Faculty activities

UConn-Stamford Team Competes in the 2021 College Fed Challenge

This Fall 2021, UConn Stamford team participated again in the College Fed Challenge national competition. College Fed Challenge is a team competition for undergraduate students. Teams analyze economic and financial conditions and formulate a monetary policy recommendation, modeling the Federal Open Market Committee.

In 2021 the competition once again was virtual. Each team had to create and then upload a 15-minute video presentation encompassing the following:

  1. An analysis of current economic conditions (as of the day of the competition); these conditions may include broad macroeconomic conditions as well as conditions experienced in different geographic areas, in urban/rural areas, or among different demographic and socioeconomic groups (e.g., racial and ethnic groups, age groups), borrowers and savers, etc.
  2. A forecast of near-term economic and financial conditions relevant to the formulation of monetary policy.
  3. A discussion of significant risks to the economy that should receive special attention in formulating monetary policy; these risks may include the possible effects (positive or negative) of monetary policies on different segments of the population.
  4. A monetary policy recommendation, encompassing both traditional tools and newer approaches as warranted; presenters should give supporting reasons for their recommendation.

The Stamford team consisted of six students who divided their responsibilities for research, organization, presentation, and video creation according to their passions, skills, and interests. Here is the team:

Aidan Connolly (Captain) is a seasoned team leader with extensive experience in data-driven decision making. He is currently finishing his final semester at The University of Connecticut, where he will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics this December. Aidan was elected by his peers to lead the UConn College Fed Challenge Team. His areas of expertise include public speaking, sustainable economic practices, and quantitative modeling. Aidan enjoys cycling, skiing, and socializing in his free time. After graduation in December of 2021, Aidan will continue to consult with the UConn College Fed Challenge Team and begin his career in software sales. Read Aidan’s reflection about the course here.

Gabriella Barg is a senior majoring in Economics with a minor in Accounting. Taking part in the Fed challenge in her remaining semesters has been one of the most academically enriching adventures in her undergrad. The freedom to choose what to research in the current American economy within diverse themes is an informative experience. After spring 2022 graduation, she looks forward to carrying on her refined skills in her professional life, pursuing a Master’s in Accounting Fall 2022. Read Gabriella’s reflection about the course here.

Jorge Cuautla Jr. is a proficient researcher with substantive experience. Combined with the resourcefulness and analytical capabilities, the introduction of the College Fed Challenge was the perfect opportunity to showcase his research abilities. Jorge’s focus as a member of the College Fed Challenge team was the United States Gross Domestic Product (or GDP). The participation in the College Fed Challenge expanded Jorge’s employment opportunities. With positions offered by Amazon, PepsiCo, Northwestern Mutual, and much more, it was difficult to narrow down a future home. Post-graduation, Jorge will continue his macroeconomics research while working as an Analyst at TD Bank. Read Jorge’s reflection about the course here.

Matt Gilshteyn is a sophomore at UConn, majoring in Marketing Management. This is his second semester as a Practicum team member. This course helped him develop a better understanding of the Federal Reserve’s influence on our economy and how real-life projects are completed. The class also demonstrated how different sectors and industries contribute to the decisions of the Federal Reserve. Matt selected the energy sector in hopes of better understanding this sector and its operations. He focused on renewable energy because it showed serious potential for growth within the energy sector. Researching and interpreting data was very insightful, and the skills that he developed helped explain how the energy sector can impact the Fed’s decision. Read Matt’s reflection about the course here.

Sava Logvinski is an experienced negotiator, with an extensive background in team development. His ambitions are high, and dreams are endless. Sava is one who emphasizes the value of asking questions. He enjoys learning new concepts and is quick to grasp them. The Fed Challenge allowed him to gain a holistic approach to monetary policy, implementing his fundamental economic analysis obtained at UConn. He focused on the sector of employment, specifically on automation and future outlook. As a senior majoring in Economics, Sava interviewed this semester with several companies. After careful consideration, he decided to accept his offer with Celonis starting January 2022. Celonis is the world’s leading process mining software company. Process Mining is a new big data analytics technology designed to help customers optimize their operations. Process Mining goes through the already existing log data every IT system produces and finds out where improvements are needed. Why? In order to be more efficient than your competitors, get rid of bottlenecks, make your customers even happier and create processes that everybody loves to deal with. The Fed Challenge prepared Sava with public speaking and presentation skills needed to succeed in the world of sales. Through studying new AI technology and understanding the economic impacts, he was able to identify proper use cases, and deliver. He is excited to begin his journey post graduation, and help businesses unlock full execution capacity. Read Sava’s reflection about the course here.

