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Investment Analysis Elective Course Spotlight with Professor Paul Bolster

This faculty spotlight begins with a brief background of Professor Bolster and then presents a comprehensive look at financing, the finance courses offered at Northeastern, an expansive look at our Online MBA curriculum, the online platform, and concludes with a valuable Q&A.

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Evelyn Liougas: Thank you for joining for us the Northeastern University’s MBA Faculty Spotlight webinar. My name is Evelyn and I will be your moderator for today. Before we begin I would like to go over the logistics of this presentation and address some common questions. To cut down on background noise you are in listen-only mode, so you can hear the presenter but they cannot hear you. If you have any questions during the presentation, just type your questions in the chat box of the right window of your screen and hit enter. Please feel free to ask your questions as you think of them, but note that all answers will be held until the end of the presentation. As well, a question that is commonly asked is if this presentation will be available on line for review. Within the next few weeks you will receive an email letting you know when the recording is available on our website.

The panelists for this webinar will be Paul Bolster, Professor of Finance and Insurance; Tay Doan, Enrollment Advisor, and myself, Evelyn, who will be your moderator. Professor Bolster, I’m sure the attendees of today’s webinar are interested to learn more about your background. Tell us a bit about your educational background.

Paul Bolster: Sure, I’d be glad to. I received an undergrad degree from a little tiny college, Bowdoin College, up in Maine, and that was quite a while ago. And then I went back and got a couple of graduate degrees from Virginia Tech, an MBA and a PhD in Finance, and that sort of set me on the path to be an academic in finance.

Evelyn Liougas: Tell us one thing that you personally like about Northeastern.

Paul Bolster: Gosh, just one. I guess one of the things that I like about the place is that there’s really, from a professor’s point of view, there’s a really nice balance or emphasis between research and teaching, and what that means is that it allows us to have a very practice-oriented curriculum. Our research is really designed to help practitioners make better decisions in finance and elsewhere, and the business community certainly. And also it’s – from a student point of view, from a classroom point of view – there’s a lot of orientation towards practitioner use. So it’s a practical place but it’s rigorous at the same time.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. I would now like to turn over the presentation to Professor Bolster. Professor.

Paul Bolster: Sure. Let me just tell you just a little bit more about myself. As I mentioned, I’ve been at Northeastern for quite a while right now. Most of the faculty, not all, but most of the faculty, particularly those who have been here for a few years like myself have also had some real world experience either before we became academics or one of the things that is not unusual is for us to have opportunities to consult. I just mentioned a couple of major organizations that I’ve consulted for in the past, such as Apple. So you see a lot of faculty who have had these kinds of experiences over the years as well.

We’re also expected to be serious academics and we’re expected to do academic research and to produce publications in top level journals, and these are just a few of the recent publications that I’ve been involved in. I’ll just take a quick peek at that second one. I don’t know if any of you know who Jim Cramer is. He’s sort of this loud brash guy that’s on television every night talking about what’s going on in the market and making recommendations about individual securities. And a colleague and I have done some considerable research on his record as a stock picker.

But as you can see here, I’ve looked at a number of different areas within the area of finance and I think it’s not just me. I think if you were to look at the resume or the vitae of a marketing professor or a supply chain professor or anyone else, (break in audio) disappoint you. We’re pretty active in terms of our publications. And our publications also have some real world relevance.

And in terms of my teaching and research interests, I’m primarily focused in the areas of investments and portfolio management. And I’ve done a little bit of teaching in the past in the international finance area as well. In terms of research, in addition to those four sample publications that I put up there above, I think one sort of broad theme that I can draw around my research is that it does look at how does new information, what is new information, why does some information affect security values more than others and why should we care when new information hits the market? So there’s a variety of ways to slice and dice that big question.

And we’ll move on now to – here’s one course that I teach in the online MBA program and this is an elective course, so by the time you get to my course you will have taken one other course in finance, and you’ll certainly have taken a number of other courses as well. But this is an elective that’s been quite popular among students going through the MBA program.

