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Campus Insider: USF, Cumberland Advisors host virtual panel discussion about financial markets

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Financial experts participating in a Nov. 14 webinar hosted by the University of South Florida and Sarasota-based Cumberland Advisors said the improving economy and recent good news about potential COVID-19 vaccines point to an upward trend in financial markets next year.

“I think next year will be a better year, but it’s going to be a different year,” said Eddie Sanchez, a finance instructor in USF’s Muma College of Business, director of the Bloomberg Financial Markets Lab at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus and a longtime hedge fund portfolio manager and securities analyst. “We’re looking to have different companies emerging. Our world is changing, the United States is changing and the way you live and the way you work is changing.”

The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus hosted the 90-minute webinar, “Post-Election Financial Markets,” which was offered at no charge to the public and focused on the economy, the pandemic’s impact on equity markets and the outlook for stocks and bonds heading into 2021.

The speakers contrasted the pandemic’s drag on markets and volatility surrounding the presidential election with recent upticks in major indexes. Low-interest rates will likely continue into 2021, helping to spur housing and investor interest in stocks. However, possible tax increases could lure investors to the bond market as they point to higher yields, including in municipal bonds.

“The volatility in the bond market is significantly less,” said John Mousseau, president, chief executive officer and director of fixed income at Cumberland, noting recent trends. “We expect that to move back up again towards more normal volatility in the bond market, and that’s strictly going to be as you get this handoff basically from a government-help economy to an economy that’s going to be on its own, plus (COVID-19) vaccination.” 

Other speakers from the investment firm included:

  • David Kotok, the firm’s chief investment officer and co-founder
  • Robert Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist
  • Patricia M. Healy, senior vice president of research
  • Matthew McAleer, executive vice president and director of equity strategies
  • Bill Witherell, chief global economist
  • Leo Chen, quantitative strategist

The Global Interdependence Center, a nonprofit that promotes increased global dialogue and free trade, sponsored the event along with USF and Cumberland. Jean Kabongo, campus dean in the Muma College of Business and a professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, moderated the discussion and introduced the panelists. Joining him was Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook.

Generally, the panelists sounded optimistic looking ahead to 2021. They acknowledged that some trends remain difficult to pinpoint, including the degree to which technology impacts stay-at-home workers once pandemic restrictions are lifted and whether small-cap stocks continue to attract investors away from large-cap growth stocks.

“Take a look at the past four weeks,” McAleer said. “You can really start to see what’s been taking over in the near term. Look at the bottom. What’s the weakest performing equity asset class over the last four weeks? Large-cap growth, money rotating out of large-cap growth and into some of those previously under-performing small cap sectors. The question is whether this rotation is going to be longer lived.” 

Also unknown, the speakers said, is the degree to which the federal government will increase taxes next year, whether another government stimulus package will be approved, and to what extent, and if runoff elections in Georgia in January swing the Senate majority to Democrats or Republicans – all of which offer potential to profoundly affect financial markets.

What is known, they said, is that the economic recovery will take several years to achieve, that America and the world will be changed by the pandemic and recovery and that technology and innovation will play key roles in the economy and stock market for years to come. 

David Kotok

David Kotok

“We went down 30 percent and we are coming up the other side of the V, but when we get back to the top of the V, our economic framework will not have recovered to where we started,” Kotok said. “That may take several years. Financial markets are looking ahead, not at the present. They’re looking for that recovery. And it’s the drive of that recovery and how it evolves, plus how it interfaces with the rest of the world, that will impact the U.S. financial markets, stock markets and bond markets, and our relationships worldwide.”

Kotok and Cumberland Advisors have partnered with USF on several previous occasions to host events, including Financial Literacy conferences each of the past three years that featured high-ranking officials from the Federal Reserve, as well as informative programs on Cuba and the Caribbean and climate change.

Kotok and Cumberland provided funding for the creation of the Bloomberg Lab on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.  Along with his partner, Christine Schlesinger, he also established an endowed “Step Up To Your Future” scholarship to provide assistance to students who graduate from Title I schools, and earlier this month the couple made a donation to USF to fund a four-part continuing education training program for nurses. “Frontline Nursing During COVID-19: A New Paradigm” will be offered virtually to nurses locally, statewide and nationally starting in early February to help them manage the risks and stress associated with caring for those who have contracted the virus.

To view the webinar, click here.

USF students learn the science of beer making 

USF students in the Chemistry and Microbiology of Beer class took time out on Tuesday to showcase their projects and thank local brewers and other industry partners for supporting the unique program.

The students, all from the university’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, donned masks and sat at tables 10 feet apart outside the Motorworks Brewery in Bradenton to chat with brewers and discuss their work.

They examined a host of industry issues over the semester, including how brewers can produce beer using clean energy, how they can lower distribution costs and how they can extract clean water from mash and other byproducts to reduce water consumption. 

“The class is designed to help students understand not only the science behind beer making, but also the business side of the industry, from branding and marketing to distribution and energy usage,” said Joe Askren of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Muma College of Business.

Askren teamed up with chemistry instructor Ken Caswell five years ago to create the program at the Sarasota-Manatee campus. It consists of two classes. In addition to the Chemistry and Microbiology of Beer class, offered in the fall, the professors teach An Introduction to Beer Science class during the spring.

Like other forms of fermentation, beer making is chemical process requiring a careful balance of ingredients combined, heated and aged. Students learn what happens during fermentation from a microbiological level and how a brewer, carefully guiding each step, can produce a beverage with unique and nuanced flavors. 

“You can give two brewers the exact same ingredients and they’ll produce completely different beers,” Caswell said.

Liz Eastes

Liz Eastes

In addition to their on-campus work, students in the program tour craft breweries and meet with brew masters to learn brewing techniques. They intern at breweries for five hours each semester and – when not facing a pandemic – try their hand at making beer themselves.

