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Former finance professor Gene Padgham (center) funded the establishment of the Student Managed Investment Fund upon his retirement. He visited campus in February to meet with students studying the stock market. Photo by Matt Reynolds.

Too often education is based on the hypothetical. It’s only after they graduate and enter the so-called “real world” that students have their knowledge tested against the consequences of success and failure.

At JSU, students are given the opportunity to gain work experience and job skills while pursuing their degrees. To allow finance students to better apply what they are learning in class, the School of Business and Industry has established a Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF).

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“The biology department gets to work with animals, while engineering works with 3-D printers and robots,” explains Dr. Steven McKlung, dean of the School of Business and Industry. “The tool of the Department of Finance is money. Many big business schools have a lab where students get to invest hypothetical money in the stock market. Most students who have worked with SMIFs are able to secure a job before graduation. You think differently when you’re using real money versus monopoly money.”

The SMIF allows business and finance students to use real money for experimental learning in securities analysis and portfolio management. Members monitor the performance of every stock in the fund, collectively give input, and discuss the performance of their investments.

“Each semester, students in the Investments course evaluate our portfolio and identify which stocks aren’t performing well and make a pitch on which stocks we should sell,” said Dr. Bill Scroggins, professor and head of the Department of Finance, Economics and Accounting. “At the same time, they identify stocks we don’t own that they believe would be a good investment. I let the class vote on which stocks to sell and which to purchase. Then we have an investment broker make the trade.”

Along the way, students are mentored by a Board of Advisors comprised of JSU finance alumni. The board currently includes Duvan L. Brock, executive vice president of Dempsey Lord Smith, LLC.; Cary Guffey, a Certified Financial Planner and advisor with PNC Investments; Randy Hurst, a financial advisor with Edward Jones; and David Nast, president and CEO of Progress Bank. These alumni get to know the students and offer career advice.

“This is very attractive to employers, as it provides our students with invaluable hands-on experience you can’t replicate any other way,” Scroggins said. “It moves the entire business school into the top-tier.”

Trevor Lane, a senior finance major from White Plains, Ala., agrees. “It’s going to help us a lot,” he said. “When we get out of college and look back, this is going to be our first chance at using real money to make an investment profit. It’s a great experience.”

The entire venture was made possible by former finance faculty member Gene Padgham, who donated the funds to set up the SMIF upon retiring in 2011, after 30 years of teaching finance on campus.

“Gene is a very special person who always demonstrated a caring attitude toward his students,” Scroggins said. “A lot of alumni owe their successful careers to him. He always went the extra mile. He loved helping students – that’s our job, but he really embodied that every day in his teaching career. Throughout his career, he surrounded himself with students and shared his love of finance.”

Padgham served as an advisor to the Financial Management Association, through which students performed simulation exercises, but he knew the stakes simply weren’t high enough.

“I always felt like it would be more meaningful to them if they had some genuine money to work with,” Padgham said. “JSU had always been very good to me, and this was a way for me to give back to the university and to also help the students, who were my joy.”

As the SMIF continues to grow, a goal is for it to fund a self-sustaining scholarship available to finance majors.

“Yearly, the SMIF continues to improve and plays a unique role in our finance curriculum,” Scroggins said. “Through high-caliber students, determination, and professional conduct, the SMIF seeks to be one of the most unique and prestigious programs offered in the School of Business and Industry at JSU.”

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We are at the halfway point in the week, and investors have a lot to digest. Earnings season continues, and the Federal Reserve was in the hot seat today. Board Chair Jerome Powell shared that interest rates will stay at near-zero levels, as the central bank believes more progress toward recovery is needed. However, the tone is starting to change, and some investors think the start to tapering could be around the corner. For now though, Powell maintains that inflation is merely “transitory.” Given all this, what did the stock market do today?

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  • The S&P 500 closed down 0.02%
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.36%
  • The Nasdaq Composite closed down 0.7%

So what else did the stock market do today? Here are some of the top stories.

