“Look for value in everything: how you live, act, and invest.” This guiding principle defines the Mehta family and their commitment to enriching the lives of students.
Last spring, Jagdish (Jag) Mehta — a longtime adjunct instructor at UNLV — and his wife, Devyani, gifted $100,000 to launch the Jagdish Mehta and Family Student Investment Fund.
Managing the new fund is integrated into a class in the Master of Science in quantitative finance (MSQF) program at UNLV’s Lee Business School. It will be taught by longtime finance professor Michael Sullivan.
A Vision for the New Fund
The fund empowers students to apply their knowledge to real-life investment scenarios, similar to the Rebel Investment Group (RIG) established in 2010.
Students take on the role of fund managers, overseeing the investments for the student fund. First, the class develops an investment policy statement, which defines the rules and expectations of how the class will work together and how decisions will be made.
Then, the students are split into groups. Each group oversees a segment of the S&P 500 and are responsible for doing research and making recommendations of what stocks to buy and sell. The groups make stock pitches to the class, and the class votes on how they want to proceed with the investment.
“The whole idea [of the class] is to step into the real world. They learn things in class and this is a chance to apply it. It’s fun to watch the classes evolve,” Sullivan said. “Jag has been a good friend of mine for many years, and he has done a lot to help finance students experience investing first-hand, and this fund is a continuation of his efforts.”
Next spring the student investment fund will begin operating for the entirety of the semester.
Jagdish Mehta's Journey
When you meet Jagdish Mehta, his excitement is fresh and contagious, and his hunger to learn and share his knowledge is obvious. In 1968, he moved to Lansing, Michigan, from India with little money but big dreams. He attended Michigan State University, where he earned a Master of Science in chemical engineering and an MBA with a focus on product management and eventually a doctoral degree in business administration.
In 1990, Mehta, his wife, and two sons moved to Las Vegas from Louisiana after losing nearly everything he had invested in 70 companies when oil prices plummeted and the local economy collapsed. Though he was fortunate not to file for bankruptcy like many had, it was still a devastating loss.
In Las Vegas, Devyani continued her career as an obstetric anesthesiologist and Mehta had planned to stay home with his sons who were 8 and 14 years old at the time. He slowly began dabbling in investing again, mostly municipal bonds that had little risk, and then eventually real estate.
Mehta previously taught college classes in New Orleans, so he was curious about what was happening at UNLV. On the day he came to check out the campus, he happened to run into the dean of what was then the College of Business. The next day, he was hired as a full-time associate professor to teach FIN 301.
Mehta believed in the mission of the business school and eventually requested that the dean decrease his salary significantly, at which time his role changed to adjunct professor.
“Jag is more than an adjunct professor. He has taught students the guiding principles of building wealth for decades at UNLV,” said Gerry Sanders, dean of the Lee Business School at UNLV. “And now the legacy of his family has been established through the student investment fund. We are grateful to the Mehta family and all they have given to support business students.”
Impact on Students
Having personally experienced the ebbs and flows of the economy, the Mehta family believes the investment fund will greatly impact the education of MSQF students.
"The support provided by UNLV staff is always deeply appreciated," said Rickey N. McCurry, president of the UNLV Foundation. “Mehta has already dedicated so much time and energy to UNLV, Lee Business School, and students. So, we greatly value his family’s additional support and the hands-on learning opportunities the student investment fund will provide for students.”
And, Mehta has no plans to stop teaching anytime soon. This fall he will teach a brand new course he is designing for senior finance majors. The course will cover alternative investments like private equity and debt, hedge funds, venture capital, commercial real estate, commodities, and farmland.
Additionally, students taking the class will be prepared to take level 1 of a two-level examination program to receive a Chartered Alternative Investment Analysts (CAIA) designation. Mehta earned this himself a few years ago.
“I love teaching. Even if you don’t pay me, I’ll teach,” joked Mehta. “Students keep me young. My ambition for life is to achieve more success in investing for myself, as well as for hundreds of others who practice value investing and create funds that can help society and institutions.”