On Nov. 8, five Hamilton economics students along with Henry Platt Bristol Professor of Economics Ann Owen traveled to New York City to participate in the Federal Reserve / Bank of New York Challenge Championship (the Fed Challenge). The Fed Challenge is a competition designed to “spur interest in the U.S. macro economy by giving teams of students an opportunity to play the role of monetary policymakers,” according to the organizers. During the competition, teams are required to thoroughly analyze current economic conditions and then recommend a course for monetary policy.
Hamilton team members Jason Mariasis ’12, Ford Charman ’13, Brent Palmer ’11, Abigail Glerum ’11 and Evan Feagans ’12, competed in the tournament after preparing for more than three weeks. Professor Owen and students from her Monetary Policy class assisted the team through coaching, encouragement, asking practice questions, assembling materials on all aspects of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC), and creating the PowerPoint presentation. Other economics professors generously reviewed the team’s live presentation and gave feedback. They included professors Balkan, Videras, Pliskin and Jensen.
Getting ready for the competition was a challenge but a worthwhile experience. The team needed to gather current and previous economic data, make sense of it, decide on what story to present and then seamlessly and logically put all materials together. After deciding on overall content, each team member put together a part of the overall script while other class members put together briefings of key monetary policy information and current events. After the first version of the script and presentation were complete, team members practiced and revised the presentation with help from their classmates for about 10 hours per week. During practice sessions, classmates also ensured team members knew answers to all possible policy questions because during the competition, a panel of judges asks the team questions about anything having to do with monetary policy. Although intense, students learned a great deal about monetary policy and its practical aspects through the preparation process.
The night before the competition, Professor Owen and the team headed off to New York City. The next day they traveled to the Sheraton Hotel where the competition was held. When called into a conference style room to present, the team set up the PowerPoint, sat on one side of the table with four judges on the other and began their long-prepared presentation. They displayed and analyzed major economic indicators including financial, consumption, production and international indicators, determined possible monetary policy actions, and recommended policy based on the Federal Reserve’s duel mandate of price stability and full employment. Despite not coming in first place, all members felt the presentation and question-and-answer round was better than all practice ones.
Participating in the challenge was a lot of work but a terrific experience nevertheless. After all, working with a great group of intelligent students, a motivating, enthusiastic and encouraging professor, and a support team consisting of classmates was undoubtedly the best way to learn and put into practice monetary policy. And to think, Hamilton calls that a class!