Finance is not something many people study by accident. However, Dr. Mahmoud Haddad, who has taught the subject for more than three decades, did just that.
Born in Jerusalem, Haddad came to the United States at the age of 19 to continue his education. “I started as an engineer and then I took an accounting course for the fun of it,” he said. He ultimately changed his major and received associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting before going to work with the American Family Insurance Company in Minnesota.
“After I worked for a couple of years, I found out [accounting] was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I found the closest to that area is finance, so I went and got my Ph.D. in finance and I like it,” he said. “I love the field of finance. It is stimulating instead of repeating the same things like in accounting.”
Haddad has spent time on five continents and in dozens of countries, and can truly be called a world traveler. However, he and his family have called Martin home for the past 24 years, which he has spent teaching finance to students at the University of Tennessee at Martin. “Martin in general, between the university and the city of Martin, was a blessing to me and for my family,” he said. “[UT Martin] gives me the ability to do my hobby and get paid for it – teaching and facilitating information to students.”
Haddad originally came to UT Martin on the suggestion of a friend, but has since helped launch the prestigious Tennessee Valley Authority Financial Portfolio Management Competition for undergraduate students.
The idea for a real-world financial competition using real money was born on the UT Martin campus when a visiting TVA official, so impressed with students’ management of virtual stock portfolios, offered to provide $200,000 for student training. The competition initially included 16 schools and has grown to include 22 universities each managing portfolios worth $500,000.
“Students are allowed to use this money to manage a financial portfolio where they are involved in buying, selling and managing stocks, and at the end of the period they evaluate their performance and present that to the university,” Haddad explained. “That is a practical course in which students learn to manage real money exactly in the same manner as the portfolio manager in a professional corporation or the financial analyst for any given company.”
Haddad is proud that UT Martin students participating in this competition consistently outperform the national market and the professional portfolio manager at TVA, even without significant faculty involvement. “We let our students manage the entire portfolio. We never interfere in the decision-making process other than as external advisers. We advise students what to do with the money if they need certain advice, but the portfolio and the amount of money is 100 percent managed by students,” he said.
Haddad’s experience teaching and designing graduate-level courses also played a key role in creating UT Martin’s MBA program, which is consistently recognized on a national scale. “What makes UT Martin continue to have a great MBA program is the [number] of our students, the selection [of students] and the type of faculty who are honestly committed to making the program successful and to disseminating information to the best of our ability to the students and to our country,” he explained.
“The main purpose of coming to the United States [in 1971] was to get my education, and I am still being educated,” he said. Haddad is committed to the use of technology in the classroom and continues to learn new ways to reach his students through the growing use of personal and social media platforms. “Learning methods and facilitation are always dynamic. We need to always look at what is available [to] the student and what the student considers a better tool for them to learn,” he said.
At the end of the day, however, when the stock markets have closed, there is one thing Haddad wants to make sure his students take away from the classroom. “Education is the most valuable gift anybody can ever give you. It will stay with you forever; nobody can take it away from you because it’s within your brain,” he said. Whatever his students’ goals may be, and whether they were set on purpose or stumbled upon by accident, Dr. Mahmoud Haddad wants to help provide the tools needed to make them reality.
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