Yale Team Wins Fed Challenge

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Yale 2018 Fed Challenge Team Members with first-place trophy

For the second year in a row, Yale placed at the 1st District College Fed Challenge competition in Boston. This year, however, the Yale team took first place. The team is made up of the following members: Sienna Gough ‘19, David Rubio ‘19, Rohit Goyal ‘19, Ramiz Colak ‘20, Lydia Wickard ‘20, Yvonne Ho ‘21, Adrian Kulesza ‘21, Adam Madievsky ‘21, and Michelle Kim ‘21. Of the nine members, the five upper-class students (Gough, Rubio, Goyal, Wickard, and Colak) presented at the competition, with the other four students (Ho, Kulesza, Madievsky, and Kim) acting as alternates.

Advised by Economics and School of Management Professor William English, the team will advance to the finals in Washington D.C. later this month. “They did a great job!” said English. “Their briefing was well-prepared and very interesting, and they had done a lot of work to be ready for the questions from the judges.  They won because their detailed answers to some very tough questions from the judges were better than those of the other teams,” he said.

The annual district competition is a precursor to the national championships held in Washington D.C., where teams of undergraduate students “analyze economic and financial conditions and formulate a monetary policy recommendation, modeling the Federal Open Market Committee.” The competitions are broken into two parts; a team presentation section and a question and answer section. Each team presents a briefing to a panel of judges who then ask questions. The judges evaluate and score the teams’ performances based on their economic analysis, responses to questions, teamwork, and presentation. The team with the highest score wins.

Reflections on the 1st District competition, Boston

First-year alternate, Adam Madievsky, was confident Yale had an edge at Boston, but was also realistic of the challenges. “Overall, I felt that all the teams we saw compete came into the Fed Challenge very well prepared,” he observed. “I realized early on that the first and second rounds were going to be much closer than anticipated.”

The five student presenters, Colak, Gough, Goyal, Rubio, and Wickard agreed that their hard work paid off at 1st Districts this year. “I was really pleased with our performance in Boston – after a lot of hard work over the last six months or so, it was really rewarding to perform our best in competition,” said Gough.

Goyal echoed the team’s good performance. “While we each specialized in certain topics, we constantly bounced ideas off each other so that by the end, our presentation was not just a patchwork of individual contributions but truly a collective effort.”

According to the presenters, much of the team’s success was attributed to early preparation. “Last year we started in mid-September, but this year we began meeting in February,” said Wickard. “Even over the summer, when most of us were working over 60 hour a week, we would clear our Sunday afternoon schedules to call and go over our research.”

With a year under their belts, the presenters knew what to look for. “Having had the experience of seeing other teams compete allowed us to redirect our efforts in a much more effective way,” said Rubio. “We emphasized having academic studies and literature to back nearly all of the claims in our presentation rather than rely on just our intuition or previous knowledge from class material.”

Gough confirmed Rubio’s response in their preparations. “We spent a lot more time preparing for the Q&A portion of the presentation, which is really the key differentiator between the top teams. For the briefing, we noted last year that a lot of teams included a ‘special topic,’ so this year we discussed the monetary policy implementation framework in addition to economic and financial conditions and policy recommendations.”

Specifically, the team delved deeper into monetary policy according to Goyal. “We took a much more rigorous approach to our analysis, looking for things that others might be missing,” he said. “We also deepened our general knowledge base by constantly keeping current with the latest economic news and academic research.”

Teamwork makes the dream work

While the success of the team at districts was attributed to preparedness, the members also took a “divide and conquer” approach with each member focusing on different topics for the briefing. According to Wickard, the members were all well-versed in our own specialty when presenting. “We were a very strong team, and every member was crucial to our success,” stated Wickard.

An added benefit of the practice sessions was bringing the team closer together. “Besides preparing more intensively, we also grew close as a group,” said Goyal. “This made it easy to challenge each other at meetings, made it fun to work together outside of them, and ultimately, I believe, allowed us to organically develop the teamwork so vital to success in the competition.”

 ”It is a privilege to be part of such a strong team and we are really fortunate that every member has unique interests and expertise that they bring to the table,” said Gough. First-year member, Yvonne Ho said, ”Our Yale presenters continued to surprise me with their mastery of the material and overall did an amazing job.” 

Ramiz Colak added, “Our team is really strong this year! We are all passionate about macroeconomics and monetary policy, and we are very supportive of each other.”

Alternate member Kulesza praised his teammates performance. “The current presenters for our Fed Challenge team (Rohit, Sienna, Lydia, Ramiz, and David) are genuinely some of the brightest individuals I’ve met at Yale. Their understanding of Monetary Policy and Economics more broadly are at a level I wouldn’t expect any undergrad to have. That being said, I’m confident that they can win the national title.”

Expectations at finals, Washington D.C.

“I suspect our briefing will go smoothly because we have been working on it for so long and will only need to make minor adjustments in the upcoming weeks,” said Wickard. “The questions will likely be intense because the judges are Fed economists. I am simultaneously nervous and excited to hear what they will ask us.”

“We expect every team’s briefing will be of very high quality, and it will likely come down to performance on the Q&A portion of the presentation. The questions will likely be more challenging, so further preparation will be crucial in the coming weeks,” said Gough.

“Most of the champions in past years have come from the New York pool of competing schools. Hopefully we can bring home a win to Yale,” said Rubio.

“I am excited that we will meet Chairman Jerome Powell and present to a group of senior economists from different regions,” said Colak.  “I am confident that we will return to Yale with great news!”