So probably the big overriding issue that we talk about in this course is risk, and obviously in any finance course it’s going to be a major theme that we’re going to address. So in this class we not only look at risk, but we talk about why is it important, how do we measure it, how do we manage it? How do we know if we’re managing it effectively? So there is a quantitative dimension certainly to the investment analysis classes or most other classes in finance.

And what else? We also talk about how financial markets work. You’re all familiar with the major stock markets. For example, in the United States like the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. You’ve certainly heard these terms before. We talk in this course a little bit more specifically about how these markets work, how they process trades, why this is relevant, how different measures of overall stock market performance, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index, are created and why some of these indices are better indicators of what the market’s doing overall than others.

What else? In this class, one of the things that I have students do is you work in a small group and you construct a portfolio, and you manage this portfolio over the course of the relatively short period of the course itself. But it gives you a little bit of a feel for what it’s like to be exposed to market risk. And, obviously, you don’t get to choose whether the market goes up or down during the period in which you’re managing this portfolio with your colleagues, but you do get to make choices within that portfolio of what the objective is, what kinds of securities you think would be appropriate to hold up that objective, and how you want to trade securities in and out of the portfolio based on criteria that you developed as a group.

We also – another big thing that we do in this course is we build models to value stocks, bonds, and other financial assets. It turns out stocks are kind of hard to value. It doesn’t mean that we can’t try. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, but a lot of what we do in this class is try to come up with models that seem to be reasonable ways to look at the benefits of a stock or a bond, for that matter, or another financial asset, will provide to the owner, going up in the future, and how we can model those future benefits and then how we can come up with a present value that would represent the price of those future benefits. And things like risk and how financial markets work, so ____ those model construction techniques.

So these are some of the big themes within the class, and certainly there others. I’d be happy to answer any questions that are specific to this class if you wanted more info. But the other thing that I think might be useful for you folks is the pedagogy that you’re going to be exposed to within this course and within courses in general. And one of the nice things I think about the MBA curriculum online is that you’ll see a variety of pedagogy that will vary from class to class. Some are super high-tech, some are moderate high-tech, but mostly use a mix of different pedagogies, such as the ones that I’ve got listed here.

I’ve got a bunch of small video clips introducing lessons on a week-to-week basis. I have notes imbedded in my assignments that will explain topics with some detail and also give you some links to the real world so you can take a look and see what markets actually think about some of the things that we’re talking about within the class. There’s spreadsheet stuff, there’s some animated graphics that we use just to keep things interesting, alive.
There are also practical exercises that I have in my course that students have to do on a weekly basis. There’s a discussion that occurs once a week, and that’s sort of an ongoing thing. It’s a discussion board. For example, one of the discussions I have in my class in one on short selling, which is essentially a way of making money by making a bit of a bet that the price of individual stock is going to go down, not up. And one of the questions is this ethical? Is it appropriate? Do we need this kind of option to make financial markets run properly? So we have discussion around that. That’s one of the weekly discussions. There’s one for each week.

There’s also an online office hour. I held mine between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time last night, in fact. I had a significant portion of my class I’m currently working with attending that office hour. Office hours are held sort of for a fixed time each week and typically there’s not a mandatory attendance requirement. The office hours are also recorded, and it’s a great benefit if you can drop by. If you can’t drop by for everyone, certainly if you can drop by for some of them and engage in discussions and engage in some of the presentations that I’ll make off the cuff, or your professor will make off the cuff during this one office hour per week.

The other thing that’s useful to mention at this point, I think, is that it’s not just that one hour of access that you have per week for the professor, but you’ll also have the opportunity to interact with the professor and other instructors that are associated with the administration of the course on a much more regular basis.

I mentioned there’s a group project in my class where the students will develop a portfolio objective, construct a portfolio around that objective, and manage it throughout the brief period of the course, and then write up a final report on how that portfolio performed. That’s one project. We also have a stock valuation project that’s done as a group. The group picks a stock and does a fairly detailed valuation of that stock and decides whether it’s a stock that’s worth buying, or not worth buying, in a particular point in time. And then, finally, I’ve got a couple of exams in my class. Some classes have exams, some classes do not. They use other ways to evaluate you. This particular class has a couple of exams imbedded in it as well.