What Did the Stock Market Do Today? Talk Infrastructure.

While Powell held court, President Joe Biden and his administration were stoking excitement in Washington. That is because Biden and a bipartisan committee of lawmakers announced they had reached an agreement on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. This comes after months of delays — and after Republican senators voted down an earlier version of the bill last week.

As Alayna Treene wrote for Axios, this committee finished negotiations on some of the toughest issues of the infrastructure bill. While the legislation will take a few more days to draft, the announcement has sparked confidence that general debate can proceed.

So what exactly does it include?

Over the next eight years, the bill allocates roughly $1.2 trillion, including $550 billion in new spending. This includes $110 billion in funds for traditional projects like roads and bridges, as well as $65 billion for broadband and $25 billion for airports. Importantly, the deal also confirms that funding will go toward electric vehicles. Right now, lawmakers are calling for $7.5 billion for EVs and EV charging.

InvestorPlace Assistant News Writer Brenden Rearick wrote that this news put infrastructure stocks back in the spotlight on Wednesday. Investors are turning to more traditional names like Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Vulcan Materials (NYSE:VMC), one of the largest producers of construction materials. Other noteworthy plays include Reddit favorite Cleveland-Cliffs (NYSE:CLF) and EV charging specialist ChargePoint (NYSE:CHPT).

Read more about top infrastructure stocks to watch here.

Canadian Cannabis Is Getting High

Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) kicked things off in a big way today. After reporting its quarterly figures, the Canadian cannabis giant closed higher by more than 25%.

By the numbers, Tilray had a pretty successful quarter. Net revenue rose more than 25% to $142.2 million for the quarter. The company posted a profit, sharing net income of $33.6 million, compared to a loss of $84.3 million in 2020. However, headlines quickly called to attention to the fact that Tilray missed consensus estimates. Analysts were calling for revenue of $146.2 million.

One reason for this could be ongoing lockdowns in Canada. While the United States has spent the last quarter focusing on the reopening narrative, Canadians have not been so lucky. For instance, Ontario was placed under a lockdown again in April as a new Covid-19 wave hit the province.

But lockdowns and revenue misses clearly were not enough to bring Tilray down. Why?

Well, it seems that investors are choosing to look at the report with a sense of optimism. This was the first quarterly update since Tilray merged with Aphria, making it the largest cannabis producer by sales. Its profit, plus reports of cost savings, have investors excited. CEO Irwin Simon says the company is on track to save $80 million over the next 16 months as a result of the tie-up.

Broadly, Tilray also renewed a sense of confidence in other cannabis stocks. With Tilray looking to a brighter future and investors ready to shake off lockdown woes, Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC), Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQ:ACB) and Sundial Growers (NASDAQ:SNDL) also posted gains on Wednesday. You can read more about the cannabis stocks rally here.

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  • Dogecoin (CCC:DOGE-USD) fans may need to make a trip to Brazil. There, Burger King locations have announced they will accept DOGE as a payment for the Doggper, a dog-friendly snack. Unfortunately, CoinDesk reports the chain is not accepting the crypto for human food.
  • Looking for a new take on the Robinhood IPO? Interactive Brokers founder Thomas Peterffy explains that if lawmakers do crack down on the payment for order flow business, there is a case for Citadel to acquire Robinhood. That should have certainly have retail investors on watch following the GameStop (NYSE:GME) saga earlier this year.
  • Although Federal Reserve fears weighed on the stock market today, a handful of short squeeze stocks continued to outperform. One such winner was Support.com (NASDAQ:SPRT), which closed higher by nearly 30%. This comes just days after Fintel identified SPRT stock as the top short squeeze opportunity for the week. Other picks include Lexaria Bioscience (NASDAQ:LEXX) and Bridgeline Digital (NASDAQ:BLIN).

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On the date of publication, Sarah Smith did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Sarah Smith is the Editor of Today’s Market with InvestorPlace.com.