Gatton Launches First Professional Finance Master’s in Kentucky

Until now, no master of finance degree program existed in the state of Kentucky. That is changing this week as the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics officially launches its new professional Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degree.

“There is a great need for highly trained finance professionals in our Commonwealth,” said Mark Liu, associate professor of finance in the Department of Finance and Quantitative Methods, who will direct and teach in the program. “Our objective is to place students in a position to become employed in the finance industry, which offers significant, well-compensated career opportunities.”

The first class of students in this 10-month, 30-credit-hour, 10-course curriculum is composed of a select cohort of 19 students. The MSF is not just for finance or business majors as there are no specific course prerequisites other than college-level math and introductory statistics.

Liu is very pleased with the strong response the program has received since it was first announced earlier this year.

“We had nearly 90 applications and gave out offers to a group of highly qualified applicants,” he said.

All MSF classes are being offered in the new state-of-the-art Seale Finance Learning Center in the Gatton College building, which opened last October. Students in this master’s program also will gain firsthand asset portfolio management experience by participating in Gatton’s $5 million student-managed investment fund.

“By finishing everything in 10 months, students are able to earn a master’s degree in finance in a relatively short period of time,” Liu said. “Of course, this means the course work will be relatively demanding and students need to study hard. However, our excellent faculty and the tremendous resources available in the Seale Finance Learning Center will equip students with what they need to compete in the fast-changing modern finance industries.”

The signature course of the new MSF program is Finance 685: Investment Practicum, which continues over the entire 10 months. Students will manage $5 million of real money, making all buy/sell decisions on U.S. stocks, gaining first-hand money management experience.

“Therefore, our MSF graduates will be perfect candidates for portfolio managers at mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds or other asset management companies,” Liu said. “They also will be in the market for positions in corporate treasury departments and financial institutions.”

Gatton College Dean David W. Blackwell is delighted that this new program is getting underway.

“The MSF program serves an important regional and national need for educating skilled and qualified financial management professionals,” said Blackwell. “This program leverages Gatton’s nationally recognized strength in finance to train students for these critical careers.”

Gatton’s Department of Finance and Quantitative Analysis has been part of the international CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute’s University Recognition Program since 2012, which recognizes its success in preparing students to earn the CFA credential, and the MSF program will prepare students who wish to sit for the CFA exams. MSF students will also be able to take advantage of comprehensive, business and finance focused career development services through Gatton’s Graham Office of Career Management.

The MSF degree is one of three professional master’s programs in the Gatton College that prepare students for specific professional positions. It joins the college’s MBA programs for students interested in advancing their careers across disciplines, and the master's degree in accounting which prepares students to pass the CPA examination.

Liu, who studied economics at both Wuhan University in China and at Canada’s University of Western Ontario, earned his Ph.D. in finance from Boston College.

“My research interest is in the area of corporate finance such as mergers and acquisitions, dividend policy, and corporate governance,” he said. “I joined Gatton because the faculty here are well known internationally in the finance profession. The research articles of our finance faculty are published in top finance journals. And our faculty are frequently cited in the Wall Street Journal and other financial media.”

Liu said preparing for the launch of the new Gatton professional MSF has been both stimulating and nerve wracking.

“There is a feeling of accomplishment and excitement in building something new from scratch. Yet that newness naturally causes a little nervousness.”