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From left to right: Emelia Potteiger, Nicolás Gonzalez, Noah Vanhoy, Carl Larsson and Sara Kate Garman.

SUMMARY: JMU team takes first place in FDIC-sponsored competition.


By David Doremus

The team from James Madison University’s College of Business emerged victorious over those from four other leading institutions on April 8 in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Academic Challenge.

The JMU team consisted of Honors College students Sara Kate Garman, a senior from Waynesboro, VA, with a double major in finance and accounting; Nicolás Gonzalez, a senior majoring in finance from Viña del Mar, Chile; Emelia Potteiger, a senior from Great Falls, VA, majoring in finance; and Noah Vanhoy, a junior finance major from Staunton, VA,

Their faculty advisor was Carl Larsson, assistant professor of finance.

“They did it for the challenge, on top of all their other obligations,” says Larsson. “They really impressed me with their willingness to do all this super-rigorous research in addition to their schoolwork, jobs and senior-year social activities.”

Team members cited Larsson’s contributions, along with those of fellow CoB faculty members Pamela Drake, Eugene McCarthy, Hui Sono and Corbin Fox, as having been critical to their success.

The FDIC Academic Challenge, which made its debut in 2020-2021, is a nationwide competition that brings to the classroom real-world policy questions involving the banking industry. Vying with JMU for first-place laurels this year were teams from the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Oregon and the State University of New York at Geneseo.

“It was really awesome to see how well the education we’re receiving at JMU matches with what some of the very best business schools are offering,” says Gonzalez, who has accepted an offer from Deloitte, the global professional services network, in its Jersey City, NJ office.

For the competition’s 2021-2022 edition, teams were asked to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the banking industry. The JMU team focused its response on specific effects the pandemic has had on community banks in the Shenandoah Valley.

The competition took place in two rounds. In the initial round, teams prepared written submissions which were reviewed by a panel of judges from the FDIC’s Center for Financial Research. Next, the five teams selected to advance to the final round presented their findings in a live, Zoom-enabled lecture format before fielding questions from the judges.

The FDIC states that the purpose of the event is to enhance students’ professional and academic skills by promoting analytical thinking, graphical and oral presentation of information and concepts and collaboration with peers.

“Presenting is an art,” notes Potteiger, who after graduating from JMU this spring will begin a rotational internship with the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. in Northern Virginia. “Getting as much practice with that as you can, and also just communicating and being able to conduct thorough research, are things that will help in any career you might choose.”

“I always wanted to challenge myself,” her teammate Garman adds. “When I was presented with the banking team opportunity, I didn’t know that it would lead to this outcome, but I’m very thankful.” Garman will begin her new job at a local financial planning firm later this spring.

Close on the heels of its participation in the FDIC Academic Challenge, JMU is also preparing a mid-May bid in a nationwide case-study competition sponsored by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

According to Vanhoy, the CSBS case challenges students to identify the biggest trend at work in the banking industry during the past decade, and then hypothesize what the biggest trends of the next 10 years will be.

“It’s going to be specific to a single community bank, rather than community banks as a category,” explains Vanhoy.

JMU is joining forces for the CSBS competition with Timberville, VA-based F&M Bank Corp., which provides commercial banking services to small and medium-size businesses, nonprofits and families and individuals in the central Shenandoah Valley.

JMU and F&M previously teamed up on a CSBS entry in 2020. It resulted in a second-place finish.

This year will be the first in which JMU has entered both the FDIC and CSBS events.

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Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Last Updated: Monday, January 8, 2024

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