Colgate Places 5th in Fed Challenge Semifinals


Sofia Melgoza, Maroon-News Staff

Every year, Colgate offers the Fed Challenge as a 300-level Economics elective for its students. Throughout the course, students’ presentations and discussions focus on monetary policy in order to formulate recommendations for the Federal Reserve. Students in the course compete against other schools in creating the best proposals for the Federal Reserve, hence the course’s title, “The Fed Challenge.” For the first time in Colgate’s history, students in the course advanced to the semi-final round in New York City, which was held on Monday, November 14. Colgate’s team placed 5th in the semifinals out of 42 teams. Colgate’s team will not advance to the finals.

This year’s Fed Challenge professor, Professor of Economics Thomas Michl, is new to teaching the course, as Assistant Professors in Economics Charles (Rich) Higgins and W. Bradford Wiley Professor of Economics Nicole Simpson taught it in past years.

“I give this year’s team full credit for their success – they worked hard and worked as a team.  I have tried to maintain consistency with the existing curriculum, so Professors Higgins and Simpson deserve credit for establishing a baseline of materials to build upon,” Michl said. 

Michl also explained that half the presentation is question-and-answer session, while the entire final round is solely question-and-answer. 

 “For students it’s like preparing for a class where your grade depends on how you answer when you get cold-called,” Michl said. 

Sophomore Ethan Ackerman and senior Andre Stephenson are two of the five presenters at the NYC semi-finals that took place this week. 

The students’ proposal leading to the semifinals involved inflation. 

“[The project addresses] an inflation band that is targeted to replace a stationary rate. Importantly, it tackles one of the biggest question marks of this post-recession recovery  – the lagging inflation. Weakness in inflation has some economists questioning the validity of many of the models modern macroeconomics is built around, and, since price stability is an important mandate of the Fed, we decided to make our policy proposal about this missing inflation,” Stephenson said. 

Collaboration has been crucial to the team’s success, as they spent many hours and weeks organizing information and material for the presentation. 

“I think each of us brings a unique set of knowledge and skills to the table, and that, combined with a tremendous amount of work over the past month, allowed us to advance to the semis,” Stephenson said. 

Ackerman attributes much of the team’s success to their organizational skills. 

“I think a lot of us have been good about putting in the work required to make this a success. Even though everyone already has a ton of work for other classes, most of us have been proactive about making sure our presentation is as good as it can be,” Ackerman said. 

Not all of the students in the class presented at the semifinals. Senior Ellen Brunker helped with the preparation process. 

 “I have really enjoyed the collaborative nature of the class and how focused it is on the state of the current macro-economy,” Brunker said. 

Students remained optimistic as they entered into semifinals in New York City. 

“We were all really excited to make it to the semifinals. We have a really strong presentation team this year, so I think they were able to do a good job with Q&A at the competition,” Brunker said. 

Michl was confident in his students based on their continuous commitment to the course. 

“At the end of the day though, we provide the paint set, but you don’t get the Sistine Chapel without a Michelangelo,” Michl said. 

Stephenson felt that the team was well-prepared for the semifinals. 

“The strengths are everywhere, everyone on the team contributes and is extremely willing to devote time to make sure we put together a very good presentation. Also, thanks to Professor Michl, we have a very solid base of knowledge about macroeconomic trends and literature to draw from in answering questions,” Stephenson said. 

The semifinals took place on November 14 in New York City. Though the team was disappointed not to make it to the finals, students felt proud of the presentation they gave. 

“The presentation went really well. We were up against some tough competition but overall it was a great experience and we learned a lot,” junior Sam Wartheim said. 

Contact Sofia Melgoza at [email protected].