The Fed Challenge presenting team included Samuel McMillan ’21, Emily Green ’21, Jeffrey Yaun ’21, Kai-Sigurd Jensen ’21, Hunter Rodrick ’21, and Julia Mulhern ’21. Photo by Cynthia Bansak

Fed Challenge Team Earns National Runner-Up Honors

On Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, the Federal Reserve announced that St. Lawrence University’s Fed Challenge team earned second place out of 85 colleges and universities in the 17th annual national College Fed Challenge. St. Lawrence was the only liberal arts college to earn a spot in the final round, finishing ahead of finalists Princeton University, Miami University, Michigan State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University, while Dartmouth College won. The competition encourages students to learn about the U.S. economy, monetary policymaking, and the role of the Federal Reserve System while playing the role of monetary policymakers, analyzing economic conditions, and recommending a course for monetary policy. The teams competed virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were evaluated on economic analysis, responses to judges’ questions, teamwork, and presentation.

St. Lawrence’s Fed Challenge presenting team, which competed in the Q&A for the semifinals and finals, included Emily Green ’21, Kai-Sigurd Jensen ’21, Samuel McMillan ’21, Julia Mulhern ’21, and Hunter Rodrick ’21. The entire team included Jeffrey Yaun ’21 (presenting team alternate), as well as Olivia Botting ’21, Max Hagan ’22, Christopher Jeffrey ’21, Max Lautenberg ’21, Ross MacMahon ’21, Bryan McLennan ’22, Anders Newberg ’22, Sam Sapnar ’21, Andrew Terhune ’22, and Zejian Zhou ’21. The team’s advisor is Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics Cynthia Bansak, a former economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System who taught St. Lawrence’s Fed Challenge course for more than a decade.

“This entire group showed immense dedication throughout the competition that led directly to their success,” Bansak says. This was the first time a St. Lawrence team competed in the final round of the national challenge, but team members felt they had two additional advantages: their liberal arts background and St. Lawrence’s alumni network.

“A huge part of our success was the help we received from St. Lawrence’s alumni network in preparing for the final round,” says senior Emily Green. “Every class we had different SLU alumni and professors questioning us, providing feedback on our answers, and critiquing our style. It was thanks to the engagement and interest of our alumni that we were able to prepare so well for the final and outperform our competition.”

In addition to Bansak, St. Lawrence’s entire economics department helped the team prepare. The team benefited greatly from the expertise of Assistant Professor of Economics Shuwei (Jolly) Zhang, Visiting Assistant Professor of Government Zenel Garcia, and Lynn Smith Fox, a former senior official of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and spouse of University President William L. Fox ’75.

The 85 schools from across the country that participated in 2020 took part in local virtual competitions beginning in October 2020. St. Lawrence was one of three teams from the New York Region selected for the semifinals, where 18 semifinalists participated in Q&A sessions held the week of November 9, 2020. St. Lawrence won the New York Region to earn a spot in the national final.