(Pictured from left to right:) Dave Harris, Dean of the Herberger Business School; Teresa Bohnen ’81; faculty emeritus Howie Bohnen ’72; Sherry Smith ’83; Bonnie Swenson ’68; Ron Swenson ’69 and SCSU President Robbyn R. Wacker cut the ribbon marking the dedication of the Ron'69 and Bonnie '68 Swenson Financial Markets Lab.
Their recommendations have real-world consequences. St. Cloud State University students who manage the Husky Growth Fund place real money on the line.
Started in 1999 with $100,000 in funds provided through the St. Cloud State University Foundation, the student-managed Husky Growth Fund’s assets now hold more than $260,000. The Husky Fund is formally known as FIRE 491 — Managing an Investment Portfolio. It is a one-credit class offered by the Department of Finance, Insurance & Real Estate.
The student managers now have a new tool to support their work. St. Cloud State University dedicated the Ron 69’ and Bonnie 68’ Swenson Financial Markets Lab Sept. 27.
The glass-walled lab features 20 computer stations, presentation capabilities and a stock market ticker running constantly around the outside showing stocks, including the Husky Growth Fund, allowing students to see in real-time how their choices impact the fund. It allows for 40 students to be working at once.
The lab, located on the first floor of Centennial Hall, is equipped with two full-glass walls that can be frosted to allow for privacy when classes are in session. Work on the lab was done by Terra Construction with architecture work done by JLG and ISG.
The lab is being used for investment-related classes as part of the Finance curriculum — especially Husky Fund classes. It is the center for all department databases related to investing.
The lab is made possible by a $1 million donation by alumni Ron and Bonnie Swenson of California.
The Swensons wanted to create a resource for students on campus that would give them hands-on learning opportunities in investing similar to their own experiences as first-generation college students at St. Cloud State.
“In the investment world information will be the most valuable tool you can have,” Ron said. “With the sophisticated software available now for investing, it’s important for students to be exposed to those tools for research because they will become part of the information they use on a daily basis.”
That is why the Swensons’ gift not only funded design and construction of the lab, but will also establish an endowment to support the purchase and maintenance of investing software for years to come.
Additional support for the technology endowment was provided by a gift from Sherry M. Smith ’83, the former executive vice president and chief financial officer at Supervalu Inc. in Eden Prairie. She is a certified public accountant and has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. Cloud State
“It allows us as a department to expand our investment offerings and research and update technology skills,” said Joe Haley, chair of the finance, insurance and real estate department.
With the implementation of the Ron and Bonnie Swenson Financial Markets Lab, the department is able to further its offerings surrounding financial data to better prepare students for job market skills and database skills.
“What we’re doing now is a first step toward growing into a more technology-based curriculum,” Haley said.
The lab offers students a good atmosphere.
“We were looking for a spot for us to do our research and get together,” Hasan Makhlooq, vice president of the Husky Growth Fund. “We really thank the deans office and the alumni for making this a new lab. It’s a great lab, very good atmosphere and a good environment. We have really great financial resources that we can use, and we really appreciate that.”
Bonnie began her career with education teaching elementary school and later opening her own pre-school before finding a passion for therapy and earning her master’s degree in psychology. She still believes in the importance of hands on learning.
“It’s fun for us to see how the school is growing and keeping up with the world, so students are prepared when they go out and pursue their careers,” Bonnie said.
Ron trained in industrial engineering at St. Cloud State, followed by his Master of Business Administration from the University of Minnesota. He went into the computer industry in Minnesota before joining a start up in Silicon Valley and starting his own private equity and venture capital fund, Western Technology Investment, in 1980.
When the Swensons decided to give back to St. Cloud State, they visited campus and saw the investment recently made in labs for engineering and science. They visited the Northwestern Mutual Sales Lab and saw the benefit a dedicated lab space can have for business students.
“To bring that kind of lab to the finance and investment part of the school will be of great benefit,” Ron said.
Opportunities for hands-on learning helped Bonnie and Ron develop the critical thinking skills they would use throughout their careers when they attended St. Cloud State, and they are happy to help provide those same opportunities for today’s Huskies, Ron said.
“I’m a big believer in supporting education not only for my own children but for others as well,” he said. “State legislatures have really cut back on their financial support for public universities. The result of that is it’s important as alumni to help fund those public universities to the extent we can.”