The Charger Blog

Chargers Collaborate to Host Golf Outing and Fundraiser to Support Student-Run Investment Fund

Members of the University’s Gaia Initiative and Hospitality and Tourism Management Program recently worked together to organize and host a golf outing that brought together the University and local communities. The event enabled students to raise awareness of and support for the University’s student-led investment fund while building their networking and teamwork skills.

May 13, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Remo Dilorenzo ’25 (left) and Thomas Portnoy ’25 at the golf outing.
Remo Dilorenzo ’25 (left) and Thomas Portnoy ’25 at the golf outing. (All photos courtesy of Haiden Leach ’25)

As Thomas Portnoy ’25 rode a golf cart through Grassy Hills Country Club in Orange, Conn., he was enjoying more than an afternoon on the golf course. He was excited about the successful event that he and his classmates had planned to support the University’s Gaia Initiative, a student-run investment fund.

For Portnoy, being involved with the Gaia Initiative has been exciting and rewarding. It has offered him – and his classmates – real-world experience, and they wanted to do something to support and raise awareness of the fund.

The students-organized event was planned in less than two months, and Portnoy says it was a “success.” As the Gaia Initiative’s donor relations and investment analysis coordinator, he co-hosted the event. He also played a critical role in planning it, securing sponsorships, raffle prizes, and giveaways. Organizing the event also meant invaluable networking opportunities, as Portnoy connected with donors and built relationships with professionals at companies such as Avelo Airlines.

“The Gaia Golf Outing has significantly supported our initiative by expanding our network of potential donors and raising awareness among students,” explains Portnoy, a finance major. “Importantly, the funds raised are not simply donations but investments into the future of education. These contributions are carefully managed by the student-led investment fund, ensuring that the initial capital not only provides immediate scholarships but is also strategically invested to yield returns.”

Students at the dinner reception that followed the golf outing.
Students at the dinner reception that followed the golf outing.
‘Begin their legacy at the University’

The event raised approximately $20,000 for the Gaia Initiative, an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment fund, exceeding the students’ goals. The funds are carefully managed by the students who run the fund, and they are committed to ensuring that the capital provides immediate scholarships while also yielding returns. The idea is that the fund is self-sustaining, so that it will continue to support student success, offer hands-on learning opportunities, and fund scholarships.

“One of the major goals of the Gaia Initiative is to not only allow student interns the opportunity to participate in managing all aspects of a professional investment fund, but also to begin their legacy at the University and allow them to have a quantifiable impact by providing scholarships for future Chargers,” said Prof. Jared Sheffield, co-director of the Gaia Initiative. “This golf tournament challenged our interns to reach out into the community and build a network to raise money to help grow the fund.”

The event included a raffle.
The event included a raffle.

“The event was great,” added Prof. David Sacco MBA, who co-directs the fund with Prof. Sheffield. “The idea for this event started with the students, and they followed through with the fundraising and event planning. I am really impressed with the fact that the students genuinely care about doing something that will benefit those who follow them.”

The Gaia Initiative offers students unique opportunities to gain real investment experience while they are still in college. They have support from each other and from their faculty mentors as they vote on investment decisions and develop investment parameters. It is also a meaningful way for them to support the Charger community while building their skills. The golf outing was an important extension of students’ work with the fund.

‘We worked together’

Students hoped the event, which included a dinner reception and prizes, would also help raise awareness of the fund. It did just that, drawing dozens of participants, including students, donors, and community supporters. It also included several University faculty members, such as Brian Kench, Ph.D., dean of the University’s Pompea College of Business.

“The Gaia Initiative Golf Outing was exceptional,” he said. “It showcased students from across the Pompea College of Business working to raise money for the Gaia Fund. The fund’s distributions are used to provide student scholarships. Students helping students while learning hands-on investment and event planning skills is a powerful example of the Pompea College of Business’s commitment to providing high-impact experiential opportunities to each of our students.”

Members of the Gaia Initiative and the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department collaborated to organize and host the event.
Members of the Gaia Initiative and the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department collaborated to organize and host the event.

A collaboration between members of the Gaia Initiative and the University’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, the event was an opportunity for students to work together to organize and host an event for a common goal. Ayden Lidestri ’24 first learned about the opportunity to get involved from professor Jan Jones, Ph.D. He says he was immediately excited about it, and he couldn’t wait to get started.

Lidestri says the event was very well organized, comparing it to professional tournaments he’s been involved with in the past. He believes that is a testament to teamwork.

“We worked together – hospitality couldn’t do it without the Gaia Initiative and vice versa,” said Lidestri, a hospitality and tourism management major. “Without collaboration, events such as this don’t happen. We worked hard to make the event awesome.”

‘A strong commitment to our educational mission’

The money raised at the tournament was split three ways. One third will support the Gaia Initiative, a third will go to the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department, and the remaining funds will go to a scholarship. The tournament’s winning team chose to support a scholarship that will benefit criminal justice students.

The golf outing was a fun way to raise awareness of and support for the Gaia Initiative.
The golf outing was a fun way to raise awareness of and support for the Gaia Initiative.

That opportunity to make an impact and to support his fellow Chargers was especially meaningful for Christopher O’Connor ’23, ’24 MBA, a member of the Gaia Initiative team.

“The funds are invested in the Gaia Initiative so it will grow,” he said. “I want this to be my legacy. I want to come back and play in this tournament.”

Portnoy, the finance major, also hopes the tournament will continue. He’s already looking forward to making next year’s event an “even bigger success.” He’s encouraged by the support received at this year’s event, and he’s charged up to keep the momentum going.

“The diverse turnout reflects a strong commitment to our educational mission for this University,” he said. “It underscores the importance of the investment fund in fostering student success and innovation through scholarships. The contributions received are viewed as significant investments in the future of our students.”