College of Business Administration Honors Alumni
(from left) Jimmy Haslam, BB&T’s Missy Wallen, Bob Baron,
Dean Jan Williams
The College celebrated the Third Annual Alumni Awards Gala in the Haslam Business Building on October 28, 2011. This special evening recognized the 2011 alumni award winners and provided an opportunity for celebration and fellowship among the college's alumni and friends. The evening began with a reception in the Stokely Hospitality Suite and a silent auction, followed by dinner and an awards program in the atrium. The College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has honored four alumni and organizations for their extraordinary commitment to the college, their professions, and their community.
James A. Haslam III (“Jimmy”), president and CEO of Pilot Flying J, was honored as the Distinguished Alum of the Year. He is the 22st person recognized with this award, which was given for the first time in 1982.
Ali Safavi, executive director of international business, The Walt Disney Company, was honored as the Outstanding Young Alum; BB&T was named the Outstanding Corporate Partner; and Bob Baron, founder, president and CEO of Baron Services, Inc., received the Entrepreneur of the Year award.
James A. Haslam III (“Jimmy”) is president and chief executive officer of Pilot Flying J, one of the top-10, privately held companies in the United States. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Pilot Flying J operates a network of more than 550 interstate travel centers and truck stops spanning 43 states and six Canadian provinces.
The company was founded in 1958 as a single gas station in Gate City, Virginia, by Jimmy’s father, James A. Haslam II. By the time Jimmy had joined the family business in 1976, the company had expanded to nearly 100 convenience stores. Shortly after Jimmy was named vice president of sales, development, and operations, the company invested in the restaurant business, and the “travel center” concept—which combines the best features of truck stops, convenience centers, and brand-named restaurants—was born. The company boomed, and by the time Jimmy was named to his current position, Pilot was operating 96 travel centers and 50 convenience stores. A partnership with—and later buyout of—Marathon Petroleum Company as well as a 2010 merger with Flying J Inc. have fueled the company’s most recent growth.
Jimmy currently serves on the boards of First Horizon National, Ruby Tuesday Inc., Anderson Media Corp., and Innovation Valley Inc. He also has served on the boards of directors for the University of Tennessee Athletics, United Way of Knoxville, and Lakeshore Park, among others. He is part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ardent supporters of the University of Tennessee, Jimmy and his wife Susan “Dee” Bagwell Haslam, also a UT alum, have given $10 million to fund several endowed professorships and to create the prestigious Haslam Scholars university program. In addition, Dee serves on the UT College of Business Administration’s Dean’s Advisory Council.
Looking back on his early years as a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Jimmy credits the leadership opportunities he enjoyed for opening his eyes to vast-ranging possibilities and also introducing him to people who would shape his career and become friends for life.
“My family and I have the highest respect for the University of Tennessee, and the College of Business Administration is particularly dear to our hearts,” says Jimmy. “We have received so much from UT—we feel an obligation to stay involved and do what we can to make it even better than it was when we were here.”
Outstanding Young Alum
Safavi earned his JD/MBA at UT in 2002. He joined Procter & Gamble and served in brand management for three years before taking a position in international management with The Walt Disney Company. Several promotions later, Safavi is now an executive director of international business with the company.
As he travels around the world, Safavi voluntarily serves as a global ambassador for UT. “I’m surrounded by a lot of intelligent and passionate people,” explains Safavi, “and when I hear them contemplating their educational options, I often interject, ‘Why not Tennessee? It offers one of the best returns on investment in the world!’”
Safavi makes it to Knoxville several times a year to speak to students in UT’s College of Business Administration and to serve on the MBA Advisory Board. In addition, he is a faithful contributor to an MBA scholarship endowment. “I have made a commitment to spend my entire professional career giving back to the university that invested in me and played such a key role in helping me get to where I am today.”