The class is a popular draw for biology majors. Of the six students enrolled this semester – Brandon Adam, Liz Eastes, Kathleen Frieler, Kate Lam, Jerome Minton and William Scott – only one is not majoring in biology. Minton is a business major. He said he signed up for the class because he was drawn to the marketing side of the business and for future job possibilities.

Student Kate Lam said she doesn’t even like beer, but she registered for the class because of its science aspects.

“It sounded interesting, and then when I got into it, I thought it was fascinating, the science behind it," Lam said. "I’m still not crazy about beer, but hopefully that will change over time.”

Susie Bennett

Susie Bennett

Like Lam, fellow biology major Susie Bennett acquired a taste for beer only after taking the class two years ago. This past January she was named quality assurance manager and microbiologist at Motorworks Brewery. Set to graduate from USF in December, Bennett said she was surprised to learn that many breweries employ microbiologists.

“There’s a ton of science involved in beer making,” she said. “Who knew that something so simple could end up being so complex? One tiny change in the process can completely change the result.”

The two-hour event was capped by a brief ceremony in which the professors handed out certificates of appreciation to about a dozen brewers and other supporters, who lauded the program for its professionalism and providing a talent pipeline. 

“This program doesn’t exist without the help of our partners, so thank you,” Askren told the group. “This is a true collaboration between a university and private industry.”

CARVERCON returns to USF Sarasota-Manatee campus

Retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral and former Director of the National Security Agency John Michael “Mike” McConnell headed an impressive lineup of speakers on Nov. 13 as the CARVERCON security conference returned to the University of South Florida in a virtual format.

“Most threats are now from within and involve cyber criminals, where in prior years most threats to the United States were external,” said McConnell, who headed the NSA from 1992 to 1996 and now serves as executive director of Cyber Florida, a state-funded organization hosted at USF.

The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus hosted the annual daylong event, which was sponsored by Washington, D.C.,-based security specialist Security Management International (SMI). Luke Bencie, managing director of SMI and co-author of the book, “The CARVER Target Analysis and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology: A Practical Guide for Evaluating Security Vulnerabilities,” organized the conference.

In addition to McConnell, the speakers included:

  • Jennifer Hesterman, former vice commander of Andrews Air Force Base
  • Dr. Jennifer Bencie, health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County
  • Dr. Donna Peterson, associate vice president of USF Health and dean of the College of Public Health
  • Nicholas Waugh, director, security programs division, Intrepid
  • Malcolm Riddell, founder of CHINADebate, an attorney and a former diplomat and CIA agent
  • Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a former Islamic extremist who now speaks out against extremism
  • Leo Labaj, a former CIA bomb tech and co-founder of the CARVER Methodology.

The conference focused on the CARVER target analysis and vulnerability assessment methodology, but it also touched on cybersecurity, geopolitical issues and new and emerging national security threats.

Atop the list in recent years are hackers linked to criminal organizations, terrorists and rogue governments. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and onset of the Internet in the late 1990s led to a wave of cybersecurity threats.

Adding a new wrinkle to the issue was COVID-19. Far from discouraging hackers, the pandemic emboldened them to step up their game, said McConnell, who warned that American institutions cannot afford to let their guard down.

“Since COVID, we’re actually seeing an increase in ransomware,” he said. “Often, they’re attacking smaller businesses and local and county governments because they’re easier to break into and they’ll pay.”

Other conference speakers focused on Islamic terrorism, the impacts of COVID-19 on public health and the emergence of China as a security threat.

Riddell, a China expert, said the nation’s geopolitical decisions are guided by its history and that its ultimate goal is to become the world’s dominant power. This has been evidenced in recent years by efforts to exert more control over Hong Kong’s autonomous government, create new east-west trade routes to Europe and flex its military dominance in the East and South China seas.

“China is increasing its reach dramatically,” Riddell said. “Why we aren’t devising strategies to counter Chinese influence I don’t know.”

Student Health & Wellness Expo set for Dec. 1

Spurred by the success of the recent self-care day for faculty and staff, the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus will hold a student-focused self-care event – the “Student Health & Wellness Expo” – on Tuesday, Dec. 1, from 1 to 3 p.m. And like the faculty event, the student event will be held virtually through Microsoft Teams.

“After students heard how successful the staff and faculty event was they decided that they’d like to organize a similar event,” said Darren Gambrell, assistant director of student services.

The event will consist of three unique sessions: 

  • Affinity Room (Safe Space): 1-2 p.m.
  • Lisa Penney - Understanding Stress & Developing Resilience: 1-2 p.m.
  • Duane Khan - Counseling Center on Self-Care: 2:30-3 p.m.

Penney, a professor in the Muma College of Business, specializes in workplace stress. Khan is assistant program director of the Counseling & Wellness Center at New College of Florida.

The campus’ Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs, the Black Student Union and the Student Accessibility Services Office are sponsoring the event.

To participate, or for more about the event, contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs, sar-oma@usf.edu.

USF students express their thanks in new video

Supportive family and friends. Concerned faculty and staff. A university devoted to the health and safety of its students.

With the Thanksgiving break approaching, University of South Florida students were eager to express their thanks, even amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, in a new

video shot at the Sarasota-Manatee campus and teaching labs at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota.

“I’m thankful for my wonderful family for giving me so much love and support,” psychology major Madison Duelge said on the video, summing up the feeling of many on campus.

She added: “I’m thankful to live right down the street from the beach and I’m thankful for USF. Go Bulls.”

To view the video, visit https://youtu.be/2vnNnknPDnA.

To learn more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, visit www.sarasotamanatee.usf.edu.

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