So I think overall it’s a rigorous course. There’s a lot to do. There’s a fair number of deliverables. On the other hand, while it’ll keep you busy, while it’ll keep you moving, I think it’s doable. In other words, it’s a grad level class and I think those of you that are sort of tentative trying to decide whether this is something for you or not, there is a fair amount of work involved, not just in my class but in each class that you take in the program. It is pretty intense, but on the other hand, there are hundreds, thousands of students that have gone through this path before you here at Northeastern. It’s tough, it’s rigorous but it’s certainly something that you can achieve if you set your mind to it.

In this list – this gives you a sense as to the kind of career paths, and I’m sure some of you have already embarked on career paths within some of these categories and subcategories. So I won’t go down this list one by one, but this is just to give you a sense of the kind of careers that we feel like we’re training you for here or helping you to move along in this particular point in your personal development program.

The other thing I think a lot of people coming into this program are doing is changing careers. Maybe you’re in finance and you’d rather be in marketing. Or maybe you’re in a management job and you wanted to move into something like supply chain. You want to do something more specific in that phase of business. And certainly this is a great opportunity for someone to sort of cross-train and learn something about these different areas as well, and maybe make that jump from one industry to another or to just further your own interest in a particular industry where you think you want to hang your hat.

A couple of things – here’s just a couple of broad questions that I was asked to speak to. The first one is certainly an important one. What is the future of the industry or profession look like? The simple answer would be it’s going to look a lot more like this online MBA program that it is like a – sort of an on the ground MBA program that represents sort of the past and current status of most grad education right now.

But we are going to need to interact with our colleagues in a very different way. Most, if not all, of you are using social media. You’re on Facebook, you’re using Twitter. You’re certainly using email. If I go back ten years, or certainly 15 years, these kinds of communication modes were nonexistent. What else? Our offices are becoming more and more mobile now. We spend less time in our offices, and that’s a trend that I expect will continue going forward. Our office will presence will be a less important part of our overall job, at least for most of us.

What else? One of the advents of social media, and essentially just living in a vastly more information-rich world, is the information available for business decisions are overwhelming. So part of what we need to learn to do is to figure out what information is important and what’s less important, how to find the information we need, and how to process it effectively. So those are the kinds of things. It’s probably not all that different than business has ever been, but now we have so much access to so much information that it can be very overwhelming. So it’s important to know how to break that down into what we need versus what we don’t need.

Further, I think there’s going to be more focus on advanced training, such as certifications. A number of my students – obviously they’re going for their MBA. Some are going for their MSF degrees as well. But there are certifications programs. In finance there’s the CFA certification is one. I’ve got a number of students that are working on as well. I think that these certifications are going to become more important and more valuable going forward.

And, finally, this is all being driven by technology, the availability of technology, and the advancement of technology. So we’re going to have to manage that more effectively going forward. So we’re all going to be more high-tech. We’re going to all be more mobile going forward. That’s what our industries and professions are going to look like.

Now, how is our curriculum designed to sort of bring us along that pathway? Well, the MBA is very broad-based in the major disciplines. So you’re going to learn – even if finance was the only thing you were really interested in. When you come into the MBA program you’re going to learn a lot about a number of other disciplines as well. That’s important to a degree like the MBA and it’s important to a graduate business degree for someone who wants to remain in an industry or maybe isn’t sure which industry they want to end up in. It’s important to know what the other functional areas are for, how they interact with the functional area that I’m most interested in at a particular point in time. So it’s critical to know what colleagues in other areas how they think, and how they model business decisions and what kind of influences they bring to the table.

Our online format, as I mentioned before, and I talked about my course, it allows for flexibility. We can speed things up, we can slow things down on the fly. I can move sort of boxes of material around from one week to the next if I have to. But generally speaking, it allows us to meet students’ needs on a somewhat flexible basis.

