Bethel Steps Up to Help Business and Economics Students Who Lost Internships During COVID-19

After several companies rescinded summer internships due to COVID-19, Bethel supporters, staff, and faculty stepped up to serve business and economics students by forming three, donor-funded internships at the Royals Investment Fund. The internships are now giving students hands-on experience while also positioning Bethel’s student-managed investment fund for future success.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

August 19, 2020 | 10 a.m.

Jessica Eveland ’21

Jessica Eveland ’21, a business major with emphases in marketing and finance, lost an internship offer with a major company due to COVID-19. Instead, she’s one of three students to receive a special one-time internship at the Royals Investment Fund. “I just feel hugely supported,” Eveland says. Her summer work has centered on marketing efforts for the team, especially around the fund’s website and LinkedIn account.

This summer, three Department of Business and Economics interns are setting the building blocks for the future of the Royals Investment Fund. Jessica Eveland ’21, Isaac Vande Zande ’21, and Josh Young ’22 are working to improve efficiency and data capabilities to allow Bethel’s student-managed investment fund to take on more student-workers, gradually add more investors, and improve the fund’s performance. But it’s also giving the three students real-world experience they almost weren’t able to receive this summer due to COVID-19.

Eveland ’21, a business major with emphases in marketing and finance, had agreed to intern this summer for a major company, but two weeks later, the company rescinded the offer due to the pandemic. Many other students shared similar experiences. Needing an internship to graduate, Eveland turned to business and economics faculty, who were already working on a plan. “That was huge just to feel like my professor and the faculty here care not only about my education during the school year, but my career as a whole,” Eveland says.

Early in the pandemic, volunteer Executive in Residence Dean Junkans became concerned about Bethel’s business and economics students. Junkans, a close friend of the department with 30-plus years of investment management experience, knew many companies would be strapped as they adapted to COVID-19 and might rescind internships. He offered to fund three summer interns with the help of a few other Bethel friends and supporters. While business and economics students are required to gain experience through an off-campus internship, Junkans knew students could do meaningful work on campus through the Royals Investment Fund, the business and economics department’s student-managed investment fund (SMIF) in which students are investing about $1.6 million on behalf of Thrivent Financial and seven individual investors. In a matter of weeks, Junkans, staff, and faculty formed the internships and attained a one-year exception to allow for on-campus internships. “I think it was God’s leading because it came together much, much faster than I thought it would,” Junkans says.

Associate Professor of Business and Economics Amanda Carter—the SMIF’s faculty advisor—says it was just a Bethel thing to see many faculty members, staff, alumni, and friends go out of their way to help students.

“These three students have been loved by Bethel. A lot of people went through a lot of effort to create these opportunities for them. I am proud to serve at an institution that cares so deeply for its students. These students were truly cared for when they needed care.”

— Associate Professor of Business and Economics Amanda Carter

While off-campus internships are preferred, Carter notes Eveland, Vande Zande, and Young are completing meaningful and challenging work. The Royals Investment Fund operates more like a company than student-managed investment funds at other universities; in fact, the Royals Investment Fund is a liability company (LLC) functioning under the Bethel umbrella. Elsewhere, students invest endowment funding from September through May, then the endowment takes it back over the summer. “Other universities, they’re stock-picking for nine months,” Carter says. “We are running a company for 12 months.” Young notes Bethel’s model broadens student tasks beyond investing to marketing, client relations, technology, and more. “Because our investment fund is one of the top in the nation at this point, we are more heavily recognized than a lot of other school funds as we don’t manage simply our endowment, but we have actual capital raised to our fund and outside management of capital,” says Young, an economics and finance major.

Josh Young ’22

Josh Young ’22, an economics and finance major, will serve as the Royals Investment Fund portfolio manager this coming school year. During his summer internship, he’s handling monthly and quarterly updates of current holdings, while also working on ways to streamline work on the research team.

But running a company of mostly student volunteers poses challenges, as does the high turnover rate caused by about half the SMIF team graduating each year. Carter describes the work being done this summer as scaffolding that addresses such challenges by streamlining processes and policies to be more efficient. After these internships, the Royals Investment Fund will be better positioned to add two to four more investors per semester—the fund was only able to add two last year. The team should also be able to accept more student workers, as Carter notes they’ve turned some away each semester. “This has been a great turn of events for the three students who needed internships, and it’s also been very good for the fund and the fund’s investors because we’re doing really important project work that will reduce risk, increase efficiency, and provide really good learning for the students,” Carter says.

The interns are completing some work as a team and some separately as each brings an area of specialty: Eveland is focused on marketing efforts, Vande Zande on technology, and Young on research. Along with process and streamlining efforts, they’re working to update the fund’s website and LinkedIn account, and find new ways to incorporate data from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. Young, who will head the research team this fall, is helping monitor holdings over the summer, and he is introducing a new process for tracking workflows and structuring the research team.

Isaac Vande Zande ’21

Isaac Vande Zande ’21, who is majoring in business with an analytics emphasis, has focused on technology during his summer internship, working to extensively revamp the Royals Investment Fund website, fix and create resources for new team members, and worked extensively with Microsoft Excel.

Another challenge is COVID-19, which continues affecting the economy. Since its inception, the Royals Investment Fund has performed above or close to its benchmark. While COVID-19 and the financial climate caused weaker performance, strong holdings in communication and energy helped balance the fund’s performance. The interns are leading a COVID-19 analysis, studying macroeconomics in an effort to better understand how the pandemic will affect the fund moving forward and which industries will make for solid future investments. Young says COVID-19 is creating unexpected obstacles and even challenging some theories taught in classes, but it’s also presenting a chance to learn. “Being able to do our own raw research into that has been an incredible opportunity,” he says.

Like his fellow interns, Vande Zande is thankful to be learning about how an investment fund team operates and how to manage a portfolio. “I know I never would have gotten a chance to be part of this team without the pandemic and honestly, it’s a huge blessing,” says Vande Zande, who is majoring in business with an analytics emphasis. “It gave me the opportunity to explore a part of the business world I hadn’t in my prior internships, and the experience I’m gaining is relevant to whatever I pursue after graduation.”

Along with setting the fund up for future success, the summer work is also preparing the team for a unique start to the school year. Due to the size of the SMIF team, most meetings in the fall semester will be held remotely to adhere to social distancing due to COVID-19. Young notes strong communication will be key, but the team is confident they are ready to overcome the challenges. “The times are no longer unprecedented,” Young says. “They’re familiar at this point.”

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