Outstanding Corporate Partner
BB&T (NYSE:BBT), headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., currently is ranked as the 11th largest financial holding company in the nation, with more than 30,000 employees operating approximately 1,800 financial centers in 12 states and Washington, D.C. BB&T consistently is rated one of the soundest financial institutions of those listed in the S&P 500 index and has been recognized repeatedly by Fortune magazine as one of America’s “Most Admired Companies.”
The company likes to remain close to its clients. As a result, it is structured so that its banking subsidiaries are organized as community banks. Each has its own regional president, which allows decisions to be made locally.
“One of our core missions at BB&T is to make the communities in which we work better places to be, and our partnership with UT’s College of Business Administration helps us fulfill that mission,” explains BB&T East Tennessee regional president Martha S. Wallen (BA, 1974). BB&T officers are quite active on campus, serving as adjunct professors, speakers, competition judges, panelists, mentors, and advisors. Moreover, BB&T funds an ethics faculty position at UT as well as an ethics lecture series that was launched in 2010 with an address by former BB&T chairman and CEO John Allison. Allison’s presentation assured students that adhering to a set of high principles can lead to both personal and professional success.
“BB&T is delighted to partner with such a world-class educational program in providing future business leaders with a strong foundation in values-based leadership,” says Wallen.
Entrepreneur of the Year
A 1968 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Business Administration, majoring in journalism, Bob Baron spent 22 years in the radio and television industries before launching Baron Services, Inc. Today, Huntsville, Alabama-based Baron Services is a worldwide leader in weather systems. The company holds more than 30 patents for innovations in storm tracking, radar, and weather-alerting technology.
Baron Services’ initial innovation was developing the first strike-by-strike lightning tracking system, which overlaid NASA’s lightning data onto digital maps. Next, the company incorporated precipitation data from live Doppler Radar and discovered a way to identify at-risk communities and estimate storm arrival times. Today, Baron Services’ storm-tracking technology is considered the gold standard for television weather coverage.
Baron Services, the dominant U.S. manufacturer of Doppler weather radar equipment, was selected by the U.S. government to upgrade the country’s aging network of 171 Doppler radar installations with next-generation technology. Baron Services also is the leader in delivering satellite-generated weather data to planes, boats, and automobiles.
An avid supporter of UT’s College of Business Administration, Baron regularly speaks to classes and financially supports the MBA Entrepreneur Fellows program. “I’m very appreciative of the benefits I’ve received from the college and enjoy supporting a program that recognizes the critical importance of the growth and development of entrepreneurial businesses,” says Baron.
UT MBA Team is Finalist in National Black MBA Case Competition
The full-time MBA team representing the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's College of Business Administration placed in the top six out of 22 competitors at the 2011 National Black MBA Association Case Competition. The contest, sponsored annually by Chrysler, is one of the most prestigious case competitions for MBA students.
The team of full-time MBA students — Kimel Fryer, Laronda Jones, and Alex McGhee —participated in a case that asked them to recommend a strategy to help Chrysler excel at attracting and retaining top talent. The team was co-coached by Coordinator of Diversity Initiatives Tyvi Small, Assistant Professor Randy Bradley, and Associate Professor Terry Esper.
“We are very proud of our team,” Small said. “Kimel, Alex, and Laronda were prepared, professional, and worked extremely hard. Their hard work showed off in their competitive run and in the positive impression they made on the judges and Chrysler executives.”
“It was an intense and rich experience. The pressure of presenting to Chrysler executives forced our team to create a recommendation that was realistic, actionable, and something we all believed in,” said Fryer, who will graduate with both her MBA and JD degrees. “UT taught us how to utilize our skill sets to provide and market a great strategy, which is what set us apart this year and will set us apart for the rest of our careers”.
McGhee agreed that this year’s conference was an amazing experience. “We had a chance to network with students from other programs, compete on a national stage, and gain insightful career advice from industry leaders. This conference has been a catalytic enzyme to our professional development,” he said.
