Dean of the Mason School of Business sees value in the unique opportunity for students to gain practical knowledge of asset management. "The experience is an invaluable, long-term investment in our students’ success," he said. "The Mason School's Batten Fund provides real-time, hands-on insight and experience in equity investing and gives our students a considerable advantage in the job market."