The Center for Career Development announced its first Faculty Fellow – Dr. Natalia Smirnova. As the Career Center continues to move toward its vision of ‘creating a university-wide career readiness culture that prepares all students for post-graduation success’, they have been extending their reach to partnering with faculty and staff more intentionally over the past several years.
Dr. Smirnova’s work on career readiness is closely aligned with the mission of the Center for Career Development and its Career Champions program. Professor Smirnova in her courses encourages students to build skills that are transferable to the workplace. With her co-authors, she developed an instructional module where students learn about their major and career path by using publicly available large data set. At the Stamford campus, she collaborates with various departments to arrange career panels, builds a network of business community leaders to mentor her students, and encourages students’ participation in various national economics competitions and conferences.
As the inaugural Career Faculty Fellow, Dr. Smirnova will be developing materials related to integration of career competencies into syllabi, serving as an ambassador to academic departments and faculty, and creating a sustainable program of faculty fellowship.
Dr. Natalia Smirnova, Stamford “Practicum” instructor, argues that each competition is unique and encourages students to develop different skills that are valuable to their future career. This year, she added FDIC Academic Challenge as a complementary activity to the existing “Practicum” structure. The timing works perfectly: Fed Challenge is heavy at the beginning of the semester (submission in October), FDIC Challenge starts in November. The skills that students learn are complementary: the Fed Challenge focuses on the oral presentation skills and macroeconomic knowledge; the FDIC Challenge focuses on the writing skills (students write an analytical report) and microeconomic analysis. Both competitions have learning goals of data literacy, analytical, research skills, teamwork, and economic analysis.
The Stamford 2022 team consisted of seven students.
Alyssa Pelletier (Team Leader) is a Junior majoring in Financial Management at UConn. This is her second semester on the College Fed Challenge team. Her interests include finance and data analytics, utilizing demonstrated collaboration, organization, and problem-solving skills. In her free time, she enjoys dancing and beach trips. Through this competition, Alyssa learned how to analyze economic / financial conditions, to formulate monetary policy recommendations. She developed a better understanding of how different sectors / industries contribute to the decisions of the Fed. Alyssa selected the Technology sector, as she was interested in researching how technology is reshaping productivity and employment opportunities. She focused on digital transformation, and how the nature of work is changing as a result of technological advances. In this course, Alyssa had the opportunity to gain insight into an industry of interest, while developing career-valued skills like leadership, critical thinking, and teamwork. Here is the link to Alyssa’s reflection at the end of the course.
Briana Hardy is a second semester Junior majoring in economics and minoring in psychology at UConn Stamford. Growing up in Stamford, she planned on transferring to Storrs for her junior year. However, as for many other people, the pandemic disrupted her plans and she decided to take a gap year. During that gap year she worked full time to help her family who were directly impacted by the recession of the pandemic. During that gap year she worked for a local community bank as a teller and then was given the opportunity to learn the beginning processes of credit risk management as a paid intern. This caused her to become more interested in economics and banking. During her gap year she also worked at a grocery store and was able to see firsthand how the pandemic disrupted many sectors of the local economy and supply chain as well. During her free time Briana is learning to speak Spanish, she enjoys investing in the stock market, and she loves to travel. After she completes her undergraduate degree, she plans on working in the banking industry. After obtaining some work experience, she wants to go back to school to obtain a graduate degree. For the College Fed Challenge, Briana decided to look further into the supply chain because of her firsthand experience in seeing how incidences outside of the financial world are, in fact, interconnected in our economy. Here is the link to Briana’s reflection at the end of the course.
Robert Martin is a current second semester Senior at UConn Stamford majoring in General Studies with a focus in Economics. He transferred to UConn his Junior year after attending Saint Joseph’s University where he majored in Business Intelligence and Analytics. He opted to switch to General studies at UConn to learn a wide variety of courses including economics, psychology, and communications to help him more in the wine industry. During his free time Robert enjoys golfing, going to the gym, and trying out new restaurants. After he completes his undergraduate in December 2022, he plans on working in the wine industry to continue to grow his wine knowledge. Throughout this challenge Robert selected the housing sector, to get a better understanding how the housing market affected the general economy and showed the growth and trends within the industry. Here is the link to Robert’s reflection at the end of the course.
James McQuade is a Senior at UConn, majoring in Economics. This is his first semester as a Practicum team member and his second semester taking coursework in monetary policy. James is interested in pursuing a career in analytics, most likely in financial services. However, he is open to opportunities in other fields conducting economic or financial analysis, i.e., credit analysis, insurance analysis, healthcare analysis, etc. He completed a summer internship in the Wealth Management department at Raymond James Financial Inc. under the Vice President of Investments in Westport, CT. He has utilized his aptitude for critical thinking as well as his knowledge of economic and financial markets to conduct research regarding the effects of commodity prices on macroeconomic forces including production costs and consumption. As the needs of team changed, he has also conducted research regarding consumer sentiment and its possible implications on the Fed’s policy to maintain price stability. He looks forward to getting more experience in analysis after graduation and hopes to find an opportunity to pursue a Master of Science in Finance or an MBA in the near future. He is also considering work on the Chartered Financial Analyst designation post-graduation. Outside of academics, James has a passion for singing, and spending time with family and friends. Here is the link to James’s reflection at the end of the course.
