My name is Bryce Keblish, and I am an M.S. in Commerce graduate student in the Finance Track. I went to UVA for undergrad and studied Economics and Entrepreneurship in addition to being a member of the varsity swim team. As I was preparing for a life after school and athletics, I realized I wanted some more practical skills before I went into the professional world. UVA had been nothing short of incredible during my undergraduate life, so to stay another year for the M.S. in Commerce Program was an easy decision.
This post focuses on my experience in the Finance Track, but you should know how it fits into the entire academic plan. The M.S. in Commerce is broken into three parts:
- Integrated Core Experience, in which we take a deep dive into all things business (strategy, cost management, marketing and analytics, organizational behavior, finance, etc.).
- Track-specific courses, where we take classes focused on our chosen track (Business Analytics, Finance, or Marketing & Management).
- Global Immersion Experience, during which we study international business. GIE culminates in a three-week international experience that allows us to learn about business and apply our knowledge in real time.
Finance Track Classes
The spring term in the Finance Track includes four track-specific courses, one elective, and a global foundations course designed to prepare us for the Global Immersion Experience. For those interested in the Finance Track, these classes might interest you:
Asset Management—This class focuses on techniques for valuing financial instruments in different asset classes, how to interpret and build appropriate risk-return models, and the process of building a portfolio based on factors rather than asset classes. Much of the in-class discussion is centered around current events and the practical application of what we are learning.
Information Management for Financial Services—This class gives a very fundamental overview of VBA and Visual Studio. The goal of the class is to build a robo-trader that allows you to effectively compete in a hedge fund tournament at the end of the semester. The tournament is described in more detail below.
Special Topics in Finance—This class is separated into three sections: mergers and acquisitions (M&A), leveraged buyout (LBO), and bankruptcy. Each section uses the case-study method to examine and value different deals that have taken place. The M&A and LBO sections end with a negotiation in which the class is divided into teams and each team assumes the role of either the buyer or seller on a specific deal.
Corporate Valuation and Financing—This class focuses on the concepts and tools used in corporate investment and financing decisions. With the theme being valuation, we use numerous different techniques to value a firm’s assets in the context of project financing, agency problems, security issuance, capital structure, and options.
Foundations of Global Commerce—Students in each track in the Program take this course as a prerequisite for our three-week stint abroad for the Global Immersion Experience. This class is mainly discussion-based around several readings each day, making it more of a seminar than a lecture. We discuss the “business world” as a complex and dynamic system, learning about the history of globalization, the current world order and how different countries fit into it, and the ever-changing future of global commerce.
Emerging Topics of Commerce: Data Aggregation and Visualization—This class teaches how to use Excel and Tableau to clean, organize, and tell a compelling story with data. We have learned a variety of different Excel formulas and how to use them, best practices for representing data and how to spot misleading information, and how to leverage Tableau to generate dashboards that are useful for the end user. We will have a final group project in which we will put all of these skills to use. After selecting a topic and finding data sources, we will aggregate, clean, and eventually present our findings.
Financial Information Management Project—As previously mentioned, this class culminates in a hedge fund tournament. The tournament is designed to test both your knowledge of financial markets as well as the aptitude of your robo-trader. The homework during the semester is designed such that you build the robo-trader piece by piece, ensuring it will work by tournament time. The tournament itself is a three-hour event that simulates six months of real market data. Each team is given a portfolio worth $50 million of various stocks and options. The goal is to execute trades that minimize risk without changing your underlying positions. The winning team is not the team that makes the most money but the team the best minimizes their portfolio’s risk.