Florida A&M University placed first, Penn State came in second, and University of Georgia placed third. Other teams in the competition included Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Bentley College.
UT to Play Role in Developing Entrepreneurs Statewide
KNOXVILLE, TN — The University of Tennessee will play a significant role in a new state plan to assist aspiring entrepreneurs in creating business proposals and launching their companies, officials announced Thursday.
Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said nine Regional Entrepreneurial Accelerators will be established throughout the state to assist Tennessee entrepreneurs. The accelerators will provide mentoring, education and training, strategic and technical support, and assistance identifying sources of capital.
Accelerators will be located in each of the nine Jobs4TN Jobs Base Camp regions to assist area entrepreneurs as they develop business plans and launch companies that have the potential to create new jobs.
UT's Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will be the lead organization for the East Tennessee region. Partners will include the UT Research Foundation, UT Extension, and UT Center for Industrial Services. Community partners include the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tech 20/20, Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, Pellissippi State Community College, Roane State Community College, and multiple chambers and entrepreneurial support organizations.
UT entities will also help in other parts of the state.
Each accelerator will become a foundational component of the region’s economic development strategy while creating a network of partnerships and mentors within the local business community, the statewide investor base, higher education, non-profits, and government.
A $250,000 grant will be awarded to each of the nine Regional Entrepreneurial Accelerators as a result of a competitive grant application process. Each application was judged by multiple reviewers and assigned a composite score based on how effectively it responded to the program criteria. The grant funding is a combination of state and federal dollars and contingent upon each accelerator providing at minimum an additional $250,000 in local matching support.
UT’s Business Education for Talented Students Holds First Annual Reunion
KNOXVILLE, TN — The Office of Diversity Initiatives in the College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, hosted a reunion for participants in the college’s Business Education for Talented Students (BETS) program. BETS is a one-week summer residential program that introduces high-school seniors from diverse backgrounds to the dynamic world of business; students interact with professionals from business and government both on campus and in their work environment.
The program began four years ago during the summer of 2008 and, to-date, has involved 89 students. “Each class has gotten progressively larger,” said Tyvi Small, coordinator of diversity initiatives for the college.
Of the 60 participants who already have graduated high school (the 29 students from the 2011 class still are in school), 31 participants, or 52 percent, currently attend UT Knoxville. This reunion gave the earlier BETS participants the opportunity to meet and begin to mentor the 11 first-year UT students.
“This event gave earlier BETS students the opportunity to build friendships and relationships with other current BETS students,” said Tyvi Small, coordinator of diversity initiatives for the college. “As BETS graduates, all of the students share an instant connection. “
"This program created the foundation for my college career,” said Kierra Richmond, a current first-year student. “As a freshman majoring in accounting, participating in BETS helped me develop essential personal skills for success; I acquired close relationships with my peers by engaging in various team building events and exercises. I highly recommend that all high school students engage in this wonderful experience."
“BETS inspired me to change my major from forensic science to accounting,” said Gerrica Caldwell, a current third-year student. “It gave me an opportunity to explore the business world and learn what really happens in a company.”
Individuals interested in finding out more about the BETS program can contact Tyvi Small at email@example.com or 865-974-5185.
College of Business Administration Hosts Fourth Annual First Tennessee Foundation MBA Symposium
First Tennessee Foundation representatives Rob Masengill, Jim Atchley, and Pam Fansler with Dick Clark (center) and College of Business Administration Associate Dean Tom Ladd.
KNOXVILLE, TN — The College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, hosted the First Tennessee Foundation Fourth Annual MBA Symposium featuring Richard T. Clark, chairman of the board of Merck.
Although this was the fourth symposium sponsored by First Tennessee, the MBA Symposium has been held since the late 1980s. Previous guests have included Indra Nooyi (CEO, PepsiCo), Gerald Ford, Colin Powell, Robert Reich, Warren Buffet, T. Boone Pickens, Tom Johnson (president, CNN), Elizabeth Dole, and Bob McDonald (CEO, The Procter and Gamble Company). This annual event provides a unique opportunity for University of Tennessee, Knoxville, MBA students, and members of the Knoxville community, to learn from a speaker of significant international stature.
