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Haas students to manage socially responsible fund

| 26 September 2007

Managing a socially responsible investment fund is a new learning experience the Haas School of Business is offering its graduate students for the first time this fall.

The new Haas Socially Responsible Investment (HSRI) Fund is seeded by a $250,000 gift from Haas alumnus Charlie Michaels and his wife, Doris. Michaels, president of an investment-management firm, earned his undergraduate business degree at the Haas School in 1978.

The fund will be managed by Berkeley MBA and master's in financial engineering students with the advice of an investment-advisory committee and a Haas School faculty advisory committee. Its investment philosophy will be to achieve a balance between financial and social or environmental performance.

Students will start investing when the fund reaches $500,000, a goal that Kellie McElhaney, adjunct professor and executive director of the Haas School's Center for Responsible Business, expects to reach within a few months. The center's ultimate goal is to raise the fund to $1 million.

"To our knowledge this is the first socially responsible investment fund at any business school," says McElhaney. "We expect this experience to train students for careers in socially responsible investing, but also hope that our students will take their newfound skills to traditional Wall Street firms and raise awareness about social-responsibility issues from inside the companies."

To gain some theoretical footing in this kind of investing, students managing the fund will be required to enroll in a new elective on socially responsible investing techniques being offered by the Haas School for the first time this fall. A group of them will be chosen by a special committee to make investment decisions for the fund's portfolio, taking on fund-manager and portfolio-analyst roles. The students will determine detailed socially responsible investment criteria, with a focus on companies using sustainability principles as a core part of their business strategies, practices, and investments.

In addition to the learning opportunities this fund provides, the center expects that the investment data to be gathered by the fund will help advance the methodology and the understanding of how well socially responsible investment funds can perform.