At the beginning of the program in the fall, all M.S. in Commerce students, regardless of what track they were in, had the same schedule. The program was split into section one and section two with one starting in the morning and two starting in the afternoon. With the exception of one track-specific class at the end of the semester, everyone took the same courses with the same professors, on the same days.
This spring things are very different, because each track takes their own set of classes. To share a better perspective on the Finance track, I talked to current student Francis Scully to get the inside scoop:
What does this semester look like for you guys?
The Finance track really becomes the “Finance” track in the Spring. Our week is pretty packed with classes; we have two on Monday and Wednesday and another three on Tuesday and Thursday. However, unlike the Fall semester, we don’t have any classes on Friday, which makes the week feel a little less hectic. We begin our week with two classes: Asset Management and Fundamentals of Global Commerce. Asset Management builds off a finance class from fall semester. It provides a really in-depth theoretical view of asset pricing, asset allocation, and risk-return models – all really important concepts in finance. Fundamentals of Global Commerce provides a high-level overview of the international business landscape (a little more finance focused than the other two tracks), and gets us ready for GIE.
Next, we have Financial IT Management, Investment Banking, and Special Topics in Finance. Financial IT Management provides a thorough introduction to the computer systems that are used in virtually all aspects of the modern business world. In this class, we really dig into MS Excel and other core IT systems, learning to code in VBA, SQL, and other languages. This class is followed by our Investment Banking class. The title of this class is a little deceptive because it’s a very theoretical class that covers the structure and role of modern financial institutions. It also introduces us to the derivative pricing theories – like the Black-Scholes – which are crucial to modern finance.
Finally, our Special Topics in Finance class is a continuation from our valuation classes in the Fall. It’s really an applied finance class, it’s very unique and unlike any class I’ve taken before – I really think it demonstrates what makes McIntire such a great place to learn. Three different professors teach this course throughout the semester. We cover LBO valuation, bankruptcy/restructuring, and M&A analysis. All three subjects are taught by professors who have both worked and studied in these fields. You’ll learn skills that you can use from day one in most finance jobs.
Who should consider the Finance Track?
Naturally, one of the most important characteristics is to have is a strong interest in Finance. If you’re looking to build on a liberal arts background and find a job in finance or consulting, this is the track for you. However, I think it’s important to note the difference between this track in the M.S. in Commerce program, and other one-year graduate programs in finance. I was looking at a lot of other M.S. in Finance programs while I was considering this program. What set it apart from others, was the strong emphasis on both applied and theoretical finance. I think this is what makes the program so great. It allows you to directly apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to a job, and the value of this approach is reflected in the program’s placement in top, competitive finance jobs.
What have been the highlights for you so far this semester?
I think one of the most enjoyable moments this semester was a mock M&A negotiation that was part of the Special Topics in Finance class. It took a lot of work and preparation, but it was a really valuable test of all the material that we’ve covered.
The M&A negotiation simulated – using a real business scenario – one firm attempting to purchase another firm. The entire class was split into an even number of teams and half were assigned the role of an acquiring firm while the other half was assigned the role of the target firm. Then each team had a week to prepare a detailed presentation, valuation, and overall analysis of the scenario. Following the preparation, teams were paired up and competed head-to-head to get a deal done and get the best value.
The entire process was extremely informative. Not only did it challenge our understanding of finance and the material we’ve learned throughout the semester, but it also really forced each team to collaborate in a way that realized the strengths of each individual. It was a challenging, stress-filled experience that was really rewarding.
What does your day-to-day look like?
As you can probably guess from the number of classes that we’re taking, I’ve been pretty busy most of the semester. Monday through Wednesday I’m usually at McIntire until the evening, working with my group or finishing my work in one of the many computer labs. Thursday, being that it’s the last day of our week, is a bit more relaxed. Both Thursday and Friday are usually good days to get back in contact with the rest of M.S. in Commerce program and explore beautiful Charlottesville. Saturday and Sunday start to get busy again. Both days usually involve meeting up with my groups, and getting ready for the week ahead. All-in-all, this semester has been hard work, but I’ve still had some time off. Also, everyone is starting to get really excited about GIE, so that adds some really good energy.
-Interview by Spencer Kulow