The other thing that’s important is that instructors and professors aren’t going to be that hard and expect – if you have a particular traumatic issue in your life or if you have a project blow up on you in the office, obviously there’s not a lot of time that we can flex with situations like that, but those do come up and we try very hard to work with individual students to keep you productive and to work you around those blips in the road.
So you’re going to have very good interaction with your instructors. Instructors, professors like me, and the instructors you’re working with as well typically do have a practice orientation. They work in industry. They’ve got some experience working as college level or university level instructors as well.

Your peers. You’re going to find that the cool thing about this – and this is something that I think a lot of students don’t really appreciate. You figure you’re in an online program and you don’t expect it to be – you just don’t think about the interaction as being as long-lasting as it might be with an on the ground program where you’re actually sitting in classrooms for hours at a time and have face-to-face contact with your peers.

But what I note is that a lot of students who have come through my class, who have gone through the online MBA program, retain these contacts and I’ve heard anecdotally about students hiring one another or students pointing one another toward career opportunities. So it’s not only a way of helping you to be a more efficient team member, but it also is a way of networking in a way that’s got a long-lasting effect.

As I mentioned earlier, the technology employed varies from course to course. Some courses have more bells and whistles than others, but they all are really pretty tech-rich, I think. I think you’ll find that. The course content is relevant and fresh. I know I’m updating my content every time I teach this course and I’m looking for new materials to segue into the course. It’s a very full box already so I have to decide sometimes whether new improved content or new topics I’d like to squeeze in there can pay the rent, so to speak, because they’d have to bump something else out of the course. But I think that’s typical of most of us that develop these courses over time is we want that content to be relevant and fresh.

And then finally, you get the opportunity to develop a specialization. I think we’ll talk a little bit more about this on the next slide but with a small group of electives you can actually develop a specialization within a particular area, and that will give you sort of an additional leg up when you’re trying to pitch yourself as having expertise in a particular area of interest to you. And there are dual specializations possible as well.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you, Professor. And now we’d like to conduct our first online poll. The first question is what concerns you most about starting an online program? A poll should have popped up on the right side of your screen. Please take a moment to select your answer. I will share the results with you in a few minutes. And now I would like to turn it over to our enrollment advisor, Tay, who will discuss the specifics of the MBA program. Tay.

Tay Doan: Hello. Thank you very much. Hello, everyone attending the webinar. So just to go over the program overview. So we do have eight different areas to specialize in, which you can see here. So you have finance, supply chain management, health care management, high technology management, innovation entrepreneurship, international management, marketing, and sustainability.

So the program is a part-time accelerated program so we only allow you to take one course at a time. If you go through the program without taking any breaks, you should complete the program in as little as 24 months. We do understand, however, sometimes you have family obligations, work obligations, so if you need to take a break you can do so, and in doing so you have up to five years to complete the program.

The program is 100 percent online, so there is no requirement to come to the campus for whatever reason. However, we do offer optional residencies. So we have the international field study and campus residencies, again, optional. Please reach out to your enrollment advisor for more information pertaining to the optional residencies. Now you’re dealing with the instructors, professors that have real-world business experience, so you’re learning directly from them within the program.

Now, we are going to talk about the dual specializations that the Professor mentioned previously. Before we get to the information here, I wanted to explain how the specializations work. So the 50 credit hours will break down to 18 courses. So you have your 13 core courses and your five electives. If you were to choose any five electives from the eight different areas of focus, you will graduate with just the general MBA. If you decide that there’s an area that you would like to specialize in, such as finance, out of the five electives you need to choose three, minimum of three, electives in finance. The other two electives can be within any other area and you’ll graduate with the general MBA and a finance certificate.

The dual specialization allows you to complete an MBA with two areas that you are interested in or two disciplines. So for example, let’s say you’re interested in finance and operations and supply chain management. What you can do is pick up an extra elective so you’re completing six electives total to receive a specialization in both finance and operations and supply chain management. Now what you’ll see here from this list, you’ll see a combination or a pair of specializations which will allow you to receive a dual specialization by only taking the five minimum elective. The way you can do this is some of the elective courses will fall into two categories. So, for example, if you are interested in finance and international management, there is an elective course that falls into both the finance and international management specialization. So this will count towards both so you essentially can receive an MBA with a dual specialization by taking only five electives.

