Fed Challenge team tackles roles of Federal Reserve

Maddy Engels, Staff Writer

On April 25, 10 students from Naperville Central who take an interest in economics will compete against students from other schools at the Fed Challenge, held at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago.

Juniors Alexandra Dram, Neha Ramachandran, Mellissa Zhang, Vivian Zhao and Abida Asker   will be competing, along with seniors Neil Kasbekar, Cindy Lo, Waverly Dooling, Olivia Howard and Seamus McGuinness.

In previous years, fewer students have been on the team. But sponsor David Ashton has a strategy to increase its size.

“We usually just take five [students] and they do the research, they make the presentation and they give it,” Ashton said. “But this year we have taken 10 with the idea that the juniors on the team right now will rotate in next year and we will get five more juniors next year to do it. We’re hoping that the turnover allows us to be a little sharper than other teams.”

The challenge requires intense preparation in a short period of time. Senior captain McGuiness explains more about how the Fed Challenge plays out.

“[We give] a 15-minute presentation about the overall economy and then a policy recommendation that we have or the future of the company,” McGuiness said.

The Fed Challenge is similar to what those who work at the Federal Reserve Bank actually do for their jobs, which gives students real-world economics experience.

“They act like the Federal Reserve and they give a recommendation on whether or not they should change interest rates in order to adjust the economy, so it actually takes quite a bit of analysis to make up a very simple decision,” Ashton said. “Do you raise, hold, or lower interest rates? The Fed meets eight times a year to do it, so the competition is set up to be like, if you were in the next meeting, what decision would you make based on how things are right now?”

Members of the Fed Challenge team have already been working hard to get ready for the competition. They visited the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank to get a feel for how things worked there. In addition to this, the students have been meeting to prepare for both their presentation and the question and answer portion.

“We spend a lot of time meeting to prep for that Q and A, which means building a lot of just general economic knowledge, and then working through a lot of practice questions that you’re likely to see when you give the presentation,” McGuiness said.

This unique opportunity has positively impacted many of the people involved, especially senior Howard.

“The Fed Challenge brought me great friendships, experiences, and knowledge,” Howard said. “Especially in a field where few women hold positions, it’s enlightening to meet those women and imagine a possible future path. I’m thankful for these small yet intense lessons that have shaped the person I will become.”