A team of five Yale undergraduates won first place at the Federal Reserve’s 15th College Fed Challenge last week.

The annual challenge, which takes place at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., asks undergraduates from across the nation to “analyze economic and financial conditions and formulate a monetary policy recommendation,” while simulating the Federal Open Market Committee, according to the competition’s website.

The five Yalies — Sienna Gough ’19, Rohit Goyal ’19, David Rubio ’19, Lydia Wickard ’20, and Ramiz Colak ’20 — claimed the top prize at the national competition under the guidance of School of Management professor William English ’82 in its second year competing in the challenge.

A month earlier, the team traveled to the Boston Federal Reserve Bank for the district round of the competition. Of the twelve Federal Reserve banks, five —  New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Richmond, and Boston —  send teams to the final competition in Washington, D.C. Having placed in the top five in Boston last year, the team was more prepared for the competition this year, according to Goyal.

“We started preparing last spring, meeting for about 2 hours every week,” said Gough, who took English’s Monetary Policy class last fall. “[Only] five people presented [at the competition], but there were four others on the team who joined this year, most of them younger, and it’s a great way to learn before the competition.”

Every member of the team specialized in a specific area — from labor economics to international economy — but the team-oriented nature of the competitions encourages a high level of collaboration, Gough added.

English, who joined Yale in 2016, previously served as director of the Division of Monetary Affairs and secretary to the Federal Open Market Committee at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2010 to 2015.

“My main role was coordinating. They did the work to pull all the research together. I commented on their briefing at various stages,” English said. “I was very impressed by the students. They took it seriously and worked very hard.”

English said that every pitch should include an assessment of general economic and financial conditions around the world, policy and “a special topic.” For Yale’s team, the special topic was “policy implementation after normalization.”

Goyal, who focused on labor and real economic growth, said that the team was constantly in communication. Whenever a new economic paper was published, a team member posted it in their group chat and discussed its significance.

“They learned a huge amount about economic and financial conditions … and also how to put together data and make forecasts from that,” English said.

Colak, who specialized in international conditions, was the only member of the current year’s team who did not present last year. He said that this project was his biggest time commitment this semester.

“I did a lot of work in my free time to learn about monetary policy and the Federal Reserve,” Colak said. “Overall, I think the most important part of the competition was gaining new friends. I truly enjoyed working closely with my teammates.”

Goyal said that although getting ready for the competition was “intimidating at the beginning,” now he has more confidence that “if [he] can look it up, [he] can learn it.” 

He added that he was happy that the team won but was sad that the competition ended.

“When we were sitting in the Board Room [at the Federal Reserve Bank], I was thinking, ‘I just don’t want this to be over,’” he said.

The Federal Reserve was established in 1913.

Samuel Turner | samuel.turner@yale.edu