The Dragon Fund Celebrates 10 Years of Successful Student Investing

Michael Gombola, Edward Nelling, Diana Sandberg, Charles Valutas, Daniel Dorn at

For 10 years now, a select group of Drexel LeBow students have been able to say that their stock picks perform better than those made by Wall Street professionals.

That rare accomplishment has come about through the Dragon Fund, an equity portfolio managed by LeBow undergraduates enrolled in Applied and Advanced Portfolio Management (FIN 341 and FIN 342). In recognition of the Fund’s tenth anniversary, current students, alumni and faculty connected with the Fund gathered for an event on December 5 to celebrate its success, to thank the Fund’s alumni and the Drexel Board of Trustees for their support and trust and to highlight ongoing efforts to bring experiential learning into LeBow’s classrooms.

Since first being funded by Drexel Board of Trustees with $250,000, the Dragon Fund has been part of Drexel University’s endowment, with new stocks recommended for inclusion each quarter. It has received other infusions of money over the years, including an additional $250,000 in 2016. The value of the Fund stood at over $2 million at the end of 2017.

The Fund was launched as a formal class by Daniel Dorn, associate professor of finance, in 2007. Dorn and Professor of Finance Edward Nelling each taught the Fund classes until handing the baton to Diana Sandberg, associate clinical professor of finance, during fall quarter.

“For all of us who have taught the class, our main focus has been making a good experience that students could then apply on the job,” Dorn says. “We’ve been fortunate that the Fund has performed well, but the thing I’ve enjoyed the most over the years is when students who took the class came back with their firms for recruiting.”

At the anniversary event, Charles Valutas ’73, a member of the Drexel Board of Trustees, presented an award of excellence in recognition of the Fund’s success. His remarks that evening, along with those by Michael Gombola, professor of finance and head of the finance department, reflected not just the students’ successes and the fund’s track record, but the quality and transparency of their financial reporting completed through FactSet financial software.

Dan Hirsch, a 2008 graduate now working as an investment analyst for T. Rowe Price, participated in the Dragon Fund when it was student-run and before it became an official course. In those days, he says, “it was a collaborative effort between students and professors. We had to prove we could do the work and make sound choices in order to gain the confidence of the investment committee.”

The anniversary event coincided with the eagerly anticipated task that comes at the end of each class: Students made their final pitches recommending stocks to be added to the
portfolio. The students vote on these recommendations, with a group of investment professionals providing feedback.

A half-dozen alumni from the past ten years provided testimonials on the class and how it prepared them for their current careers, and each remembered the stock that they picked to recommend for inclusion in the Fund.

Mike Mannix, a 2014 graduate who took the Dragon Fund class during his senior year, remembers hearing about the class during his first year from a teaching assistant. “When it finally fit in my schedule, I made sure to take up Professor Dorn on the opportunity,” he says.

Mannix immediately put his experience in tracking and analyzing stocks into practice after graduating: he went to work at Franklin Square as an investment manager. He says that the experience making the final pitch, with seasoned investors in the audience, stands out to him as a major stepping stone toward his career.

“They really test you and get you ready for questions that you experience on the job,” he says. “To have to respond to them – on the fly and off the cuff – was a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

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