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Mariia Diahilieva ’26 was a high school exchange student in New Hampshire when the Russo-Ukrainian War escalated in February 2022.
The Girard team took home the top prize for growth fund performance among 60 colleges in the portfolio competition.
More than 1,500 students from 150 colleges participated in the GAME Forum, the largest student-managed portfolio competition and financial conference in the world. Students relished the chance to interact with industry leaders, explore career paths, and demonstrate their financial acumen.
To enter the portfolio competition, students had to manage a real fund for at least a year, in one of four designations: growth, value, fixed income or international.
Girard students gained hands-on investing experience in Merrimack’s state-of-the-art Mucci Capital Markets Lab, beginning with a paper fund before moving on to the real thing.
The Merrimack Investment Fund was launched in January 2018 with a $100,000 gift from trustee Paul and Joyce Mucci P’07. Alumni and friends came together to match the Muccis’ seed investment, and thanks to this support and the students’ financial acumen, the fund now sits at over $200,000.
“Merrimack students have access to extraordinary resources and financial instruments,” said Kevin Goncalves ’19, president of the student-run Merrimack Financial Group that manages the Merrimack Investment Fund.
The victory was all the more thrilling since it was the first time that Girard entered the portfolio contest after seven consecutive years attending the forum.
“What a pleasant surprise,” said Mary Papazian, Girard professor and director of the Mucci Capital Markets Lab. She advised the team with professors Fan Chen and Omer Unsal. “It was a little chaotic with over 1,500 students here.”
The key to the win? The team’s approach to investing in growth stocks in technology, media, healthcare and other industries. Portfolios were judged using an algorithm based on risk-adjusted returns for the previous year.
During 2018 market declines, the Girard team stood strong. “We stuck through the downturn and continued to add more equities to our portfolio when other student-managed funds faltered,” said Shawn Jarish ’21, one of 15 fund analysts.
“Other schools will be working year-round to challenge us next time,” he added.
Papazian said she will teach a new class in the fall geared to the portfolio competition. Quinnipiac University and Nasdaq were among the forum sponsors.