Education Icon Research Icon Students Icon Community Icon General Support Icon Gift Cart Icon
Skip to main content
A laptop computer with financial charts on the screen.

The Market as Classroom

Learning finance through the Division of Social Sciences’ Dean’s Investment Fund

The UC Santa Barbara Dean’s Investment Fund was established through support from Division of Social Sciences alumni, friends, and the business community. Thanks to their generosity, students who participate in the Dean’s Investment Group can learn to manage this fund with expert supervision. The program gives UC Santa Barbara undergraduates an opportunity to interact with finance professionals and receive first-hand experience as part of an investment team.

Developed by the UC Santa Barbara Department of Economics and offered through UCSB Extension, the year-long Dean’s Investment Group consists of 8-10 students who manage the Dean’s Investment Fund portfolio with the guidance of an advisory board of experts, mentors, and supporters. The investment earnings generated by the portfolio will fund need-based scholarships throughout the Division of Social Sciences at UC Santa Barbara. The Dean’s Investment Fund is an entrepreneurial, experiential learning opportunity for undergraduates to apply financial theory to real-world capital markets.

Angelica Cedillo ’22 is in her second year of the Dean’s Investment Group. The global studies major was part of the inaugural group that launched the Dean’s Investment Fund in 2020 during the coronavirus crash — a learning opportunity, she said.

“Since it was a relatively new fund, we spent a lot of time designing it,” said Angelica. “We ultimately decided to structure our portfolio mostly in ETFs. It's been interesting to consider how our decisions and the instruments we choose to incorporate in this portfolio actually impact an endowment fund that's supposed to generate scholarship funds for future students.”

Angelica and her classmates were selected through a competitive interview process. All students must first earn a certificate from the Strategic Investment Program, which is open to all students and typically enrolls 100 participants. The 2021-2022 Dean’s Investment Group cohort consists of 10 students in economics, global studies, and accounting. These students actively research and propose investments to advisors like Rod Scherba ’79.

Rod graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.A. in business economics. He retired from a 34-year career in commercial real estate, during which he was one of the top brokers in Silicon Valley. Rod’s work with UC Santa Barbara combines his love of education and financial literacy. In his capacity as a Dean’s Investment Fund advisor, Rod is one of 11 professionals who volunteers to meet with Dean’s Investment Group students monthly. Rod also teaches classes for the Strategic Investment Certificate and advises the undergraduate club The Investment Connection. His work with the Dean’s Investment Fund combines his passion for education and financial literacy.

“When I get together with these students, they bring their energy to the conversations, classes, board meetings, and I thrive off of it,” said Rod. “I find it really rewarding to work hands-on with the students as they research and make investment decisions.”

“Forging close relationships with the board members was one of the highlights of my experience,” said Angelica. “Overall, I think we're a part of something unique. I haven't heard of any other school that allows students to have so much weight in a portfolio, especially an endowment fund.”

The Dean’s Investment Group students are required to present an annual report to advisory group members, program alumni, and faculty each February. The program consists of lectures, hands-on projects, and guest speakers.

“It’s so cool to hear guest speakers like Dean Nelson from the Johnson School at Cornell giving thoughts on MBAs, career paths, and life,” said Robert Kahn, advisor and supporter. “I have enjoyed assisting great faculty and teaching bright, ambitious students and future leaders. It is especially fun to tell them how it is in the real world versus the theoretical. The team is doing an excellent job bringing a real-world experience to the classroom.”

“The Dean’s Investment Fund is a wonderful collaboration between UC Santa Barbara undergraduates, faculty, the Dean of Social Sciences, alumni, and experts from the investment world,” said Kelly Bedard, Department of Economics chair. “We are incredibly fortunate to have a large group of alumni and supporters helping build this program and the investment fund. This program would not exist without significant financial support and many hours of generously donated time. We look forward to growing the fund and the program so that students can benefit from this opportunity for decades to come.”

As the Dean’s Investment Group program grows, so will the Dean’s Investment Fund and the revenue it provides for scholarships.

“I hope when the fund gets to scale, we really get to see its benefits through the financial resources we get to provide,” said Rod. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of providing financial literacy skills to students, who need guidance professionally and personally. I was fortunate to have a good career. I love relaying the lessons I learned over the past 40 years so students can learn from my successes and mistakes.”