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Koch Provides Lead Gift to Create Trading Lab at WSU

Koch Industries Inc. has committed to provide the lead gift to create a trading center within the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University, a crucial step forward for the privately funded project.

Koch’s pledge of $346,000 represents more than half of the projected cost of $600,000 to establish the trading lab and purchase computer hardware and software. Another $400,000 will be raised to create an endowment for equipment and software upgrades. Other private donors so far have committed about $272,000 to the lab, which will be called the Koch Global Trading Center.

“This generous gift by Koch Industries makes it possible for us to offer an educational experience students won’t find at most other universities,” said Cindy Claycomb, interim dean of the W. Frank Barton School of Business. “The Koch Global Trading Center will provide training and knowledge that is relevant to the business world and valued by employers. That, in turn, will help Wichita State attract the best and brightest students.”

Equipped with real-time quotes, international data feeds and analysis software, the trading center will help prepare business students for careers in the financial and commodity markets. But it also will educate students from other disciplines about the impact trading activities have on all aspects of a business.

“That latter component was essential to Koch’s support,” said Richard Dinkel, corporate controller for Koch Industries and a WSU graduate.

“Where a lot of trading labs are really focused on learning the basics of equities, we want students to have a more comprehensive understanding of how markets work, the support functions necessary to properly trade, and how trading concepts apply to many areas of business,” Dinkel said. “We want the student who’s going into the workforce to enter it with a better understanding of not only how to make a trade, but how to apply more of a trading mentality in any business.”

The collaborative agreement between WSU and Koch Industries calls for each to assign a representative to work together to develop the trading center’s curriculum and functions.

“Koch’s support and active involvement send a positive message about the high quality of curriculum and instruction that the trading center will provide,” said Rick LeCompte, chair of the Finance, Real Estate and Decision Sciences Department in the W. Frank Barton School of Business.

“Our discussions with Koch representatives really broadened the scope of our project,” he said. “We changed it from being a cookie-cutter copy of other universities’ labs to a center focused on integrating a unique interdisciplinary trading curriculum with our current finance curriculum. This focus is relevant to our community and beyond.”

Dinkel echoed that assessment.

“This is an opportunity for WSU to create a program that has both breadth and depth,” he said. “This comprehensive approach will offer greater value to both students and employers in our region.”

The agreement also calls for Koch to provide subject matter experts and instructors for targeted programs in the trading center. That expertise will enable the Koch Global Trading Center to provide instruction in areas where the business school currently doesn’t have faculty strengths, such as commodity and energy trading, LeCompte said.

An advisory board made up of business and community representatives also will help the WSU business school develop the trading center’s mission.

The 800-square-foot Koch Global Trading Center will be located on the main floor of Clinton Hall. It will feature 30 work stations equipped with PCs supplying real-time comprehensive financial data, full-color LED tickers carrying stock and price information from multiple markets, and digital display panels with breaking news and financial information.

“With the pledge from Koch Industries as impetus, the WSU Foundation hopes to complete fundraising for the project within the next few months,” said Elizabeth King, WSU Foundation president and CEO. The goal is to open the Koch Global Trading Center by summer of 2014.

“We hope other businesses and individuals will be as excited as we are about this investment by Koch Industries,” King said. “It signifies a high level of confidence in the trading center’s mission and potential. Students will benefit enormously, but so will their prospective employers.”