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A University of Maryland University College student finance team is one of six selected to compete in Seattle in a valuation competition co-sponsored by Seattle Pacific University (SPU) and Business Valuation Resources (BVR).

Participants in the BVR/SPU Valuation Challenge will estimate the value of an actual private company using information provided by BVR, a Portland-based financial consulting company. According to the Valuation Challenge website, competitors will have free access to BVR's specialized valuation software and database, which typically costs more than $5,000 a year.

The UMUC team consists of four undergraduate students, two graduate student advisors, and William (Tom) Marcoux, an adjunct assistant professor in UMUC's finance department, who is serving as the faculty adviser. Morey and Marcoux will represent the team; the other team members have prior obligations that will prevent them from traveling to Seattle. Another adjunct faculty member, Glenn Stevens, also consulted with the team.

The third annual competition carries a first-prize of $5,000, and second and third place teams earn cash prizes of $2,500 and $1,500 respectively. UMUC's team and the five others made the cut from an initial pool of 24.

"This competition, which gives students a hard problem and has them solve it collaboratively, is exactly the kind of real-life project-based assessment we build into our curricula," said Matthew Prineas, acting vice provost and dean of UMUC's undergraduate school.

Prineas cited UMUC's courses in strategic marketing management, global marketing, and managing global trade as examples of classes that call upon students to mine data from actual companies. The university's criminology and criminal justice program also features a series where students assess current agency issues, he said.

Peter Munger, professor and academic director of finance and economics at UMUC, said the Seattle competition is just the type of thing he hopes more students will get involved in to build portfolios of practical work in the field, which they can show to employers.

"This is the first of what I hope to be an ongoing effort to encourage our students to apply their learning to ‘real world' practice," he said. "One advantage we have at UMUC is our faculty, many of whom are actual practitioners in the subjects they are teaching, and using contests is a way to encourage more interaction with and some mentoring of students, as well."

Roman Morey, the team's representative who is going to Seattle, agreed. "I really believe that programs like this help prepare students for professional success," said Morey, a senior studying finance and a technical sergeant at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. "This was an excellent opportunity to step out of the classroom and get a feel for how finance and accounting are applied."

Morey, who is currently applying to MBA programs, welcomed the chance in the competition to value a "closely-held corporation that does not trade on an exchange."

"I believe that this type of valuation isn't typically covered at the undergraduate level. Participating helped to broaden my knowledge base and prepare me for grad school," he said.

Marcoux, the faculty adviser, was inspired by the students, including Morey, who came to him in the fall and expressed interest in the challenge.

"I received help and support from many faculty, who shared their expertise and encouragement for facilitating student achievement that proves our core curriculum," he said. "Our team did well thanks to Roman's leadership."

As one might expect of a UMUC group, the team met entirely online. "By operating virtually," Marcoux said, "we produced a high-quality analytic business valuation in a manner similar to real-world hedge fund analyst teams."