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Columbia and Barnard Students Offer Economic Recovery Recommendations to the New York Federal Reserve Bank

By Petra Tuomi

Jennie Lin, Diane Vanderhoef, Parastu Malik, Nina Diaz, Chanelle Keane and Jonas Mendoza at the New York Federal Reserve Bank

A group of budding economists from area colleges, including a team of Barnard and Columbia students, had the opportunity to offer the Federal Reserve Bank of New York advice on how to deal with the slumping economy, on Monday, March 4.

The economics competition, entitled the "College Fed Challenge," initiated by Parastu Malik, a sophomore at Barnard College, took place for the first time at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRB), which also sponsored the event.

"Parastu was definitely the catalyst behind this pilot program in New York for college students. Our mission at FRB is to promote greater understanding of our role as economic policy makers, and we found that the best way to teach kids about what we do and how our decisions affect economy, is to allow them to act as policy makers," said Lloyd Bromberg, director of the program at FRB of New York.

Teams of students, representing Barnard College/Columbia University, Stern Undergraduate College, Pace, and SUNY Buffalo, each gave 15-minute presentations to the FRB on what should be done with the ailing economy, and then answered questions from the FRB board members and staff.

The Barnard/CU team, which intensely prepared for the past couple of weeks under the guidance of Barnard Economics Professor David Weiman, spent hours researching various economic indicators, financial markets and the prospects for an economic recovery. The student team included: Nina Diaz BC '04; Chanelle Keane BC '04; Jonas Mendoza CC '03; Navnoor Kang CC '03; Diane Vanderhoef BC '02; and Malik BC '04.

The Barnard/CU team and 15 other student researchers gathered information from many sources, including FRB's research and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We actually took a lot of their (FRB) numbers, analyzed them, redid the graphs, and kept abreast of the current research," explained Malik, the group's president.

"We've been working until 10 p.m. every night on this," added Vanderhoef. "We've had a great time, and it's been great to apply my economics major to a real-life situation."

The team's hard work paid off. They came in second place in the competition, just a few points behind Stern Undergraduate College.

"It was a wonderful day and the competition was fierce. As the team's student advisor it was an extremely fulfilling experience," said Malik. "The Barnard-Columbia team did an amazing job. In just a matter of weeks, the team formulated an in-depth presentation analyzing the current conditions of the US economy, concluding with a recommendation for the short-term interest rate."

The program was first started at the high school level with four schools participating and has since grown to a nationwide competition involving 260 high schools annually. Across the country, teams of high school students analyze current market data, and present their findings for the appropriate course for monetary policy to the Federal Reserve economists. Each presentation is followed up with questions from economists at participating Federal Reserve Banks.

Malik, who participated in the high school version of the competition while attending Montclair High School, found the experience so positive that when she started her studies at Barnard she wanted to create a similar competition for college students.

"It showed me how fundamental economics is to everyday life. It made me realize how economic indicators such as GDP or unemployment are relevant and crucial to understanding of society. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to work with top economists at the New York Branch in preparation for the national competition held in Washington, D.C.," she said. Malik contacted Lloyd Bromberg, the program's director at the New York FRB and persuaded the bank to sponsor the idea.

Malik hopes that the "College Fed Challenge" will become an annual competition for the New York area. The Richmond, Virginia FRB already has a college version, which Georgetown University won last year.

After graduation, Malik hopes to go into investment banking, and work for an organization such as the Federal Reserve Bank. "Hopefully the markets will be better by then," Malik said.

Published: Mar 07, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002

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