Mount Holyoke’s College Fed Challenge Team (CFCT) competed in its first College Fed Challenge, a competition that encourages students to learn more about the U.S.’s macroeconomy, the Federal Reserve system and monetary as well as financial stability policies, on Nov. 6. This took place at the Boston Federal Reserve. MHC’s team represented the only all-women panel among the 20 New England college teams competing in the event.
Talia Zhang ’15, one of the members of the team, discussed the structure of College Fed Challenge. “The actual challenge day consists of a 15–minute presentation consisting of an analysis of current economic conditions, a forecast of future economic conditions and our own recommendation for monetary policy,” Zhang stated. “This is followed by a ten minute [Question and Answer] based on our presentation with the judges.” One facet that made Mount Holyoke’s team unique was the way that it chose to present its information. According to Zhang, Mount Holyoke’s team chose to present its information in a talk-show style, while most teams elected to present their material similar to how the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), a part of the Federal Reserve, relays information.
Though not an officially recognized student organization, the CFCT has been very active since the spring semester of 2013. Nhat Nguyen ’14, the founder of Mount Holyoke College’s College Fed Challenge team, stated the purpose behind initiating the foundation for this team. “It was a great way to expand my knowledge and interest in economics, to make economics more active and fun than just reading textbooks. Also, to apply what I have … studied into understanding real economy,” she said.
Ly Nguyen ’15, another member of the team, talked about how she first discovered the CFCT. “Nhat Nguyen…approached me first about this. Since I was interested in economics…[and] was taking macroeconomics as well…I thought, why not join a competition that would help me learn about macroeconomics more,” she explained. “I thought it was a fun way to challenge myself as well since I have never really competed in any big-scale competition like the Fed Challenge.”
Last spring, Nhat Nguyen recruited students to compete in the College Fed Challenge. She had heard about the competition from a Bentley University student who had participated in the event. “We got together once before school let out to get a brief overview of the competition,” Zhang relayed. “Over the summer we Skyped once a week, discussing monetary topics such as unemployment, GDP, housing market [and] interest rates. [We were] really just trying to educate ourselves on what it was that made the economy the way it is.”
Arriving back on campus for the fall semester, the students met in person once a week to further develop their ideas and formulate their own opinions about the economy. As the competition approached, the group met more frequently. “Each time [we met, we got] more and more passionate about the subject, [and] more in-depth with our analysis,” Zhang said.
Nhung Dang ’15, another member of the College Fed Challenge team, discussed the benefits to participating in the competition. “My confidence really boosted…after the competition. It was fun and we learned a lot.” In addition to learning about economics, the group developed their presentation, teamwork and research skills.
“We were at first slightly intimidated by the competitive environment, but we managed to make it fun…I realized that it is not important [what] background we have, it is more important…what we know and how well we present it,” said Dang.
The CFCT came in second in their round, after Dartmouth, beating out Quinnipiac, Salem State and Northeastern. “Taking into consideration that it was our first attempt while other teams had experience…we were happy with the result we got,” Nhat Nguyen concluded.
The members agreed that the ultimate pride was competing as the first and only all-women’s college team, which the group was unaware of until the competition’s registration time. Ly Nguyen proposed, “I think the team’s overall role was not only to promote initiation in learning more about the U.S. economy, but also [to] encourage the MHC students, especially those who are interested in the macro-economy, to be more involved in competitions like the Fed challenge, and show how much we, as MHC’s students, can do too.”
Nhat Nguyen further added, “Most of the participants at the competition were men, and…[as] the only [all women’s team], once again confirmed to them that women are …good at economics. I hope there [will] be many more women [who] attend the competition in the future.”