This year’s speaker, Richard T. (Dick) Clark, is the chairman of the board of Merck, the global healthcare organization he has served for nearly four decades. As its president and CEO, he implemented a successful business strategy and led an historic corporate merger. At the same time, Clark extended Merck’s strong leadership in corporate social responsibility, embedding it into every facet of the company’s business.
Dick’s symposium presentation – titled Leading Responsibly in Healthcare - introduced Merck’s platform of social responsibility that includes the Merck Mectizan Donation Program, which prevents river blindness in Africa; the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS program in Botswania; and Merck’s newest initiative, the Merck for Mothers program in which Merck joins global partners to create a world where no woman has to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The 10-year, half-billion-dollar Merck for Mothers initiative supports the United Nations’ goal to help reduce the maternal mortality ratio by 75 percent.
The UT MBA Program extends it greatest appreciation to First Tennessee Foundation for making the MBA Symposium series possible.
Financial Management Association trip to NYC – a student’s perspective
KNOXVILLE, TN — This year’s trip to New York City was my third visit there and my favorite one to date. It didn't have to do with where we stayed, my flight, the restaurants, the people on the trip, or any other aspect that one usually considers when reviewing criteria for a great trip. While all of these factors certainly added to the quality of trip, they are not what made it the best one for me. No, the enlightening people we got to meet, the feel of being a part of a business trip in NYC, and getting to finally visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were the factors that made the trip so great for me. I saw NYC through a different lens this time. I was finally viewing the city from a business perspective, for what it truly is—a metropolis of business activity and opportunity.
I took a flight out of Knoxville on Wednesday, September 28, and got to fly over Washington DC. The plane passed above the Arlington Memorial, Capital building, and Air Force Memorial on the way to NYC. On the cab ride into NYC from the airport, we rode through the middle of Manhattan to Hotel Indigo. Our hotel rooms still weren't ready, so we sat down outside at the lounge area and did homework.
Several hours later, another member of our Financial Management Association (FMA) group, Bret Ploucha, arrived, and we went to meet his two friends at their apartment in Greenwich Village. They are stockbrokers, and they live on the 31st floor of their building and have a great view of the city. It was inspiring to see two guys who aren’t much older than me making it in the city. This was the first moment on the trip, and the first time in my life, that made me feel that New York City is a place that I could live one day. We all went out to dinner, and the guys explained to us more about what they do and what life in New York is like.
The next day, we departed from the hotel for our first stop at Bloomberg. The building is fascinating. I find it interesting how the design came out of the idea of transparency. They took that idea and turned it into reality. It was also interesting to hear about how Michael Bloomberg began the company. Stories of entrepreneurship are my favorite business stories. I like learning about how someone can take an idea and turn it into a reality. In Michael Bloomberg's case, he took what he was essentially already doing for a firm and transformed it into a much better and streamlined system. Getting to use the Bloomberg terminals was great, too; I had never used one before. Honestly, I used much of the time tinkering around the software. I was doing research on one of my own stocks and was able to find a PowerPoint presentation the company uses to persuade large clients to invest in the company! The software is amazing. I couldn't believe it has more than 25,000 functions and even a sports stats function. I enjoyed the Bloomberg tour a lot. After the tour concluded, we were off to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).
