Economics team takes second at national competition

Last week at a national competition in Washington D.C., a team of Geneseo economics students placed as runners-up to Harvard University in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York 2007 College Fed Challenge, defeating four other teams.

The second place prize of $15,000 added to the teams already substantial $15,000 winnings from regional competition.

The Challenge was held in the Federal Reserve building's conference room, where the teams were required to give a 20-minute presentation in front of a panel of judges followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session, both of which focused on current market trends. Each of the presenters focused on a particular aspect of the economy, such as the international marker or recessionary trends.

The road to nationals began at the local level this past October, where Geneseo competed against four other teams in Buffalo to win the district round. At the regional round, held in New York City, Geneseo placed first, beating out Rutgers University, Princeton University and the United States Military Academy.

The team is comprised of 11 members: seniors Onur Bayraktaroglu, Jonathan Davis, Greg Kaleka, Kale Smimmo and Kevin VanNostrand, who function as presenters, along with six other researchers. Of the total winnings, approximately half will go to the school and half will go to the team members. How the money will be divided up among the team members is yet to be determined.

According to team member and presenter Bayrakaroglu, one of the most memorable parts of their experience was listening to the current Chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, speak to the competitors.

"Going to nationals was a once in a lifetime experience," Bayrakaroglu said.

Preparation for this year's team began last spring. According to Smimmo, only two people returned from last years team. "Greg and I came into this role [of leadership] brand new," explained Smimmo, referring to his role as a presenter.

The team has two faculty advisors: Leonie Stone and Christopher Annala, associate professor for the School of Business. The team also sought advisement from Dr. Richard Deitz, a senior economist at the Buffalo branch of the Federal Reserve.

The competition itself originated at a high school level. "The college round only started about six years ago," explained Smimmo.

According to Stone, assistant professor for the School of Business, "We started about five years ago. I was asked to be a judge for the high school competition and I thought it was cool." Geneseo's record so far in the competition is very strong: In only their third year of participation, the team placed second at nationals.

Next year's team will begin their preparations this spring. According to the members, participation in the competition was extremely rewarding, but is certainly a very large time commitment.

"We'd meet 15-20 hours a week," explained VanNostrand, who also noted that the competition is a great resume builder.

"I don't think there are many things in college that really get you so involved," Stone added, explaining how the competition really allows students to explore the area of their interest in a great deal of depth.

Students are encouraged to contact team advisors if they wish to find out more information.