The FED Challenge: Economics Brought to Life

According to the Manhattan College website, the College Fed Challenge is a national academic competition for undergraduates hosted annually by the Federal Reserve Bank.

The participating teams analyze the current state of the U.S. economy and make a recommendation for future monetary policy actions to a panel of judges who work at the Federal Reserve Bank.

A few Manhattan College students, mainly in the Business School will be participating in the upcoming Fall semester. The competition involves both a presentation and a rapid-fire Q&A session with the judges. Teams who win their regional competition advance to the national competition held in Washington, D.C.

Shaina Colombo, a junior, has been working with the Fed Challenge team for a year now.

“The first meeting was unlike anything I had ever seen from a class or club, as it was more like a combination of the two. Such advanced topics were being discussed, yet the atmosphere was so laid-back,” Colombo said.

For her, the first meeting seemed intimidating, as the vocabulary used was pretty advanced.

“But I felt comfortable asking questions and the members were more than happy to answer them. After the second meeting, I was hooked. As dorky as this sounds, the level of excitement involved in learning about theories and then using them to come up with solutions to real world issues is addicting,” Colombo said.

According to Colombo, the FED Challenge pushes the participating students intellectually. It really brought what she had learned in her Economics class to life.

“I actually started to excel in all of my classes because I became so much more confident in my intellectual abilities. Dr. Guirguis dedicates everything to this team and it’s impossible not to want to reciprocate that feeling,” Colombo said.

The process of preparation is more demanding as the team gets closer to the competition in early December. At this point in the preparation cycle, the research is a bit more individual-focused as they are all trying to expand their knowledge.

As everyone on the team begins to know more and more, they start teaching their other team members what they’ve learned so far. In August, the preparation shifts and becomes more teamwork-based as they all start preparing and practicing their formal presentation.

“New students can integrate in the challenge by emailing Dr. Guirguis! He will probably ask if you want to come to a meeting or two to see how you like it, just like he did with me!” said Colombo.

Eric Scalone, a sophomore, joined the team recently. “I was motivated to participate because I wanted to deepen my understanding of economics and I wanted to be a part of a club/community of students who were equally motivated,” said Scalone.

His experience with the other team members was similar to Colombo’s.

“Everyone in the club made me feel as if I have known them for years. Whenever I didn’t understand a topic, everyone gladly spent however long it took for me to have a full understanding of the topic before moving onto the next one,” said Scalone.

Competitors in the FED Challenge are destined to gain an in-depth knowledge of macroeconomics and the role of the Federal Reserve, experience examining empirical data and statistical models, experience in public speaking and teamwork, an introduction into career opportunities in economics and finance and lastly, networking opportunities with peers from other schools, professors and Federal Reserve employees.

For Colombo, it’s not so much as the competition that’s rewarding but more of the process itself.

“I have grown so much as not only a student, but as an individual as well, with every meeting we have. Plus, being a part of this team is, in lack of better words, fun. At the end of the day, that’s what makes me so happy to be on the FED and feel so rewarded by it,” Colombo said.

Scalone, on the other hand, says personal growth has been a main component in his experience.

“The most exciting thing about the process is reflecting on your improvement over the months, and knowing that you are going to continue improving until the day of the competition,” said Scalone.

Colombo recommends this activity to anyone who is interested in economics.

“We had a lot of different majors last team, so being an economics major doesn’t matter at all. If you are in any way curious about the FED team, go to a meeting! You won’t regret it!” Colombo said.