Now we go with the dual degree program. This option should not be confused with the dual specialization. So this is a full MBA as well as a full Master of Science in Finance. So essentially what will happen is you will need to complete an MBA with a specialization in finance. In doing so you are eligible to participate in the dual degree program which allows you to take an additional minimum of four electives up to seven electives to receive a full Master of Science in Finance. So this is in addition to the MBA with a specialization in finance.

Now just to go over some of the history about Northeastern University, the Business School. We have the D’Amore-McKim School of Business which was established in 1922 and is internationally accredited through the AACSB, which stands for the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Now this is the hallmark of excellence in business education. The D’Amore-McKim School of Business was able to achieve this because of its scholarly research, excellence in teaching, and innovative curricula. You’ll find that our professors and instructors will have PhDs, Masters and real-world experience in the disciplines they teach. This provides teaching based on industry standards whereby you are able to apply what you learn in the program to what you’re currently doing or industries you would like to move into. Being part of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business students will have the opportunity to network with over 200,000 Northeastern alumni as well as the over 40,000 School of Business alumni.

So in order to qualify for this type of program we typically look for candidates with at least a bachelor’s from an accredited institution and a minimum of 3.0 GPA. Now if you find that your GPA falls just below 3.0, that doesn’t mean that you’re disqualified from applying to the program. The admissions committee will review all applicants on a case-by-case basis. So they’ll take into account when you received your degree, the type of degree you have, and the type of work experience you have. Now we typically look for a minimum of five years of professional work experience as well. Essentially if you have a bachelors and a minimum of five years of experience you do qualify to apply to the online MBA program and your enrollment advisor will work with you in order start building your application portfolio.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you, Tay. Before we proceed to the Q&A session of this webinar, we’d like to conduct one final short online poll. The question is what types of webinars would you be interested attending in the future? Program information, B. Application process, C. Student or alumni spotlights, D. Faculty spotlight, E. A particular industry topic, please specify, or F. Other, please specify. Once again please take a moment to select your answer. I will share the results with you shortly.

I would also like to let everyone know that the D’Amore-McKim School of Business also offers the following online business programs: The Master of Science in Finance, a Master of Science in Taxation, and a graduate certificate in supply chain management.

We would now like to begin the question and answer period. And just a quick reminder, if you have any questions, simply type in your questions in the chat box on the right hand corner of your screen. First question is for Professor Bolster. How many hours per week would you estimate that a student would spend on this course?

Paul Bolster: Okay, that’s certainly a fair question. I guess what I tell students when they ask this question, and I think this generally becomes the expectation, is you need to find a way to budget about an average of two hours per day for this class. And that may sound like a lot and it is. We use that entire block of time, maybe not, but this is generally what I would advise students is to find a way to block out the equivalent what would be 14 hours per week. Again, you may not need all that time. In fact, students in my class report to me that they’re probably closer to between ten and 12 hours a week of work necessary, and remember you’re just taking one course at a time. So again, that’s no small commitment on your part. And certainly maybe my two hours per day won’t be sufficient for some folks or some particular weeks, but my objective is to try and keep the workload at least that reasonable. And students to this point, they scream a little bit once in a while but overall they seem to think that they can handle that work load. And that’s obviously going to vary from course to course.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you, Professor. Next question, again for the Professor, can you describe the profile of students – age, what their backgrounds are in terms of how long they’ve been working, et cetera?

Paul Bolster: Sure, I can tell you what I know. Obviously, I don’t find that out about every student, but the students that I do get to know a little bit better over the course of the course, I would say the typical students in this program is probably somewhere late 20s, early 30s, But I know for example right now I have a student who is – she’s materially older than older and so we do have mature students in the class as well.
But I’d say the bulk of them are probably right around that high 20, low 30 age bracket.

Students in the courses I’m teaching – and I teach both in the MBA program and in the MSF program. So in my finance elective I find a lot of students who are in the finance industry already. So they’re working for State Street Global Advisors, they’re working for Fidelity, they’re working for in some cases maybe Morgan Stanley or Goldman. They’re maybe in some kind of a private wealth management setting where they’re trying to get this credential to make themselves more astute and also more attractive to potential clients. But I think that you’ll see a lot of people who are in a large corporate environment but also those that are in a smaller environmental and they’re trying to credential.

