Students participate in Applied Private Equity Projects course

Author: Darcy Dehais

This fall, the Notre Dame Institute for Global Investing (NDIGI) offered a new course — FIN 40685: Applied Private Equity Projects (APEP). Kevin Burke, managing director of NDIGI and assistant teaching professor in the department of finance, was inspired to create this course after visiting Harvard Business School last fall.  He saw that pairing lectures with projects bridged the gap between theory and practice, which resulted in accelerated learning and increased student engagement amongst the Harvard MBA students.

Burke returned to Notre Dame motivated to design and develop an undergraduate course that combines lectures that introduce core concepts with investment projects that emphasize practical application. Creating this classroom experience where students are able to practice private equity in an almost real-world setting fits naturally into NDIGI’s tradition of creating experiential learning opportunities for Notre Dame students.

Student interest in Applied Private Equity Projects was high from the moment of its announcement last spring, drawing nearly 100 applicants for only 25 available seats.  

After the 25 students were selected, the semester kicked off with a series of lectures that covered the principles and fundamentals of private equity.  In tandem, the students were introduced to their host private equity firm and to the case study that they would analyze throughout the semester.

As the semester progressed, the course welcomed guest lecturers from private equity firms who spoke on a variety of topics including fundraising, deal sourcing, investing fundamentals, portfolio company operations and exit strategies.

Senior Mike Singleton sees the lecturers as a testament to the strength of the Institute’s industry connections and as one of the most beneficial aspects of the course.

“The speakers in APEP have been truly outstanding, and their willingness to speak in our classroom is largely due to the Institute’s efforts,” Singleton said.

Senior Erin Callaghan also cites the guest speakers as an integral part of shaping her knowledge about the industry landscape.

“I have gained a vast amount of knowledge with regard to the private equity space and its many pieces, and APEP’s unique structure has enabled me to that into practice,” Callaghan said. The information I learned would not have been so detailed and story-oriented if not for the industry professionals that took the time to travel to Notre Dame and speak with us.”

For some students, APEP allowed them to explore a career path that they had always imagined pursuing. For others, the course widened their perceptions of the opportunities available to them upon graduation.

Senior Greg Trinkl, a member of the course, has had a longstanding interest in the private equity space and said the opportunity to work directly with a private equity firm on a challenging investment assignment has expanded his understanding of the nuances of the private equity investment process.

“I’ve always wanted to be in either private equity or venture capital, and this was a unique outlet to learn about private equity from the most basic standpoint,” Trinkl said. “This class allows students to digest the private equity investing process and produce a high quality of work, without the stakes of the actual investment world. It’s an incredible opportunity to interact with people within the industry and get insights from investment professionals like Kevin [Burke].”

Senior Kendall Marthaler said that by learning from the various guest lecturers, she has the opportunity to compare and contrast various aspects of the private equity world and to gain a better understanding of working in private equity.

“There’s parts of private equity that I didn’t even know existed,” Marthaler said. “All of these different investment firms generally do the same type of work, but they have varied backgrounds, unique perspectives and areas of focus. There are so many parts of the private equity process that are important, from doing the research to actually managing these companies, and we’re getting experts in each of these different areas to really give us a real world understanding of the process and how that might differ based on the firm.”

Through this course and other programs, NDIGI aims to provide opportunities for students to experience the investment world while they are still undergraduates. Marthaler said the chance to enroll in the Applied Private Equity Projects course has helped her discern a future career and navigate private equity opportunities.

“I love how NDIGI exposes us to different areas of finance and investing,” Marthaler said.  Private equity is typically not available to students immediately after graduation, so classes like APEP give us exposure to different career paths and offer the closest situation possible to a real world experience. By providing us with these learning opportunities, the Institute aids in our career discernment process and broadens our minds to the variety of options available to us.”

Senior Patrick Kenney commented on how the class prepared him for the recruiting process.

“Before taking this class, I was rather ill-equipped in the investments space, as I made the shift over from corporate finance pretty late following my summer internship,” Kenney said. “APEP gave me a firmer understanding of all the elements of a deal and the holistic investment process, and it also greatly contributed to my interest in financial services.”

“Next year I will be working in New York at Jefferies Finance LLC, a creative middle market finance company that is a joint venture between the investment bank Jefferies & Co and Babson Capital Management,” he said. “I can confidently say that APEP accounted for about 75% of interview time for that role. It played an integral role in helping me land the job.”

Singleton said that Burke has been a helpful resource as he looks forward to landing and choosing a position after graduation.

“[He] is always willing to speak with students, and he especially loves to help with recruiting and job placement,” Singleton said.

Callaghan added, “He invests so much time into providing us with the best opportunities to learn and experience, and in addition, gets to know us well in order to offer helpful and tailored feedback.”

APEP recognizes the importance of personal growth in the professional world, and strives to help students uncover the right career fit for their individual preferences and skillsets.