Finance department transcends stereotypes, helps students ‘form a better vision’ of field

By Rory Dulock | Staff Writer

People may think finance is all about making money, but according to Dr. Shane Underwood, Baylor students are among those who are learning to use their skills to help the world.

“There is so much good that finance can do for the world, can do for society,” Underwood said. “We recognize in this industry that there’s room for good and there’s room for bad. We’re all sinners. That’s what the Christian faith teaches us. We all have that inclination to just follow the money, but we are hopefully helping students form a better vision for finance — that it can be something that’s incredibly helpful for the world, can make people’s lives better. Yes, you can make a good living in it, but there is so much more than that.”

Underwood is a professor of finance and the chair of the department of finance, insurance and real estate.

“A finance major will develop the knowledge and skills necessary to work in one or more of the following professional areas: asset management, commercial and investment banking, financial management of industrial enterprises, venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and financial consulting,” the website reads. “The Risk Management and Insurance curriculum is designed to equip students with the qualitative as well as quantitative tools required for identifying, evaluating, and managing risk.”

Underwood said the department views its mission in terms of stewardship.

“God has entrusted you with these resources — maybe that’s through investors, maybe that’s through shareholders in a corporation or investors in a mutual fund — but you have a responsibility to manage those things well,” Underwood said. “We’re trying to train students to have a very healthy view of financial markets, to understand basic concepts and how to apply those to whatever career, because there’s a lot of different things that a student can do with a finance major.”

Underwood said what makes the department notable compared to other departments at other universities is its strong Christian influence and high-level academic environment.

“The biggest thing that makes this unique is the ability to be at a large major research university that is strongly Christian that takes part of its mission seriously,” Underwood said.I think that just is at the heart of everything we do as a department. It makes working here very fun and interesting as we think about ways to integrate who we are as Christians into how we do our work as researchers, how we teach our classes and all that sort of stuff.”

Likewise, Dr. James Garven, director of the risk management and insurance program, said what is driving the department at Baylor is the key aspect of it being a Christian R1 institution.

It certainly is the R1 designation and really promoting Christ-centered research that is certainly a unique attribute that Baylor has versus other programs, other business school programs,” Garven said. “There is this whole point of Christ-centeredness, and that’s not something you would find at public universities.”

However, Garven said the department constantly strives for improvement.

“It’s all about improving quality, and that’s in several dimensions: … in terms of improving the quality of the teaching that occurs and the opportunities that are created for students,” Garven said. “It’s a rigorous course of study, and employers find it beneficial to hire people that have the skill sets they get from a rigorous finance program.”

Similarly, Underwood said he would like to see the department grow in community.

“I’d like to see us be able to develop a stronger sense of community as a faculty and student family,” Underwood said. “That’s something there’s just always room to work on. I see some departments that are able to do a better job of that. I’d like for that to be something we build on and improve on. But in general, just be faithful to what God has called us to do.”