JMU's Fed Challenge Team Looks to the Future


 

By Matthew D'Angelo

Fed Challenge 2015 WinnersAfter winning their regional competition, JMU’s Fed Challenge team travelled to Richmond to compete in the district level of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank’s Fed Challenge Competition. Despite not advancing to the national competition, JMU’s Fed Challenge team serves as an example for how the College of Business prepares students for the future by providing extracurricular activities that offer both practical and experiential knowledge.

Michael McCullough, a senior economics major, feels that his two-year experience on the team has given him an edge in his field of study.

“These types of college experiences are so important,” McCullough said. “They prepare you so much and it’s really important that students take advantage of them. Fed Challenge has really prepared me for my career after college.”

Federal Reserve Challenge is a national high school and collegiate-based program where students analyze the current economy and suggest policy changes to a panel of judges. The 20-minute presentations are followed by a Q&A portion that tests the breadth of students’ economic knowledge.

“As you move up the totem pole of the competition, they really try and test your knowledge in the Q&A portion,” said McCullough.

Teams who advance through the first two rounds of the competition have the pleasure of presenting their suggestions at the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington, D.C. for a shot at their district’s national title. JMU won this title back in 2013 when McCullough was a sophomore team member.

“The biggest thing that’s changed internally has been the nature of what we’re presenting,” said McCullough. “As a sophomore, the Fed was acting a bit more standard so our policy decisions felt a bit more straightforward. Now, there are a lot of paths the Fed can take, which makes it a lot more difficult.”

McCullough attributed part of the team’s success to their advisor, economics professor Phil Heap, who plays a big role in their preparation for the competition. Despite being the leader of the group, Heap takes a hands-off approach.

“It’s almost like he’s another team member,” says McCullough about Heap’s involvement. “He fosters a collaborative effort among us and helps us think outside the box.”

Heap has been involved with JMU’s Fed Challenge program since 2004. With 12 years of experience under his belt, Heap said he continues to be the team’s advisor because of the exceptional students that he gets to work with.

“I do it for the students,” said Heap. “I end up with a good group of students every year who are very interested in this.”

Both Heap and McCullough hope that one day JMU’s program will return to nationals to compete against other top universities like Harvard, UPenn and Pace. In the meantime, McCullough hopes to leave behind a team that will eventually return to nationals.

“The best way for the team to grow is to expose younger students to [Fed Challenge],” said Heap. “It’s important to be thrown in there and have to learn the content and gain experience.” 

Published: Monday, December 7, 2015

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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