The PWC lunch was nice. It’s great that these companies that hosted our FMA visits not only invited us to visit, but also paid for our lunch. While we were eating, I took some time to look around the skyline. Being up on a high floor in those buildings gives me a feeling of euphoria. The size and structure of Manhattan is just amazing. It is incredible to me how many people work there and how much is done on just this one island in New York. After we finished lunch, we went down to the basement floor and heard a very informative presentation from UT grads Jonathan Papaik and Tania Chebli. I had no idea PWC was so much more than just an accounting firm. I thought they both did a very good job explaining everything that PWC is involved with. The “deals” and consulting departments both seem like they would be good employment areas. After PWC we went to JP Morgan's massive three-building complex where we got to meet with John Rosenwald, Vice Chairman Emeritus, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
He was my favorite person we got to meet on the trip. Although our time with him was short, it was immediately clear that he is very knowledgeable and well-rounded. How many people start off a meeting with a Robert Frost reference? He has a very stoic presence, and he seemed to be felt throughout the room before he even spoke a word. Once he did, it became very clear why he held his position. His story about making the first bulk lot trade was incredible. When someone asked him about how he donated to charities, I took note. Essentially, he said he would research how much has been raised, how much work has been done, and then double the amount if possible, since he has accumulated so much. I will definitely be getting in touch with him for a donation once I get the Camp Koinonia Angel Fund up and running! After such a busy day, I was more than ready for Carmines Restaurant. The five-course meal in the Theater District was a nice touch to the end of the first day of our trip.
The next day, I got up, worked out, and enjoyed some coffee to start off the day. First, we were off to the financial district—my favorite part of NYC. The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYME) is fascinating. It was crazy to see down into the “pits” and watch commodities being traded right in front of my eyes. Our guide was great, too. His name was Steve, and he was from Brooklyn. He gave us the NYME history, taught us how it works today, and introduced us to some employees. He did a great job showing us the “feel” of the place. It felt like a high school “click” of friends. At one point, a very large man walked up to the pit and yelled out the trade he needed. A trader from across the floor yelled back: “Look at the tough guy!” The large man and everyone in the pit all started laughing together. This was certainly not the environment I expected in what I always imagined as a very stressful place. However, after Steve gave us some insight, it made sense. The market was converted mostly to electronic trading in 2008, and he told us it has lost a lot of the old feel since then. He went on to explain it is much less crowded now. He said it used to be so crowded that you were sliding in between people and bumping elbows the entire time. He also told us that there used to be frequent fights in the pits. However, after they created a $2,500 fine for throwing a punch, most of those ended. Steve said he was in the process of finding a new job. I could infer from his demeanor, as well as those in the pits, that they missed the way the trading used to be, and that it is only a matter of time before everything becomes electronic.
It was humbling to see the 9/11 museum. I'm glad that they have finished building it and the memorial. I was shocked to see how big the Occupy Wall Street protest had gotten. I watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report religiously, and they both had featured the rally only a few days ago. It was interesting to see something I only saw a few days ago on TV happening in front of me. It was also an interesting position to be in as the protestors most likely thought that we worked for Wall Street. I had one of them come up and tell me they weren't all ignorant and not to pay attention to the “NAZI BANKERS” sign. I actually do agree that some of them make valid points; however, those who do seem to be few and far between. After avoiding the mob and taking our picture at the Wall Street “bull,” we arrived at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
The view from their office building is incredible. It was awesome to watch the new World Trade Center tower being constructed next to us. I enjoyed the FINRA presentation more than I thought I would. Initially, the presentation was a bit dry, and the overview lasted too long. Once the discussion of how they go after fraud started, though, I found it interesting. I was unaware that there is such a large independent regulator for the financial world, and that they have so much authority. These guys are, in a sense, detectives. The boiler room stories were hilarious as well, about how people are able to pull off financial stunts for so long. It was also very funny hearing them talk about the executive waving as he evaded them going down the glass elevator. However, I did not like that he put up a picture of the Florida Gators and Vanderbilt at the end of the slide show. After that happened, I was more than ready to go to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
After the initial shock and awe came more shock and awe as we met John our “market maker.” These guys are insanely smart. He explained to us how he conducts the trades for Barclays: conducting trades, adjusting algorithms for the market, and reviewing market conditions all at the same time. They also have to be pretty tough physically to stand up for nine hours a day. John did a great job at showing us all of the complexities behind the market. It was great getting to see what happens when I conduct a trade. Then we got to see the closing bell! It was quite an experience, and one I will never forget. The NYSE and meeting John Rosenwald were my two favorite parts of the trip. After a great experience at the NYSE, we proceeded to dinner on the Staten Island Ferry.
