IEN Report: U.S. Colleges and Universities Yet to Divest From Fossil Fuels May Be Home to Student Investment Funds That Have Done So

10% of Student-Managed Investment Funds Now Have a Clear Sustainable Investing Strategy, Reaching $68.4M in Assets Under Management in 2020.

ANDOVER, MA. – April 6, 2021 – Interest over the past decade in the university and endowment investing space has focused primarily on endowment divestment from fossil fuels, including many high-profile portfolio decarbonization pushes at institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Students and alumni alike have been pushing these institutions to divest their large endowments of fossil fuels and adopt sustainable investing practices. A major new report from the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) finds that many of the higher-education institutions that have been reluctant to divest or adopt sustainable investment strategies, already have student-managed investment funds that are increasingly adopting sustainable investment approaches. 

As of 2020, IEN found 10 percent of student-managed investment funds (SMIFs) have a clear sustainable investing strategy, as colleges and universities recognized their responsibility in developing the next generation of investment leaders that emphasized long-term, strategic thinking to build a sustainable economy. 

The IEN report, “Educating the Next Generation of Sustainable Investment Leaders: A Report on the State of the Field of Student-Managed Investment Funds,” found: “Of the surveyed SI SMIFs, funding sources varied, with the majority of funds being carved out of the university endowment or funded by a separate pool of donations. Over half (55%) of surveyed funds invested in public equity, followed by a large number of respondents that indicated they invested in private equity (42.5%). Regarding sustainable investing integration, one quarter of funds focused on ESG integration, close to a quarter (23%) invested with an impact lens, 18% utilized negative and positive screens, and 5% engaged as shareholders.”

Report co-author Nicole Torrico, program manager, IEN, said: “Colleges and Universities should strongly consider developing sustainable investing focused student-managed investment funds as a way to provide students with experiential learning opportunities and actively develop the next generation of sustainable investment leaders. As institutions designed to anticipate tomorrow’s challenges and prepare students to enter the workforce, colleges and universities have a responsibility to respond to the emerging trends of sustainable investing.”

The following are four SI SMIF case studies cited in the report:

  • Yale University Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund (DHSRI): Undergraduate-run socially responsible investment fund. Yale’s Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice initially seeded the fund with $50,000 of its $10 million endowment in 2008. DHSRI has over $200,000 AUM and pursues positive social and environmental impact while maximizing financial return. In 2016, DHSRI became the first student group to pursue shareholder engagement as a sustainable investing strategy.
  • Northeastern University Impact Fund (NUImpact Fund): Undergraduate-run investment club with over 40 members focusing on Impact and Community Investing. The fund manages over $50,000 in AUM via Private Equity. 
  • Bryant University Archway Investment Equity Fund: Undergraduate-run fund established in 2005 to provide Bryant University students with the opportunity to manage an investment portfolio of actual money following the principles used by financial professionals. The initial investment in the Fund was $200,000. Over the years, Bryant University has provided four additional cash infusions totaling $250,000. The fund’s portfolio was valued at about $1,700,000 in December 2020.
  • Portland State University Impact Investing Fund: The graduate-run PSU Impact Investing Fund focuses on investing in private, early-stage companies in the Pacific Northwest and especially those in Portland. The fund has a particular interest in pursuing investments in early-stage start-ups with high potential to make significant positive environmental or social impact alongside financial returns.

As the IEN report concludes: “Sustainable investing student-managed investment funds provide an invaluable learning experience for students and prepares them to enter into the sustainable investing field, while also promoting long-term systemic thinking to build a more sustainable economy.”

The 40 SI SMIFs surveyed in the IEN report are: Appalachian State University; Arizona State University, ASU ESG SIM Fund; Bard College, Student Managed Fund; Brigham Young University, University Impact; Brown University, Socially Responsible Investment Fund; Bryant University, Archway Investment Fund; California State University, Northridge, FIN491BH A & B; Claremont McKenna College, Student Investment Fund; Columbia Business School, Microlumbia Fund; Duke University, Duke University Investment Club; Emory University, Emory Impact Investing Group; Emory University, Goizueta Business School, Goizueta Impact Investors; Haverford College, Microfinance and Impact Investing Initiative (Mi3); Indiana University, Hoosier Social Impact Fund; Loyola Marymount University, Student Investment Fund; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan Investment Management Club (IMC); Middlebury College, RISE (Research & Investment in Sustainable Equity); New York University, NYU Impact Investment Fund; Northeastern University, NU Impact Investing Initiative; Ouachita Baptist University, Eddie and Phyllis Ary Student Investment Fund; Portland State University, Student Investment Fund; Santa Clara University, Impact Capital; Simon Fraser University (Graduate), SIAS Fund; Simon Fraser University (Undergraduate), Beedie Endowment Asset Management (BEAM) fund; Stanford University, Graduate School of Business, GSB Impact Fund; Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, ESG Fund; Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Tuck Social Venture Fund; University of California, Berkeley, Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund; University of Dayton, Hanley Sustainability Fund; University of Michigan, Ross School of Business; University of Minnesota, Carlson Funds Enterprise; University of North Carolina, Asheville, Student Environmental Center – ESG Fund; University of Oregon, University of Oregon Investment Group; University of Pennsylvania, Wharton Business School, Wharton Impact Investing Partners; University of Utah, Sorenson Impact Center; University of Virginia, Darden Business School, Darden Impact Ventures; Villanova University (Graduate), Student Managed Fund; Villanova University (Undergraduate), Student Managed Fund; Washington College, Brown Advisory Student-Managed Investment Fund; Yale University, Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund.



The Intentional Endowments Network is a peer learning network of colleges, universities, and other mission-driven institutional investors working together to achieve their risk and return objectives through investment actions that create a thriving, sustainable economy. IEN has more than 165 network members including endowments, asset managers, investment consultants, nonprofit partners and individuals. 

IEN’s SIILK (Sustainable and Impact Investing Learning and Knowledge) Network has three main goals: (1) scale the uptake of sustainable investing education, including courses and experiential education opportunities like SMIFs, (2) support SMIFs as they work to build stronger bridges between their SMIF and their institution’s broader endowment, and (3) increase the diversity and number of students that enter the sustainable investing field.


CONTACT:   Alex Frank, (703) 276-3264 and [email protected].



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