Laura Cole

Investing in People

Laura Cole is passionate about investing—in her work, her students, and her community.

Cole came to the Haslam College of Business as a PhD student in finance with a background in wealth management. Just as she was finishing the program, the college opened the Masters Learning Investment Center (MILC) and hired Cole to be its director. “During my first year of running the MILC, I was also finishing my dissertation,” Cole recalls. “I don’t recommend that, but the accounting department was very supportive.”

Some 11 years later, the MILC has grown from offering two Bloomberg terminals to 20. “Today we have 200 students using the center on a weekly basis,” says Cole. Providing students with training they might not otherwise have access to is rewarding. “It’s very impactful for them to have Bloomberg certification on their resume after graduation,” she says. “It helps them stand out.” Today, Cole remains the MILC’s director and in 2020, she became the first recipient of the Sharon Pryse/The Trust Company of Tennessee MILC Directorship.

In addition to leading the center, Cole teaches undergraduate courses in the Smith Global Leadership Scholars program and graduate courses in the Physicians Executive MBA program. Teaching isn’t a career for her. It’s a choice. “I love helping my students learn financial skills, particularly the basics of personal finance, budgeting, and making investing decisions,” she says. “Those are things every college student should know. They can be life-changing.”

Cole’s research interests focus on behavioral finance, or why people make particular investment decisions. “I’m really interested in how gender and generation impact investment decision making—for example, why Gen Zs invest differently than Baby Boomers.”

In her spare time, Cole enjoys riding her Vespa, spending time with her Boston Terrier, baking, and volunteering in the community. She serves on the board for the Women’s Fund of East Tennessee, a nonprofit that promotes education opportunities for low-income women and girls.

Grace Yagodich, a senior in finance and international business, says working with Cole in the MILC has left a lasting impression. “She’s one of the most intentional people I’ve ever met,” Yagodich says. “She really invests in her people, and will go the extra mile to lend a hand in the classroom or the community.”

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