Beasley Battle and I rode on the back of the ferry so that we could look at Manhattan and the water and talk about the trip. Seeing it from the water places the city in perspective — such a continual flurry of activity. This is also where it sank in for both of us that this is where we want to be someday. And, this is what the trip mostly showed me. Through the people we met, what we saw, the things we did, this trip affirmed to me that I want to be a part of the financial world in NYC one day.
For more information about the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Financial Management Association, please visit http://bus.utk.edu/finance/fma/index.htm.
UT MBA Student Contributes Art to UT Bookstore
KNOXVILLE, TN — Business and pleasure are one and the same for Clark Ensminger, an MBA student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
A passion for his alma mater and UT football, an artistic background and a budding interest in business are melded together in his new business venture, Tennessee Prints.
Ensminger, from Delano, Tenn., has enjoyed art since he began drawing in middle school. He majored in graphic design during his first year at UT, but realized he wanted to go into business. He changed programs and is now finishing his MBA with a concentration in marketing.
Additionally, Ensminger comes from a family of UT alumni and devoted football fans. He and his wife, Heather, also a UT alumna working on her master’s degree, dressed their infant daughter, Charlotte, as a football last year for her first Halloween.
Combining his artistic talent and love of UT football, Ensminger created a freehand drawing of Neyland Stadium that is now being sold in the UT Bookstore.
He began a thread in a VolNation (http://www.volnation.com/) forum documenting the project from the idea's inception to the drawing's completion. Many people expressed interest in buying prints of the piece, so he approached the UT Bookstore about selling his prints.
At least 130 of Ensminger’s prints have already been purchased, and he’s optimistic that he’ll sell more during the holiday gift-giving season.
Student Spotlight: Kate Abercrombie
College of Business Administration senior Kate Abercrombie is proving to be one of the college’s most well rounded students. The Colorado Springs, Colorado, native lived in Brussels, Belgium, for six years before attending high school in Germantown, Tennessee. She is now pursuing a double major in economics and French with a concentration in international business.
In addition to being a committed honors student, Abercrombie stays just as busy outside of the classroom. She is an active member of Chi Omega sorority, Beta Gamma Sigma, Student Alumni Associates, TeamVOLS, Pi Delta Phi, Gamma Beta Phi, and Phi Eta Sigma. Additionally, she is one of the College of Business Administration’s student ambassadors and a Global Leadership Scholar, which includes honors curricula and a host of its own time commitments. She also has served as a peer mentor in the college for its Business Administration 100 course.
Abercrombie studied abroad earlier this year in Grenoble, France, at Grenoble Ecole de Management, where she earned a certificate in international business. She remained in France for three weeks to serve as an interpreter for UT College of Business Administration faculty in Bordeaux, France. She went from her international study experience in the spring to Moose, Wyoming, where she worked as a preparatory chef at Moose Head Ranch, where she has worked for three summers.
Upon graduation in 2012, Abercrombie hopes to use her business education to pursue a career with a consulting firm.
Alum Spotlight: Wade Stonebrook
Wade Stonebrook has proven to be one of the College of Business Administration’s loyal young alums. The graduate of Bartlett High School in Bartlett, Tennessee, has accomplished much since moving to Knoxville in the fall of 2001. During his time at UT, Stonebrook was active in the Financial Management Association (including serving as vice president), Executive Undergrads, and the Student Government Association. After graduating in 2004 from UT Summa Cum Laude with degrees in finance and accounting, he pursued a Master of Accountancy degree with a concentration in assurance, graduating in 2006. During his time in school, Stonebrook completed internships with various companies including FedEx, TVA, and accounting powerhouse Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP.
