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SDSU, Capital Services expand fellowship program

A group sitting at a table looking at a printed chart.
SDSU and Capital Services have finalized a three-year agreement for the Capital Services Fellow program. The new agreement starts June 22 and will provide funding to two current faculty members and three graduate students.

Capital Services logo

Capitalizing on a postgraduate fellowship, South Dakota State University graduate Ryan Burton has established himself within one of South Dakota’s leading financial firms.

Burton, of Sioux Falls, serves as portfolio analytics and risk director at Capital Services in Sioux Falls, a position he has held since 2018, seven years after joining Capital in 2011. The doors at Capital were easy for the Yankton High School graduate to walk through because he was a Capital Services Fellow, which was a financial and developmental boost while obtaining his master’s degree in statistics.

The number of students to have gone through the two-year program, which covers tuition and pays a stipend, has grown to 12 since beginning in 2007.

There will be more. A new three-year funding agreement between Capital Services and the SDSU Department of Mathematics and Statistics was finalized April 28. Department Head Kurt Cogswell said the agreement will provide funding to two current faculty members and three graduate students, an increase of one student and one faculty member from what had previously been financed.

Burton served as a fellow in 2012-13 before completing his master’s in 2013. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 2011.

‘Jumpstarted my career’
“The fellowship opportunity with SDSU and Capital Services jumpstarted my career enabling me to do what I love while making significant business impacts. Applying predictive analytics techniques learned at SDSU with Capital Services’ data has been a great experience,” he said.

“After graduating, I’ve enjoyed continuing to be a part of the SDSU and Capital Services partnership helping with new internships and fellowships.”

That’s exactly what Cogswell hoped would happen when Capital began the program in 2007. “The money is extremely important and the professional development opportunity is terrific as well,” said Cogswell, who is equally excited that the expanded program will address another facet of the department’s curriculum.

Tom Brandenburger
Tom Brandenburger

The previous agreement provided funding for assistant professor Tom Brandenburger and fellows in academic analytics and financial analytics. The new agreement also funds a fellow in machine learning and artificial intelligence with assistant professor Cedric Neumann, an internationally recognized expert in this area, as the named scholar.

‘Extremely intelligent and ambitious’
Alfred Furth, the second person to get a doctorate through SDSU’s statistics program and senior vice president at Capital Services, said, “We’ve been delighted to partner with SDSU for more than a decade in helping to develop some of the brightest minds in the Midwest. With the new agreement, we are able to increase the number of opportunities that can be provided.

“We love to see the success our Capital Services Fellows have had in their careers. The students we have funded are extremely intelligent and ambitious. The majority of their success is a result of their own hard work and dedication, but I like to think we had a small part in unlocking their talent for this discipline.”

More than a little, according to Burton.

“I’m grateful that Capital Services’ CEO Chuck Hendrickson and SDSU’s Mathematics and Statistics Department Head Cogswell helped start the fellowship program that has helped many students early in their career. The combined mentorship from SDSU and from Capital Services during my fellowship was invaluable.

“Connecting the theoretical knowledge from SDSU with real-world applications at Capital Services provided a unique experience,” Burton said.

Help from academia, industry
Burton specifically cited help from Brandenburger, his adviser, who “spent many hours helping with both the theoretical and applied aspects of my research. Dr. Gemechis Djira, also on my thesis committee, helped with a simulation analysis to measure the potential impact of trended data.

“At Capital Services, I was mentored by my boss, Dr. Alfred Furth, James Gentile and Valerie Bares, all graduates from SDSU. Chet Wiermanski, former global chief scientist at TransUnion, was another committee member who brought additional industry expertise. Having help from industry and academia side-by-side was a great balance that led to interesting research.”

Now Burton also serves as a mentor for new Capital Services fellows.

Cogswell notes that students are not obligated to work at Capital Services after completing their fellowship and oftentimes their research work is not of direct benefit to the firm.

“It’s really a gracious and beneficial thing Capital has been doing for the last 13 years,” he said.

New agreement begins June 22

Cedric Neumann
Cedric Neumann

Brandenburger, who has supervised the academic analytics and financial analytics fellows for 11 of the 13 years, said, “This program provides a valuable connection between the classroom and real world application. Students who have participated in this fellowship program have shown substantially increased career advancement. This has been true whether or not the student stays in financial services.  

“In addition to the substantial depth of experience offered by the program, the fellowship recipients also gain breadth that has allowed several to utilize these skills in industries as diverse as consulting, health care and marketing for major regional and national companies.”

Neumann expects the same thing to happen in the machine learning and artificial intelligence fellowship.

“I think that it is a tremendous opportunity for our students and for local and regional businesses to work together on challenging problems that will have a positive impact on the economy of the region,” Neumann said.

The agreement, which kicks in June 22 to cover fiscal years 2021-23, is the type of partnership the university hopes to further develop with industry, Cogswell said.

“Businesses wanting these analytical capacities have a certain vision of what they want. We want to find what industry wants and prove that our students are capable of delivering that. Research undertaken by Capital Services Fellows is a great way to do that,” Cogswell said.