NCAS Alumni Instrumental to Fed Challenge Team’s Success

If you’re looking for celebrities on the Rutgers-Newark campus these days, look no further than the Economics Department. There you’ll find not only distinguished professors, but also a group of distinguished undergraduates.

The Rutgers-Newark Fed Challenge Team recently placed second in the 11th annual national competition, edged out only by Harvard. It’s the third time in the last three years they’ve gone to the nationals, and the fourth time in the last seven years, since the team’s inception in 2005.

This year’s team, anchored by seniors Victor Castaneda and Sher Singh, benefited from something altogether new and welcome: support from a group of Economics Department alumni.

“We got better as the competition has gotten stiffer,” says Castanda. “And the fact that our alumni freed up their time and gave us their feedback was amazing. It was the first time we’ve had their input, and it meant a lot to us.”

In the Fed Challenge, teams of three to five students give a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation analyzing current economic conditions, forecasting trends and offering monetary-policy recommendations for the Fed. Teams are then grilled for 15 minutes by a panel of judges about monetary policy and macroeconomic theory.

To get to the nationals, the team had to beat out more than 30 schools in the New York District competition. When they accomplished that feat in 2006, they went on to place third at the nationals, followed by second- and fourth-place finishes in 2009 and 2010.

Alumni Involvement Key

In November, a week before the first round of the New York District competition, the team delivered a practice presentation to a panel of seven alumni, all of whom work with major companies in the financial-services industry. The event was hosted by Keith Banks (NCAS ’77), president of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management.

“That was pivotal,” says Castaneda. “It felt like the first round at the Fed Challenge, one week ahead of time, with folks who could have easily been judges. It really benefited the team.”

After the event, several alumni referred the students to speeches and other untapped resources to help them prepare further. Buro accompanied the team to both the district and national competitions, and helped them refine their presentation.

And Washington, D.C.-area alum Allan Holt, Managing Director and Head of U.S. Buying Group at the Carlyle Group, rolled out the red carpet the evening before the national competition, hosting the team in his office for a conversation about the political implications of economic policy, and saluting their continued success.

"These kids have worked hard. I was incredibly impressed with their knowledge, maturity and poise,” says James Buro (NCAS ’78), a certified public accountant and Wall Street speaking consultant. “They can’t help but give you a strong sense of pride and optimism."


To read the original story this was exerpted from, see the NCAS Spring 2012 Newsletter.