Upon graduation, Stonebrook went to work for Deloitte as an audit senior, where he practiced for three years. Since the spring of 2009, he has worked for Brunswick Boat Group as a senior financial analyst. In addition to his work, Stonebrook stays active in the Knoxville community. He joined the Tennessee Society of CPAs’ Knoxville chapter in 2006, and has served as the young CPA committee chair, communication director, and assistant treasurer. Additionally, he is a member of the Young Professionals of Knoxville, and most recently has been chosen as the president elect of the University of Tennessee’s Young Alumni Council (he has also served on the council’s campus relations committee).
Even as a young alumnus, Stonebrook has taken the initiative to financially support his alma mater. In addition to his contributions to UT athletics and the UT Alumni Association, he is a loyal supporter of the college’s Department of Accounting and Information Management and the College Fund for Business Administration.
Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Laura Cole
Dr. Laura Cole earned both an undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA in management information systems from Auburn University before pursuing her Ph.D. in finance from the University of Tennessee. In the beginning of her academic career, Cole was a full-time business instructor at Macon State College. She joined the faculty of the UT Department of Finance in 2009 as a lecturer and director of the Masters Investment Learning Center. She currently teaches courses in introductory finance, financial statement analysis, and investments.
Cole believes that finance has to be understandable and should be taught in the context of the “bigger” picture. She believes that the primary goal is that the subject matter has to be tied back to the business side of the firm. It is her belief that everyone can learn finance, but at different speeds. Furthermore, she has found that while some students can see everything with an equation, others need to see it in multiple ways, such as with “real world” examples.
“Anything, even finance, can be boring and dry without seeing an application for it,” said Cole. “Most undergraduate students do not (yet) have the financial background to see why the material is relevant. One way the application of the material can be seen is with the use of examples from actual companies.” Therefore an important focus of Cole’s teaching is on applications and real-life cases that help students appreciate both the practical importance and relevance of the theoretical concepts studied.
The Masters Investment Learning Center (Masters ILC) is a high-technology learning hub that promotes and facilitates business education and research through experiential learning. The center provides educational opportunities and enrichment activities for students, faculty, and the professional community. Each semester, as director of the Masters ILC, Cole trains over 200 undergraduate and graduate students on Bloomberg, a financial database software program, leading to Bloomberg Acknowledgements in up to four market sectors: equities, fixed income, commodities, and foreign exchange. The Masters ILC houses 12 Bloomberg terminals which serve as a resource for organizations such as the Haslam and LaPorte Torch Funds, the CFA Research Challenge team, the CME Commodities Trading Challenge teams, and the TVA Investment Fund.
One of her largest roles in the College of Business Administration is as the faculty advisor for the UT Investment Group (UTIG), an active, student-managed organization that is dedicated to improving its members’ understanding of investment management. Founded in the fall of 2010, UTIG helps members develop and test practical investment skills in the real world. It hosts distinguished guest speakers and visiting investors from the local investment community and sponsors a mock portfolio competition focused on trading equities and options, called “Battle of the Traders,” with cash prizes.
In the campus community, Cole participates in the UT Faculty Women’s Club (FWC) and the University Women’s Investors (UWIN). Outside the university, she serves in organizations such as the Financial Executives International (FEI) and non-profit organizations such as the Optimist Club of Knoxville. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, chess, and improving at her new hobby—golf. Cole and her husband, Deno, a general litigation attorney who concentrates in civil and criminal defense cases, enjoy spending time at their beach house in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and entertaining friends and family at their downtown Knoxville condo by Market Square. Deno is an avid motorcycle enthusiast and is teaching Laura how to (safely) ride a Vespa, which was recently purchased after their wedding in Italy. The couple have recently traveled in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and have plans to visit Nicaragua, Laura’s birth country, in the near future.