Fed Challenge Team Captures 2nd Place at Nationals

Carla Capizzi

A five-student team fielded by the Economics Department at Rutgers University in Newark came in second in the nation at the national finals of the College Fed Challenge, bested only by the team from Harvard University.  This is the fourth time in six years that the R-N team has reached the national finals, and the third time it has placed in the top three national teams.

The Rutgers team represented the New York Federal Reserve District at the national finals, which were held in the monetary policy-making board room of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve  System in Washington , D.C. , on Tuesday, Nov. 29.  The finals were the “capstone” to five district competitions throughout the country, according to a news release issued by the  Federal Reserve Board.

During the finals,  the Rutgers team also competed against Lafayette College, Pennsylvania; Albion College, Michigan; and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. Those schools received honorable mentions.

The Rutgers students on the winning team are:
•    senior Victor Castaneda, an economics and mathematics major from Elizabeth, N.J.;
•    junior Michael Jen, an economics and history major from Bloomfield, N.J;
•    junior Bryan Myers, an economics major from Rahway, N.J.;
•    senior Gaurav Pendse, a finance and computer science major from Parsippany, N.J.,
•    senior Sher Singh, an economics and mathematics major from Summit, N.J.

Team member Victor Castaneda is a veteran from three previous Fed Challenges.  Sher Singh has been on the team for two years.

“The College Fed Challenge is always an excellent opportunity for our best students to excel; the  quality of this year’s competition was particularly high, so I am very proud of the strong performance of our team in the national finals” states Economics Department Chair John Graham, who coaches the Fed  Challenge team each year. 

The New York district competition began on Oct. 28 with 36 teams from the New York-New Jersey area;  six teams advanced to the semi-finals, and four teams made it to the finals.  To reach the New York finals, the Rutgers-Newark team had to win both their preliminary and semi-final round.  The R-N team came in first place on Nov. 16 during regional finals of the College Fed Challenge at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, besting teams from Pace University, Hamilton College and Cornell University.

In each round of the competition, five members from each team act as if they are the monetary policy committee of the Federal Reserve, known as the Federal Open Market Committee, which makes the nation’s monetary decisions. Team members give a 15-minute presentation, including Power Point slides of economic and financial data, and then conclude each presentation with a monetary policy recommendation concerning the federal funds rate, and the Fed’s other credit easing policies introduced after the financial crisis of 2008.

Finally the panel of judges questions each team for 15 minutes, grilling them not only on their presentation and policy recommendation, but also the team’s overall knowledge of macroeconomics, how the Federal Reserve operates, and the major monetary issues facing the Fed. Each team is then scored in several categories, including teamwork, knowledge, and presentation skills.

Rutgers-Newark has been part of the competition since 2005, explains Graham.  In 2009 the team placed second in the national finals in Washington, D.C., beating teams from Harvard and Northwestern, notes Graham, and in 2006 the team placed third in the nation.