Last semester, St. Lawrence University’s Fed Challenge team set a school record when it earned second place out of 85 colleges and universities in the 17th annual national College Fed Challenge. During this competition, opposing teams analyze economic and financial conditions and then formulate monetary policy recommendations. As a two-year member of the team, participating in the Fed Challenge has been an incredible opportunity to learn about monetary policy, stay updated on the economy, and connect with members of the St. Lawrence alumni network.
In the spring of 2020, 16 students were accepted into Professor of Economics Cynthia Bansak’s competitive Federal Reserve Challenge course, and I quickly began to focus on winning the Fed Challenge. Kai-Sigurd Jensen ’21 and I became co-leaders of the class as we both competed in the Fed Challenge our junior year.
As the summer progressed, Kai and I brainstormed and spoke frequently about how to be effective in this competition with all that was happening in the economy. Our entire class was extremely proactive from the start, and we met countless times before the fall semester started. While our consistency and commitment were key, one critical advantage for our team was our ability to harness the knowledge and expertise of our alumni network.
Through participating in the Fed Challenge over the past two years, I have connected with over 50 St. Lawrence alumni. I have visited their offices, listened to their expertise on monetary policy, and most importantly, formed meaningful relationships with them. I’ve met with alumni from the class of 1970 all the way up to the class of 2018. Their range of experiences provided our team with a diversity of opinions and suggestions.
One alumnus who was instrumental to our success was is Tom Sapio ’88. While preparing for the challenge, Tom was extremely generous with his time and we developed a relationship that included texting at any hour about developing stories surrounding central banking. Tom’s commitment to helping fellow Laurentians while continuing his role with Cantor Fitzgerald is a testament to this University’s alumni network. It is one of the many reasons I am proud to be a Saint, and it incentivizes me to reciprocate in the future.
When the Challenge arrived and competition progressed, St. Lawrence was the only team from a small college to earn a spot in the final round. In addition to mentorship from alumni like Tom, I think that our critical thinking, public speaking, and creativity skills set us apart from the rest. Further, the competition requires teamwork and collaboration–two hallmarks of the St. Lawrence experience.
In the end, we finished ahead of dozens of colleges, including all competing Ivy League schools except Dartmouth College.
My biggest takeaways from the past two Fed Challenge competitions are the importance of thinking on your feet and adjusting to changing circumstances. This course is like no other you will take in college, as I didn’t have a textbook nor was I assigned written exams. Rather, I was asked to stay updated on what was happening in the economy, the Senate, and the Federal Reserve.
As a participant of the 2020 Fed Challenge, I was able to see first-hand how our central bank conducts policy in unprecedented circumstances. Just as importantly, I learned the value of effective communication and collaboration while tapping into the incredible St. Lawrence alumni network.