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Jeri Harper (in green), first row, far left; Becky Mahr (in black), first row, far left; and Cathy Onion (in black), second row, second from left, had the experience of a lifetime at the NYSE Workshop in NYC.
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Cathy Onion, fourth from the left, and Jeri Harper, second from the right, were among 14 lucky NYSE Workshop participants selected to ring the bell at the close of the trading day Aug. 6.
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ISDS Faculty Have Bell-Ringing Experience

September 6, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- What started as a teachers' workshop led by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) turned into an experience of a lifetime for three Western Illinois University information systems and decision sciences (ISDS) professors.

Early last month, ISDS faculty Jeri Harper, Becky Mahr and Cathy Onion participated in the NYSE-sponsored conference in New York City to learn more about the stock exchange. The five-day workshop is designed to provide educators with an understanding of the capital-raising process and the trading platform. Through pure luck, Harper's and Onion's names were drawn, along with 12 others, to ring the bell at the close of the business day at the Exchange Aug. 6. Since their return to the classroom, the trio has been able to provide their students with insider's views of the Exchange.

"The entire experience was incredible for a variety of reasons. We were able to learn from a number of executives; we spoke with traders/brokers on the floor who showed us how the technology worked; and we talked to specialists who help monitor the market," Onion explained. "We were able to watch the opening of the market on Aug. 6, and later we were on the platform for the closing bell. They kept telling us not to be nervous … only 1.38 million people were watching!"

According to Harper, Mahr and Onion, they were at the Exchange at an "incredible time" considering the NYSE became a public company in 2007; it has merged with Euronext to create the largest exchange in the world; it launched a hybrid market which uses both electronic and auction trading; and due to a volatile market, the public was anxiously waiting for Fed Chair Ben Bernake's announcement.

"This entire experience and our participation allows us to provide an even better education to our IS 125 (Business and Technology in a Global Society) classes, which have a securities component," Mahr added. "The students participate in a team-based project where they research and track a company and its stock information. What we gained can perhaps provide some valuable insight to their group projects."

Mahr pointed out that one of the highlights of the workshop, besides her colleagues ringing the closing bell, was meeting and talking business with NYSE CEO John Thain and NYSE CFO Nelson Chai.

Harper, Mahr and Onion were the first Western faculty members to participate in the NYSE Workshop, and to their knowledge, they were the only faculty from an Illinois institution to ring the closing bell.

"I really enjoyed the entire experience. We were actually on the trading floor with brokers and specialists following them through their trading day. That was fascinating!", Harper added. "We also collaborated with professors from other colleges to design a project that could be used in the classroom. It was interesting to meet with teachers from across the United States and other parts of the world, including Japan and Brazil. The NYSE Euronext was a gracious host and made the experience not only educational, but fun as well."

Harper, who is an ISDS associate professor, joined the department in 1989. She is the adviser to the department's student organization, Management Information Systems Association, and also serves on the Regional Office Advisory Board for the State Board of Education. Harper is the career development specialist for Western's College of Business and Technology.

Mahr has been an instructor in the department since 2000. She began working at WIU in 1990 as a personnel officer in human resources and later in the Provost's Office. She has also taught and served as associate director of career services at Robert Morris College.

Onion joined the ISDS department as an instructor in 2000. Previously she was the associate alumni director at WIU. She is an affiliate of NPower, an educational consulting firm that provides curriculum development programs for national Greek organizations, as well as seminars and workshops for numerous boards and organizations across the U.S.

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