New e-trading lab opens doors for economics students


The SDSU economics department opened a multi-function laboratory on campus that is not available in any other area schools.

This laboratory, equipped with 18 high-end computers and software, real-time stock prices and eye-grabbing display boards around the room, is housed in Berg Agricultural Hall. It has been in the process of development for the past three years.

“It’s a dream come true from my perspective. A couple of years ago in graduate school I worked in one of these as a lab assistant so I know how powerful it can be for research and teaching,” economics professor Zhiguang Wang said. “… [The lab] almost exceeded our expectations. The reason why it works well is because we spent a lot of time in the pilot room with the new technologies we weren’t familiar with and … [learned] how to integrate the technologies into our curriculum.”

The majority of the laboratory funding came from First Dakota National Bank, which donated $400,000 of the $500,000 needed for the lab equipment and room renovations. 

First Dakota National Bank has hired many SDSU alumni and they believe the laboratory will be an asset to students to help them achieve bigger and better opportunities, according to Company Chairman and CEO Larry Ness.

“We [First Dakota National Bank] were approached for the opportunity by President Chicoine, who has a really strong vision for the campus, and can see the benefits that this [laboratory] would provide,” Ness said. “The department heads and professors were very supportive of this kind of project and we could see the value in this, and we saw the lasting impact this could have in the long run. It’s good for the school, the state and the country.”

The laboratory currently holds three classes: investments, ag finance and advanced ag marketing. It also houses investment club meetings, allows students to experience real-time changes in the stock market, a vast new wealth of historic and current market information and visually represents the experience, Wang said.

“It features a traditional and an agricultural commodity side of it as well,” Wang said. “They can do any research and find out research about crop reports or future prices and the market and information, so that works really well. The need was to enhance the level of education in finance and banking and ag marketing and trading to a totally different level.”

Some key features of the laboratory technology includes 18 Bloomberg modules, which are powerful computers aimed for the speed the stock market demands, and a Rise display board ribbon that flashes constant changes in large stocks around the globe – much like one would expect to see on Wall Street.

“I was really pleased with what I saw, it’s a strong educational tool for students who make use of it, and I’m excited about it,” Ness said. 

The investment club meets in this room. The club emphasizes financial literacy and deals with relatable topics such as personal finance, so the club is open to any student who wishes to attend Wang said.

“Every time we have investment club meetings we will talk about how the market is doing and what investments were mistakes and which were good investments, so in that aspect students really get hands on experience, which is targeted to the general public,” Wang said.

According to Wang, the growth of clubs and activities aimed toward a financial base is a purposeful sign that there is a demand for a more major-driven way for students to learn finance at SDSU.

“We’re organically growing the finance students without the major being here, and we’re trying to eventually provide some sort of finance track but we don’t know how the politics will play out at the Board of Regents,” Wang said. 

While the lab is a new tool for economics students as well as economics instructors, the department aims to fully integrate all of the classroom capabilities into a teaching element.

“I really am pleased that the faculty at SDSU takes on challenges like this and develops them for the student because that’s the future of the students and the state,” Ness said. “I’m excited, and I’m glad they did it.”