Dominick Russo ’05 was drawn to a financial career when, as a high school student, he opened an investment account online and began following stocks.

After his sophomore year at Illinois State, his trading career kicked off in earnest when he started working as a runner for Archer Daniels Midland on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Russo worked in the “meats,” an area of the exchange that focuses on agricultural commodities such as live cattle and lean hogs.

“There was a lot of energy and it was great to actually be a part of the whole process that people read about in the Wall Street Journal,” he said.

Russo worked on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade during college breaks. At ISU, he participated in the Educational Investment Fund (EIF), a real-dollar, student-managed investment portfolio overseen by a board of directors who are industry professionals.

“I’d have to say it was the best class that I took in terms of learning hands-on,” Russo said. “EIF gave me a real-world look into money management. The game certainly changes when you have real money on the line and you are held accountable for your decisions.”

That was good preparation for his career as head resin trader for The Plastics Exchange.

“The trading world is very fast-paced and exciting,” he said. “The skills I learned in EIF carried over.”

As a donor to EIF and a member of the board, Russo has the opportunity to advise and mentor students.

“I get to sit on the other side and help students come into their own with financial markets.”

The Educational Investment Fund (EIF) program provides a real-world investing opportunity for students who have a strong academic background in finance, as well as academic and career goals that match the course objectives. Participants are responsible for managing an actual portfolio of securities in a challenging, hands-on learning experience. The EIF Enhancement Fund consists of gifts from many donors, including generous contributions from Professor of Finance Thomas Howe and his wife, Ellen. It covers the cost of EIF student scholarships, technology used by EIF students, and other EIF activities.

The personal stories of gratitude shared by these students are increasingly the norm at Illinois State University, as more alumni and friends of Illinois State make an investment in the University’s programs and people. Every gift received has a positive impact. Private support reveals each donor’s passion, while fueling the passion of students whose college experience is either made possible through financial assistance or further enriched because campus offerings are bolstered. State your Passion today by making a contribution online at, calling (309) 438-8041, or sending an email to