I know the last time I taught the MBA version of my investment analysis course I had – I remember I had a student in Alaska who was working for a non-profit. I had a student in Indonesia who worked for a manufacturing company, and I had students in the Boston area also who were working for financial services firms. So it’s a broad mix and you’ll have the opportunity to know your student peers in significant detail if you choose to make those interactions.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Tay, this next one is for you. How much longer does it take to complete the dual MBA/MSF degree?

Tay Doan: If you’re looking at the minimum four electives, you’re looking at five weeks per course. So I would say if you go through the program without any breaks, 24 to 27 months for the MBA and then add an additional six months for the extra four elective courses.

Evelyn Liougas: Also for Tay, are there any types of scholarships and how are the awards given?

Tay Doan: Okay, so there are no scholarships or grants available for the online program unfortunately. When you mention the awards, what are you referring to, which awards?

Evelyn Liougas: I guess to deal with any scholarships, but I think you answered that when you said that there are no scholarships available, so great. Next question – I think this one’s for the Professor. Would the innovation and entrepreneurship specialization be appropriate for a long-time independent IT consultant to grow his one-person business into a larger operation?

Paul Bolster: I think it would be extremely appropriate. That would give you a lot of flexibility in terms of how you – it covers a lot of the basics about setting up a business plan and how I might execute a business plan, and I would think that coming from a one-person organization and wanting to grow that, that would be a particularly useful place to – way to focus your education.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. The next one’s for Tay. Are all courses recordings or are they live? Or how is the material delivered?

Tay Doan: Most of the material is delivered in text format. You’ll have some PowerPoint presentations. There will be some pre-recorded video which you can view at your leisure, but there’s never a time for you to be required online at a specific time. So therefore we don’t have any live video sessions or live conferences other than the optional live chats that the Professor mentioned earlier as well as the instructors. So that will be twice a week.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Professor, this one’s for you. How similar is this program to the full-time MBA offered on campus?

Paul Bolster: Okay, it’s fairly similar. It’s a different program. It’s different in terms of – the content is edited differently, it’s presented differently. So it’s qualitatively different. But in terms of the contact, in terms of the types of courses you would be taking and the way the curriculum is built – it was a curriculum that was designed to essentially to cover all the bases that we cover in the full-time, on-the-ground MBA program. So, I think that the on-the-ground MBA program actually has a few more credit hours required to complete the program itself. And, obviously, there are some advantages associated with moving through with a cohort and being on campus many hours a day and having those opportunities to contact professors and peers. But there’s also a significant cost associated with that and not many of us can afford those costs anymore in terms of time or money.

So, I think this course really develops the best elements, the best intellectual and, again, practice-oriented elements that we have built into the full-time program, preserves those and delivers them very effectively in an online format that I think is, again, for many people is preferable. For even more people is really the only way to manage both their ongoing career, your other obligations in your life, and to get a degree that’s going to put you that much farther ahead.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Next one is – let’s start with Tay. Can you elaborate more about what’s involved in the international field study?

Tay Doan: With the international field study, this is typically offered in the summer. There is a waiting list so it is important that if you are interested in attending the international field study that you register for that right away. So you have the opportunity to travel to one of four places including India, China, Russia, or South America. You will be there for ten days. You’ll be there with other students, the professor, and you’ll work with certain companies within those areas. So very good opportunity for that face-to-face interaction.

Evelyn Liougas: Can you talk a little bit more, also, about the on campus residencies?

Tay Doan: Okay, with the on campus residency, this is a five-day intensive program. So you’ll come to the campus and they offer it at different times throughout the year. It’s not anything that we have readily available in terms of information, but you will receive emails in regards to upcoming on campus residencies. So, again, five days, once you complete the five days you will be awarded three credit hours, which is equivalent to a five week course. This goes to the same for the international field study. You will be awarded three credit hours, which is essentially equivalent to a five week course.