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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Gift to ODU Will Offer Trip of a Lifetime to Top 'Wall Street 101' Students

Instructors will sometimes provide incentives for Old Dominion University students to strive for top marks in their classes.

Few incentives beat the one that was offered to students taking Andrew Cohen's "Wall Street 101" finance class this past semester.

Thanks to a gift from Jon Wheeler, president and CEO of Wheeler Real Estate and Investment Trust (REIT), the top five students in Cohen's class will travel to see or themselves the place they are learning about - Wall Street.

The students are being taken, courtesy of Wheeler, to New York City on May 12 and 13, where they will tour the NASDAQ, which lists Wheeler REIT, and see first-hand how knowledge learned in their classroom can be applied in the world of investing and high finance.

The students will also tour the Bloomberg offices and meet with Maxim Group, an investment banking firm that has done several financing events for Wheeler. The group will finish the trip with a meeting with The Equity Group, the company's investor relations firm and listen-in live on the company's first quarter 2015 earnings call.

"I mean, what an incredible opportunity," enthused Cohen, who added it wasn't difficult to motivate his students to work hard. "We've had a really great group of students, but knowing this reward was there at the end of the semester has been such a great incentive. I wish I had that opportunity when I was starting out."

Wheeler, a serial entrepreneur, started the company as Wheeler Interests in 1999, focused on the acquisition, renovation, leasing and management of commercial shopping center properties. Wheeler REIT has grown to encompass a portfolio of 38 shopping center properties. The company went public on NASDAQ Exchange in 2012.

"I am thrilled to be able to be in a position to offer this once in a lifetime opportunity to these ODU students," Wheeler said. "At their age, I did not have the focus and dedication to my future that they have exemplified, and opportunities like this were not afforded to college students. This will be an experience they will never forget. We have great relationships on Wall Street and hope that the exposure we will give them will help shape their future in an impactful way."

The students selected to take the trip feel like they've been given a miracle stock tip.

"To be honest, I didn't even think I had a chance at this because there are so many smart people in this class," said Jeremy Malmgren, 20, a finance major. "When I found out I was going to New York I was so excited."

Burl Sudendorf, 24, a political science major, has been turned on to the possibility of a career on Wall Street through his time in the class.

"It's going to be so incredible, to be there and see first-hand the heart of the financial institutions we have learned about all semester," he said.

Sudendorf said the class is challenging - "there is so much information thrown at you all at once," he said - but he is happy he enrolled. At Old Dominion, Cohen has created the Wall Street 101 class, which is designed to provide information and expertise about investing to students who have no background in it. Students from any major are allowed to take the course, which is conducted in the Gregory A. Lumsden Trading Room and Research Lab in Constant Hall.

The lab opened in 2013 and contains 24 Bloomberg Terminals, which use a top-down global perspective to analyze markets, providing insider analysis from stock valuations; environmental, social and government monitoring; and advanced charting of future financial performance.

Wheeler, who spoke at Old Dominion's Strome Entrepreneurial Center in March, made the gift to the University in part because he was inspired by its quest to grow and nurture entrepreneurs like himself.

Backed by an $11-million gift from the Strome Family Foundation, ODU's Strome Entrepreneurial Center features an innovative program designed to empower ODU students from any academic discipline to create economic and social value in Hampton Roads, and beyond.

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