Ashley Balta (alternate) grew up in Greenwich and graduated from Greenwich High School. Ashley is a first-generation college student, and she participated in the AVID program to help her with the process of higher education. At UConn, she majored in Economics. Ashley enjoys the arts as she has been dancing ballet at the Ballet School of Stamford since the age of 3. As a member of the diversity club, she continued her volunteering work for the AVID program as a mentor. Currently, Ashley is starting the foundation of her small-Hispanic-owned business. After graduation, she plans to pursue her master’s for further education. Since joining the Fed Challenge course over the summer, she realized it was the perfect opportunity to increase her knowledge of several sectors of the economy. Being a student-led class, this course taught her the fundamentals of planning, impact instructions, and work-related responsibilities. Read Ashley’s reflection about the course here.

All students worked diligently and cooperatively through two semesters. The final video presentation can be seen here. Even though, the Stamford team was not selected to advance into the final round, the team is proud of the work they have done.

As students’ reflections show, the participation in the Challenge is very rewarding. In addition to learning about the economy and monetary policy, students gain skills in research, analysis, and teamwork, all of which are transferable to their future careers and academic endeavors.

Congratulations UConn – Stamford College Fed Challenge Team 2021!

 

Photo (left to right): Jorge Cuautla, Gabriella Barg, Ashley Balta, Sava Logvinski, Dr. Smirnova, Matt Gilshteyn, Aidan Connolly.

Professor Prakash UConn TedX Talk

Professor Nishith Prakash recently presented a UConn TedX talk on “Transforming Girls’ Lives with Bicycles’

His talk described his research, providing evidence which supports strategies for empowering women and addressing the gender gap in education.

For more information about this research, see ‘Wheels of Change: Transforming Girl’s Lives with Bicycles’ online at: https://nishithprakash.com/field-experiments/

Stamford Economics Students Explore FACTSET Data Platform

FactSet creates data and software solutions for investment professionals around the world, providing instant access to financial data and analytics that investors use to make crucial investment decisions. The company was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Norwalk, CT, a short distance from the Stamford campus.

All UConn Stamford students now have access to FactSet data portal through the terminals located in Jeremy Richard Library. Because students in Dr. Smirnova’s Financial Economics (ECON 3413) class are engaged in a project valuating a company of their choice, they used FactSet to get financial performance data and other information about the company they have selected, its competitors, and the industry, in which the company operates. However, there is a lot more depth to FactSet.

UConn Stamford Center for Career Development had arranged for a special (virtual) visit of FactSet’s Academic Specialist, Andi Huff, to Financial Economics class. On November 18, 2021, Andi demonstrated for students many features of FactSet portal. This knowledge will help students not only in completing the semester project, but also in developing skills in data analytics, and in utilizing this data source in other Economics courses as well as in other disciplines.

Ms. Andi Huff also introduces students to various career opportunities available at FactSet, such as Student Ambassador Program, Internships, and Client Solutions Associates positions.

Economics majors are prepared for a diverse range of careers, but jobs in data analytics are of a particular interest nowadays. Availability of FactSet’s platform at the Stamford campus plays an important role in enhancing our students’ readiness for careers in this field.

Stamford Economics Students Discuss their Career Aspirations

On November 11, 2021, Stamford Economics majors met a special guest. The visitor was Jeff Magnuson, Career Consultant and owner of Jeff Magnuson Consulting. Jeff talked to students about developing a strategy for their job search and about specific steps they should take to aid this process.

Students learned about developing an understanding of the role they want to play at a firm they are applying to. This step of thinking about one’s passions and personal goals and objectives should be the first one in the job search process. Drafting the resume and cover letter should come after that. The practice of thinking deeper about what one wants to do will help making resume more focused and cover letter more persuasive.

