The Captains Education Enrichment (CEE) Fund, originally known as the Investment Club has found a perfect home on the campus of Christopher Newport University (CNU). It is structured as a real investment company with an executive board including Trevor Plesko, CEO; Maggie Traverse, CFO; Bennett Cooper, COO; and Daniel Smith, CIO, who meet weekly to discuss various investment portfolios, upcoming events and stock pitch competitions at local universities. “I always knew I was interested in finance, specifically investing, and the CEE Fund provided me with a wonderful opportunity to further my education in a space that allowed me to manage a real portfolio,” says Smith. “We also learn about equity research and investment strategies that provide us opportunities to practice presentation skills, networking and so much more,” adds Traverse.
To market the organization to new students, CEE Fund holds a large presence at the annual club fair on campus, where it engages with students interested in business, finance and investing. “Though it may seem intimidating, not only have I learned technical skills used in the industry, but CEE Fund has also provided me countless community connections with motivated and aspiring business professionals,” adds Plesko.
Passionate about business, students and community engagement, Dr. William Donaldson, faculty advisor of the Fund, brings gregarious energy to the classroom for students who remain passionate about business, finance and investment opportunities. As a team player with a passion for business, Donaldson spent 35 years running startup companies around the world, writing about business and teaching at several corporate universities. Now, Donaldson is currently CEO of eight companies and teaches in the Luter School of Business at CNU. He also sponsors the CNU Entrepreneurship Club and is currently the faculty representative for the CNU Men’s Lacrosse Team.
Aside from the executive team, CEE Fund manages an investment and operations team, where students can learn about business culture and investment opportunities before beginning their careers. “Not only does CEE Fund expose you to the finance world, but it also equips me to manage finances and investments after graduation,” says Cooper. Students are also required to give a quarterly presentation, where they receive feedback on their presentation skills, knowledge and understanding of the investment world and financial literacy. “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hosted sessions at local public schools and libraries that helped advise young students on the importance of financial literacy before experiencing college,” Donaldson says. As an organization, it also hosts numerous fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for its programs as well as support funding for an annual collegiate scholarship.
As faculty advisor for CEE Fund, Donaldson meets with the executive team at least once a month to help them stay on track and updated on their progress by attending stock pitches and student practice sessions. “It’s an incredible privilege to work with CEE Fund students each year; they are a true joy,” Donaldson says.
As an avid reader, Donaldson enjoys educating himself on various topics pertaining to the real world, including people, science and technology, as well as challenging his mind with puzzles and meeting with fascinating people. He also enjoys crossword puzzles when time allows. Spending most of his time with his wife Patty and their two daughters, Turner and Kate, they also enjoy visiting friends and attending Ferguson Center to see theater productions and performances, as well as visiting the campus for sporting events.
Having overcome the initial challenges brought by COVID-19, students are able to engage with local public schools and businesses, which provide a strong sense of social cohesion throughout the Newport News and CNU community. “Being back together in person makes the biggest difference to our success,” Donaldson says, “while we were lucky to be able to hold meetings and conferences through Zoom during the pandemic, we were missing those strong community connections, allowing us to actively engage with community members.” Donaldson shares just how important the relationship is between the business world and liberal art studies. “The world is an interdisciplinary place, so learning to understand the arts, humanities and sciences will help us create a level of social cohesion that is inevitably unbeatable,” Donaldson says.
With a driven passion for helping young people find their way, Donaldson remains an inspiration to the Newport News and CNU community.
TO THE POINT:
Captains Education Enrichment Fund, Christopher Newport University
Address: 1 Avenue of the Arts, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Dr. William Donaldson, faculty advisor