In November, eight undergraduate Bryant students competed as a team in the annual College Fed Challenge. Each year, over twenty schools from the Boston Federal Reserve District travel to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to present a monetary policy recommendation, and answer questions from a panel of judges. This year’s team, which included Michael Gough, Kenneth Massa, Ryan Brown, Olivia DeRogatis, Mark Rich, Charles South, Bryanna Seefeldt, and Dhruv Patel, placed second in the region, finishing only 3 out of 150 points behind the eventual winner, Dartmouth College. The field of schools was competitive, but Bryant’s Fed Challenge team held their own, finishing ahead of top schools like Harvard College, Boston College, Babson College, The University of Connecticut, Northeastern University, Bentley University, and several other top schools.
The team’s work began several months ago. They first met at the end of last semester, and spent considerable time over the summer researching the state of the economy. The team wasn’t just made up of students majoring in economics either. The team’s advisors, Dr. Aziz Berdiev and Dr. Edinaldo Tebaldi, helped assemble a diverse group of students, majoring in everything from finance, to psychology.
Psychology major Ryan Brown, who only took economics classes at the principles level, said she was able to use research skills acquired in her major and apply them to the competition. “I learned so much so fast” Brown added.
The team’s work continued upon their return to campus in the fall. Just days into the semester, they each gave their own presentation on monetary policy and the state of the economy. The team met frequently, throughout the fall semester, crafting proposals and eventually finalizing their presentation. Mark Rich, who competed in the Fed Challenge for the second time, said the group work was extensive. “We would meet pretty much every day” he noted. On Sundays the group would meet for “three hours, maybe even more.”
After hours of group meetings and independent research, the team finally decided on the unique proposal of nominal GDP growth targeting. Members of the group pointed out that while there is extensive research on the topic, it was a somewhat unconventional proposal to present. “We agreed that if we wanted to win we had to go in a different direction” said Kenneth Massa, who competed on the team for a second year in a row. His teammate, Michael Gough said that finally solidifying the proposal of nominal GDP targeting was one of the highlights of the entire process.
From there, it was all about increasing the credibility of team’s proposal, noted Olivia DeRogatis. She pointed out that Dhruv Patel, Bryanna Seefeldt, and Charles South were key to the group’s success during this stage. “Everyone’s contributions were key throughout the process, and our team cohesiveness really helped us thrive” she added. The team placed an emphasis on supporting and defending their proposals, making sure they memorized every detail. They continued to meet nearly every day to make sure their presentation was smooth, even presenting to faculty members and building off their critiques. After finalizing their proposal, the team presented to their peers and several faculty members in MRC 4 less than two weeks before the competition. There, they fielded several questions from professors, and had the chance to defend their proposal following the results of the presidential election.
Then, after countless hours of research and practice, 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. It was clear they were experts in their field, said Kenneth Massa, “you had to know your stuff.” The judges asked pointed questions, sometime including several follow ups. One of the most difficult parts of competing was “standing your ground” in front of expert economists, said Michael Gough.
Following the final round of presentations it was announced that Bryant’s Fed Challenge team finished second in the region, finishing only 3 out of 150 points behind Dartmouth College, the eventual winner. All told, Bryant’s team finished ahead of around 20 other schools. Gough said he’s played sports his whole life, but he found academic competition to be more validating. “To win against schools like Harvard, Trinity, and Bentley… that feels so good” he said.
Though students took much more out of the competition than simply beating other competitive schools. One member of the team said presenting in that kind of environment gave her more confidence. Another said the Fed Challenge made him more marketable during job and internship interviews. One student who competed, Mark Rich, said he gained a strong understanding of the economy, which went on to help him in finance classes, and in job interviews. “It separates you from the pack” when interviewing, he said.
While each student took different things from the experience, they all agreed that the experience was invaluable. When asked if he would recommend participating in the Fed Challenge to a fellow student, Kenneth Massa answered “I definitely would” he went on to say the Fed Challenge was “the most rewarding academic experience I’ve had at Bryant.”
Although the Fed Challenge is one of the most challenging academic opportunities Bryant offers, it provides students a unique experience they cannot otherwise receive in a traditional classroom environment. Each student who presented took something away from the competition, and is much more versed in economics and monetary policy because of it.
The students who participated would like to thank the Bryant economics department, and Professors Aziz Berdiev, Edinaldo Tebaldi, Susan Baran, and Peter Nigro for their help and support.