In November, eight undergraduate Bryant students competed as a team in the annual College Fed Challenge. Each year, around twenty-five schools from the Boston Federal Reserve District travel to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to present an overview of the state of the economy, issue monetary policy recommendations, and answer questions from a panel of judges. This year’s team, which was advised by Dr. Aziz Berdiev, Associate Professor of Economics, included Timothy Coletta, Mark Dyer, Soala Ekine, Ryan McKenzie, Eva Nesline, Trevor Perron, Bryanna Seefeldt, and Elizabeth Willmonton. They placed second in the region, finishing right behind the eventual winner Harvard College. The 2017 field was competitive, but Bryant’s Fed Challenge team held their own, finishing ahead of last year’s winner, Dartmouth College, and other top schools in the region including Yale University, Boston College, and Bentley University.
Preparation begins early for Bryant’s Fed Challenge team. The team is assembled well in advance of the fall semester, with participants completing research over the summer to gain a better understanding of the state of the economy and of monetary policy. Uniquely, the team is comprised of students from a variety of majors. In addition to economics, this year’s team featured students studying, actuarial mathematics, finance, and international business. Senior Timothy Coletta sees this as a strength, saying “different experiences help form a rounded team.”
The team’s work continued upon their return to campus in the fall. Early in the semester, they each gave their own presentation on monetary policy and the state of the economy. The team
met three times per week over the course of the fall semester, in addition to reading academic papers and completing supplementary research. Eva Nesline, a sophomore on this year’s team pointed out that this part of the competition was greatly beneficial. She found that participating in the Fed challenge improved her research skills, and her ability to understand academic papers.
Before settling on a final proposal, the team spent considerable time evaluating the merits of many different ideas. After hours of group meetings and independent research, the team finally decided to propose a policy of targeting nominal GDP forecasts at a range of 3.5% to 4.5%. Students on this year’s team defended the proposal by arguing that a nominal GDP target encompasses both parts of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. Moreover, proposing a target range allows for more discretion than a rigid target of 4%. This year’s team also chose not to raise the Federal Funds target range.
Reaching an agreement on such a complex policy sounds difficult, but the team’s cohesiveness made the process much easier. “We were all able to discuss our different ideas and come together with a consensus pretty quickly since we trusted each other’s intelligence and judgement” noted Bryanna Seefeldt, a senior on this year’s team.
The team placed an emphasis on supporting and defending their proposals. They developed a detailed script, memorizing every word in sync with a PowerPoint presentation. They also received guidance from other faculty members. The team held separate question and answer sessions with Professors Nigro and Maloney, who challenged the team to defend their proposals. Professor Susan Baran also provided feedback on the team’s presentation skills to ensure the team could effectively communicate their proposals.
After finalizing their presentation, the team presented to their peers and several faculty members in MRC 4. There, they fielded several additional questions from the audience in preparation for the final competition.
Just one week later, Bryant’s Fed Challenge team traveled to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to compete in the regional competition. The competition began with schools from across New England being divided into five groups. Teams then present their recommendation and then faced a 10-minute round of questions from the judges. One team from each group was then chosen to advance to the final round. Each team had a maximum of only 15 minutes to analyze current economic conditions, provide an economic forecast, and make well-supported monetary policy recommendations. After delivering their pitch, and taking questions from the judges, Bryant’s Fed Challenge team was selected the winner of their group, and moved on to the final round.
In the final round, the selected teams presented again, this time they faced a 15-minute period of question and answer from staff economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Following the final round of presentations, it was announced that Bryant’s Fed Challenge team finished second in the region, right behind Harvard College.
Over the past few years, Bryant’s team has performed well in the regional competition. This is the fourth time the team was named a regional finalist since 2013. Professor Berdiev credits this consistently strong performance to the students. “We have a group of dedicated and hardworking students that made up the Fed Challenge team.” He went on to add that the “students worked very hard and put many hours through the summer and into the fall to prepare for this competition.”
Although the Fed Challenge can be one of the most rigorous academic opportunities Bryant offers, it provides students a unique experience they cannot otherwise receive in a traditional
classroom environment. Timothy Coletta pointed out that the skills gained during the Fed Challenge competition are transferable to a wide variety of careers. Students on this year’s team were in agreement that they would recommend the Fed Challenge to any student. Soala Ekine, a junior on the team mentioned “it’s honestly the most intellectually challenging and rewarding thing I’ve been involved in at college.”