Penn State Harrisburg student shines in Wall Street Journal Student Challenge

When it comes to playing the stock market, Patrick McKenna, a master of business administration student in Penn State Harrisburg's School of Business Administration, may have it figured out.  McKenna, a Harrisburg resident, recently placed second among more than 7,500 competitors in the national Wall Street Journal Student Index Challenge.  

The game, open to students across the United States and sponsored by Dow Jones & Company, Inc., provided entrants with $100,000 in play money in their fictitious portfolio.  During the trading period, entrants could buy, sell and otherwise trade any and all investment vehicles available on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), NASDAQ Stock Market, OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB), and American Stock Exchange (AMEX). 

The winner was selected based on their portfolio value at the end of the game. McKenna made over 3,000 trades, finishing with a net portfolio worth of $1,188,225.79.

“I was overjoyed and excited to discover I had finished second,” McKenna said about his results. “That was a cool feeling. I really wanted to come in first, because I was representing Penn State. But, a second place finish is still great, especially with over 7,500 people competing against me.

“I wanted to make Penn State and my professors proud and I felt that this was a great way to represent my University.”               

McKenna attributes his success in the game to the significant amount of time he devoted to it, his knowledge and educational background, as well as having a sound strategy from the beginning.

“There were a few things that helped me to be successful,” McKenna said. “Besides playing the game for a month straight, first and foremost, was my educational background and the knowledge provided to me by some of my professors in the past. I also read a ton of books that pertain to the market and Wall Street, so that helped out a little.

“For the most part, though, having a strategy beforehand and sticking to it even when I had days that I lost money. I think that was the key to my successful finish.”

McKenna also credits the things he learned in Patrick Cusatis’ Derivatives class with inspiring him to be successful in the game.

“Dr. Cusatis and his class gave me that extra motivation to try harder in the competition,” he said. “Some of the subjects he taught in class directly impacted how I went about formulating my individual strategy.”

Describing Cusatis as a smart person and gifted professor, McKenna added, “His real world experience helps to put what he teaches in context so that it is easier to learn and you take more away from the class. Plus, he has some really funny jokes up his sleeve.”

McKenna, currently a credit analyst with D&H Distributing, also already has his own brokerage account that he trades on with real money, which gave him the tools to know how to perform certain tasks in the competition, such as executing orders and reviewing charts and graphs.

Although Wall Street Journal Student Index Challenge winners sometimes receive interviews with proprietary trading firms which participated in the competition, McKenna said he is content in the job he currently has. His future plans are to graduate in fall 2014 and possibly seek other adventures.

“Graduating in December is the most important and exciting thing,” he said.  “After that, it is really up in the air. I love the job I do right now, but at the same time I would love the opportunity to explore the world.”

Last Updated August 19, 2014