Jeff encouraged students to be open and truthful. He motivated them to not get deterred by the competition, and to concentrate only on things within their control. He gave hints about utilizing mailings to the actual hiring manager instead of relying solely on the electronic uploads of the materials. Overall, many good ideas and suggestions were discussed, and students were grateful for the wealth of information that Mr. Magnuson provided.

The visits of business community members to the Stamford campus are encouraged by the CLAS 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. Supporting “Goal 3 Teaching” and the “Student Support and Engagement” objective, we are creating ways to better connect students with various opportunities related to their career aspirations. In support of “Goal 4: Broader Impacts, Service, and Visibility”, we are facilitating community engagement and increasing the visibility of CLAS with and for citizens of the state.

 

Photo: Mr. Jeff Magnuson (left) and Dr. Smirnova during the Stamford campus visit on November 11, 2021

Professor Prakash at the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative

Professor Nishith Prakash spoke at a recent symposium on “Social Innovations in Policy, Healthcare, and Work Organizations to Advance Gender Equality” at the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI), an “innovative academic program designed to unleash the potential of experienced leaders to help solve society’s most pressing challenges.

Information about the Advanced Leadership Initiative may be found online at:  https://www.advancedleadership.harvard.edu/

 

Early College Experience – Economics: Workshop 2021

On Wednesday, October 27, 2021, Dr. Smirnova conducted annual professional development workshop for teachers participating in UCONN Early College Experience (ECE) Economics program. Dr. Smirnova, who is the Economics Department coordinator of this program, welcomed 34 teachers and presented the summary of NACEP (National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships) accreditation requirements. Dr. Smirnova emphasized the importance of course comparability such as student learning outcomes, syllabus, assessment, and grading standards. Dr. Smirnova proudly mentioned that University of Connecticut was the first institution in the nation that received NACEP accreditation in 1999.

Next on the agenda was an important topic of Highlighting Diversity and Inclusion with FRED® Data. This segment was presented by Dr. Diego Mendez-Carbajo, Senior Economic Education Specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Participants learned how to leverage FRED Blogs in their classes by accessing FRED Blog posts through EconLowDown and using multiple-choice questions addressing data literacy, numeracy, and econ analysis. Several examples highlighting the topics of diversity and inclusion were discussed, such as labor force participation of workers with disability and women’s employment losses due to COVID-19, among others. Dr. Mendez-Carbajo suggested possible uses of FRED Blogs such as pre-lecture independent exploration, in-class application exercises, assessment, and out-of-class assignments.

Contemporary monetary policy changes were addressed by Dr. Scott A. Wolla, Economic Education Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. His presentation called “Monetary Policy Has Changed. Has Your Instruction?” highlighted new information about changes of primary monetary policy tools, flexible inflation targeting, and nuanced changes in the wording of the Fed’s dual mandate. Dr. Wolla carefully explained the contemporary implementation of monetary policy and shared classroom resources, which address these changes ahead of changes inside economics textbooks.

UCONN Library is a great resource for getting access to databases, reading materials, videos, and teaching our students about legitimate sources, citation styles, and research skills in general. In her presentation “UConn Library Resources for You and Your ECE Students”, Sheila A. Lafferty, Information Literacy & Social Sciences Librarian, showed various research tools as well as familiarized participants with the notion that there are “not only books” that are available at UCONN Library. She guided teachers to video recordings, data sources, academic journals, popular journals, and many other things that are part of the library collection. Ms. Lafferty created a special ECE Library Guide, which summarizes her presentation and can be accessed any time.

In conclusion, Dr. Smirnova encouraged teachers to continue perfecting their craft of teaching economics in an engaging way. To aid with that endeavor, every workshop participant will receive a complimentary electronic copy of the book “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” by Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel (2014).

Thank you, Early College Experience Office, for making this professional development workshop a success!

Professor Furtado, Visiting Scientist at Harvard’s Population Center

Professor Delia Furtado is spending the 2021-22 academic year visiting the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

The Center brings together researchers from different disciplines across Harvard University with a common goal to “produce population-based evidence that will better inform policies needed to create healthy and resilient societies.” The Center has four main research focal areas:  Social & Environmental Determinants of Population Health, Aging Societies, Workplace & Well-Being, and Social & Family Demography.

While all of Professor Furtado’s research touches on at least one of these broad areas, during her stay at the center, she will focus on her work on the impacts of immigrant labor on long-term care markets.

