Fed Challenge makes analysis real for Bryant students
Through the College Fed Challenge, Bryant students learn to analyze and address national economic issues, supported by engaged faculty and a team of driven classmates. Last fall, the University’s Fed Challenge team traveled to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where they competed with schools from around New England and continued their tradition of success by finishing second in their district for the second year in a row – the fourth time the team has been named a regional finalist since 2013.
"To be able to make actual suggestions to Fed policy makers, and have them really consider what you’ve done, is an amazing opportunity."
The Challenge strengthens students' understanding of the components of a modern economy, as well as the political and financial issues that shape it, and aids them in developing their research, teamwork, presentation, and critical thinking skills. The team is advised by Associate Professors of Economics Aziz Berdiev, Ph.D., and Edinaldo Tebaldi, Ph.D.
“The team’s work really starts their freshman year,” Berdiev says. “The students in the Fed Challenge build off the skills they’ve been learning in their Bryant classes throughout their college career.”
A multi-level project
In the Fed Challenge, teams act as monetary policymakers, analyzing current conditions and recommending a course of action. Their analysis includes a study of the current economic situation, a forecast of future economic and financial conditions, a discussion of the risks the economy faces, and a suggested monetary policy strategy.
Because Fed Challenge teams rely on a mix of skills to succeed, Bryant’s team is intentionally comprised of students from a variety of majors, selected by Berdiev during the spring semester. In addition to Economics, the 2017 team included students studying Actuarial Mathematics, Finance, and International Business.
"With the Fed Challenge, we have all of these different creative minds coming together, each with unique skills."
“Through our Bryant educations, we’re exposed to a wide range of ideas and subjects, and I think that’s really important,” says Bryanna Seefeldt ’18, an Actuarial Math major concentrating in Economics who was a member of Bryant’s 2016 and 2017 Fed Challenge teams. “With the Fed Challenge, we have all of these different creative minds coming together, each with unique skills.”
The team engages in intensive research and synthesizes massive amounts of information. That’s an effective way to hone one’s skills, says Economics major Soala Ekine ’19, who is planning to go on to grad school and earn a Ph.D. “Learning how to effectively research has helped me in my other classes and projects,” he says, “and just as importantly, it’s helped me learn how to get the information you need out of that research, how to analyze it, and make it useful.”
“The work starts early,” says Berdiev. “The students spend the summer researching so they’ll be prepared to begin crafting their proposals the first week they come back.” The team meets at least three times per week – and often on weekends – over the course of the fall semester. In addition to their regular meetings, they held separate question and answer sessions with Professor of Finance Peter Nigro, Ph.D., and Visiting Professor of Finance Kevin Maloney, Ph.D., who asked various questions to help them refine their arguments. Communication Lecturer Susan Baran also provided important feedback on the team’s presentation skills.
Making it real
The team’s work culminates in the November competition with a 15-minute presentation of recommendations, followed by a 10-minute round of questions from the judges who, in the later rounds, include Federal Reserve economists. The team is scored on its economic research and analysis, answers to questions, teamwork, and presentation skills.
“It was a really fantastic experience to go to the Fed. We had worked so hard and learned so much, and the competition just made everything real,” says Ekine. “To be able to make actual suggestions to Fed policy makers, and have them really consider what you’ve done, is an amazing opportunity.”