Professor English is also optimistic on the team’s chances at the finals. “I think the Yale team will do very well. All of the teams at the national competition will have very solid, polished briefings, so the winning team will likely be determined by the quality of the answers to questions from the judges.”

“Clearly the competition will be at a very high level.  That said, Harvard finished second at the national competition last year, and the Yale team beat them at the Boston competition this year.  I believe the team from the NY district has won several times in recent years, so they may be the toughest competition,” said English.

Even first-year alternate Yvonne Ho favors the Yale team in D.C. “I think our Yale team really blew everyone out of the water in Boston. I think nationals in D.C. will be extremely competitive, with Q&As being the differentiating factor between teams. But I’m confident that our team will continue to stand out,” said Ho.

Alternate Adam Madievsky said he expects the nationals to be extremely challenging for all of the teams, and expects the atmosphere to feel more competitive in front of a much larger audience in Washington, D.C.

Kulesza is confident on the team’s chances. “Seeing them present this past week was genuinely inspiring. I’m confident that they can win the national title.”

Is it all worth it?

Professor English said he was impressed by the students’ preparedness and effort spent preparing for the competition.  As for the competition itself, he said, “It is a way for them to learn about monetary policy and the Federal Reserve and to get excited about these topics.  And for many students this sort of experiential learning is much more effective than simply reading material in a book or taking a lecture class.”

All the presenters have a similar feeling. David Rubio said, “It’s supplemented my courses in a way that I never thought would be so essential. Econ classes at Yale mainly focus on theory and mathematical models of the economy, but the Fed Challenge has helped me learn so much more about the sources of data that the Fed uses to forecast the outlook and make key policy decisions.”

“This competition allows us to apply and develop these skills, as we ascertain how current economic and financial conditions will affect the outlook, and judge the implications for monetary policy,” said Gough. “It has also given me an appreciation for the difficult decisions monetary policymakers constantly face.”

Goyal added, “As a senior, I’ve been fortunate to take courses in the economics department on so many different topics from macroeconomics to labor economics to trade policy. The Fed Challenge has allowed me to see the vibrant connections between these topics and understand how they all interact in the real world.”

“The Fed Challenge has furthered my passion for economics, given me real-intuition for the material I’ve learned in class, and connected me to peers who share my interests,” said Wickard.

Not only did the competition help students relate their theoretical studies with practical knowledge, but it honed their presentation and collaboration skills. “I think it also helped the students to learn how to put together a complicated presentation in a group, which will be a valuable skill regardless of what field they end up pursuing,” said Professor English.

The first-year alternates were a big help, and will have big shoes to fill

Although the five first-year alternate members did not present at districts, they were helpful in preparing the presenters for the competitions. “We read through a lot of past FED speeches, publications, and general research to make sure the presenters had corroborated information. We also condensed and found material for them to read to get prepared for the competition,” said Adrian Kulesza, who recently joined the team.

What’s more, having the opportunity to attend the 1st District Challenge, the first-year alternate members observed first-hand what to expect for next year. “On the day of the competition, I was surprised to see how intense the competition and atmosphere was,” said Yvonne Ho. 

Kulesza, who plans to continue with the team said, “after seeing this year’s presenters compete, I have high expectations set for myself. I hope to be at a level of understanding similar to that of the current presentation team and that will take some considerable effort. I am sincerely interested in the subject of the competition, but as a non-Econ major I plan on devoting a lot of time to get up to speed.”

So, what’s next? 

Presenters Gough, Goyal, and Rubio are all seniors and have ambitions to pursue economics after graduation. Gough said she will be working at a credit hedge fund after graduation with the possibility of pursuing further studies of economics or finance at some point in the future. Goyal is interested in working at the intersection of business and public policy, and is confident his economics classes and experience at the Fed Challenge will serve him well. Rubio will be working for the Federal Reserve Board in Washington D.C. as a research assistant after graduation. Wickard says she will apply to Ph.D. programs in hopes to become an economist in either academia or government.

While it is still too early for the alternate students to determine a career path, Ho, Kulesza, and Madievsky all emphatically said they will continue with the team next year. 

And last, but not least

The team acknowledged that they would not have done as well without the support of their advisor Professor William English.

“We are incredibly grateful and fortunate to have Professor English as an advisor, both because of his vast expertise and his dedication to our learning,” said Gough. “It is an absolute privilege to work closely with him and we certainly would not have had the success we did in Boston without him.”

Rohit Goyal said he was grateful for Professor English’s generous time, effort, and patience, while David Rubio attributed Professor English on helping to focus the team’s efforts.

“Professor English has been an amazing advisor and resource for all of us. I’m so grateful he’s taken the time to coach us,” said Wickard.

Colak concurred stating, “I have had a very positive experience in the team, and Professor English had a big role in this. We are very lucky to have him as our advisor!”

In response, Professor English said he had “an easy job” guiding the students. Giving the students most of the credit, he did admit to helping the students get organized, setting out a work schedule, and providing comments and background on specific points. English said the students worked over the spring and summer doing their own research and later preparing and practicing their briefing this fall. “They should be very proud of what they have accomplished!” he said.

About the Fed Challenge

College Fed Challenge is a team competition for undergraduate students. Teams analyze economic and financial conditions and formulate a monetary policy recommendation, modeling the Federal Open Market Committee.

The competitions are designed to meet the following goals: to increase understanding of macroeconomics and the Federal Reserve’s role in setting U.S. monetary policy and ensuring financial stability; to promote interest in economics as a subject for study and the basis for a career; and to foster a cooperative relationship among students, teachers and the Fed.

More about the College Fed Challenge can be found on the Federal Reserve’s website.

2018 Yale Fed Challenge Team