Professor Lanza Launches Economic Newsletter

Professor Steven Lanza has launched The Connecticut Green Sheet, a short quarterly newsletter on the state’s economy (see the coverage by CT News Junkie at: https://directory.ctnewsjunkie.com/2021/05/quarterly-newsletter-analyzes-connecticut-economy/).

The Green Sheet “takes a page” from the department’s old Connecticut Economy Quarterly Review (the green is a nod to the Quarterly’s signature dark cyan accent color) and offers readers a current indicator of state economic activity (the General Drift Indicator or GDI) plus a forecast of anticipated nonfarm job changes.

Stamford Team Competes in the College Fed Challenge 2020

This year, the College Fed Challenge competition was virtual. It was a challenging transition to understand the intricacies of new rules and regulations and to pivot in September to be ready by October 9. But the UConn-Stamford team was well-organized, enthusiastic, and well-prepared to put forward the arguments that the current economic situation warrants keeping the target federal funds rate unchanged.

The 2020 team consisted of five Stamford students: Cullen Murphy (ACES, sophomore), You Kim (Financial Management and Economics, senior), Shayla Siljkovic (Linguistics and Philosophy, sophomore), Eileen Zhu (Economics, junior), and Rashana Weerasinghe (Business Data Analytics, sophomore). They worked virtually; very diligently, creatively, and collaboratively. They describe the challenges of this new environment as the loss of a camaraderie of in-person interactions, technical difficulties, and physical isolation. However, the presentation that they put forward combines the intellectual rigor of each member, deep research of economic indicators, and a collective vision of what the forecast of current economic conditions looks like.

You can watch their presentation here.

Our team did not make the next round of the competition this year, which is, of course, disappointing. However, the learning that has occurred was a worthwhile experience. First, each student has developed an expertise in a selected economic indicator or industry: each team member researched, constructed graphs, and made connections with overall economic development as well as with monetary policy implications. Furthermore, students gained highly valuable skills such as critical thinking and teamwork. These are the skills that are transferable to other professional environments such as a graduate school or a workplace.

You can read the students’ reflections here:

Cullen Murphy – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

You Kim – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Shayla Siljkovic – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Rashana Weerasinghe – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Eileen Zhu – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

The course that will be used to prepare a team for the next year’s competition is ECON 3492 – Practicum. It is offered every semester. Stamford students who are interested in joining the team should contact Dr. Smirnova. The student’s major does not matter – all majors are welcome! What matters is the desire to learn about the economy and monetary policy, and to be open-minded to work well in a team.

 

Early College Experience Economics Workshop

Every year, the Economics Department hosts the professional development workshop for high school teachers of economics who are part of the UConn Early College Experience (ECE) Program. This program provides opportunities for high school students to take a UCONN course for credit at their high school. The teachers who offer such a course attend the annual workshop and are certified by the Department. Dr. Smirnova is a new coordinator for the ECE Economics program.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 29 teachers from all over the State of Connecticut attended a virtual professional development workshop organized by Dr. Smirnova, the Department of Economics, and the Office of Early College Programs. The agenda was packed with useful and up-to-date information that could be used in the classroom right away.

Dr. Diego Mendez-Carbajo, Senior Economic Education Specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis presented a talk “Remote Active Learning with FRED Interactives”, which demonstrated new approaches of using the FRED database for teaching various topics.

Dr. Scott A. Wolla, Economic Education Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis talked about “Teaching New Tools of Monetary Policy”, which presented the up-to-date information about monetary policy tools that have changed substantially in the past couple of years and especially since August 20202. Dr. Wolla showed various resources that could be used in teaching and studying Macroeconomics and Money and Banking.

Dr. Carlos J. Asarta, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware presented his new research “Teaching Digitally-Minded Students during the Pandemic and Beyond”. The data collected by Dr. Asarta indicates that the profession has not yet successfully pivoted to using engaging strategies in teaching and, therefore, there are challenges in recruiting and retaining economics majors. Dr. Asarta suggested several ways of making economics more interesting, more applied, and more fun for contemporary students.

The feedback from teachers was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone learned a lot and took away many resources to be used in the classroom.

By Natalia V. Smirnova