Jonathan Portanova is a Senior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Economics. His interest is to go into public policy and research developments in the private and public sectors. Being on the Fed College Challenge Team gave Jonathan a great opportunity to do research on the economy and learn new sources of information. Jonathan is also a community leader and has volunteered in his time in the community as members of organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Alzheimer Association, and on Campus. Being a part of two Honor Societies Delta Alpha Pi and Phi Theta Kappa, Jonathan enjoys spending time with family and friends, meeting new people, and going out. Here is the link to Jonathan’s reflection at the end of the course.
Anthony Santiago, “Santi” is a UConn Stamford Senior. Santi was originally a member of the class of 2020 but when the COVID-19 pandemic began, he took some time off from school to pursue a career as a plumber. After establishing himself locally in the trade industry, he decided that it was time to reenter the classroom and complete his degree. After leaving his company in January of 2022, he will graduate this December through UConn’s Continuing Studies program with a bachelor’s degree in General Studies, where most of his classes are of a business background. He is planning on trading his work boots for a suit and tie following the completion of his degree and hopes to find a finance opportunity in the NYC area early in 2023. Here is the link to Anthony’s reflection at the end of the course.
Neel Talati is a Senior majoring in Economics at UConn. This is his first semester participating in the College Fed Challenge team. Neel’s interests include stock trading, technical analysis, creating leadership opportunities and analytical thinking. In his free time, Neel likes to travel and go outdoors to play various sports like soccer and basketball. At the beginning of this competition, he has been able to demonstrate knowledge and skills to analyze economic climate forecasts and correlate them to monetary policy. He has been able to collaborate with his peers to help in all sectors of the Fed challenge. Throughout the course, he has been able to gain experience and insight to help prepare for the next semester fed challenge. Here is the link to Neel’s reflection at the end of the course.
Team’s video submission for the College Fed Challenge competition did not advance to the second round. But students kept pushing forward and worked hard on the next challenge. The written report analyzing profitability of banks in Fairfield County was submitted to the FDIC Challenge, and we are awaiting the results of the first round to be available in February.
Each student acknowledged that through the “Practicum” course they developed and refined a lot of career-transferrable skills such as critical thinking, analytical, and presentation skills in addition to teamwork and collaborative competitive spirit.
During the 2019-2021 academic year, the College undertook a collaborative strategic planning process. Among other things, the resulting plan articulated four overarching goals for the College to work toward in the coming years. The Strategic Goal Awards recognize recognize the efforts of faculty members in these areas:
Climate, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award
Innovative Scholarship Award
Teaching, Learning, and Student Success Award
Broader Impacts, Service, and Visibility Award
Dr. Smirnova has received the 2022 Broader Impacts, Service, and Visibility Award.
This award is granted for “outstanding initiatives that visibly impact the welfare of Connecticut and beyond, including but not limited to facilitating community engagement, developing strong connections to government or nonprofit agencies, and/or leveraging alumni networks”.
As a faculty liaison of the Early College Experience – Economics program, Dr. Smirnova oversees course comparability, academic programming, and professional development and evaluation of the UConn ECE instructors teaching ECON 1000, ECON 1201, ECON 1202 in high schools. The ECE Economics program is an important component of department’s academic outreach to the community, a part of the department’s recruitment strategy, and an important way to connect our colleagues in high schools with the University. The ECE Economics program is the largest at UConn. It serves on average 55 instructors who offer 66 ECE economics courses annually.
The impact on students who take ECE Economics courses is many-fold. They get acquainted with the academic rigor of CLAS, gain familiarity with the University as a whole, and publicize the prominence of UConn across the nation and around the world when gaining acceptance to institutions of higher education.
The community impact of the ECE Economics program is immense. Our partner schools serve urban and rural communities, inner-city pupils, immigrant populations, and first generation students. As Dr. Smirnova helps the ECE instructors build their courses with rigor and innovation, all these groups have the opportunity to learn economics concepts, develop economics way of thinking, and get their first exposure to the college-level curriculum. This opportunity has a profound positive impact on learners and their communities.
Starting at the local community, the visibility of the University grows in the national and international arenas. After high school graduation, some students attend the University of Connecticut. They contribute to UConn’s diversity and bring knowledge gained in high school to UConn. Other students go to colleges and universities around the country and around the world. They contribute to the visibility of UConn by transferring UConn credits earned through the ECE program, by bringing the knowledge they gained, and by spreading the word about the ECE experience they have had. International students who attend ECE-partner private boarding schools bring the knowledge about the University of Connecticut to their home countries.
This year, marking the 25th anniversary of the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Program at UConn, the Stamford campus had the first inaugural Frontiers event on April 12. The Frontiers program creates a culture of inquiry and engagement and enriches the undergraduate experience of our students.
At Stamford, students’ presentations were in-person and guests from the local community were invited. Twelve Stamford students from various disciplines delivered results of eight diverse research projects they have undertaken during this academic year.
Dr. Smirnova’s student, Matthew Gilshteyn, presented his research entitled “How Will Infrastructure Act Impact Nuclear Energy Production Costs?”, which stems from his work in ECON 3431W – “Public Economics” class. In his paper, Matthew conducted regression analysis on the data from U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Energy Institute and using the regression equation estimated the costs of nuclear energy production for 2022 and 2023. Matthew concluded that the Infrastructure Act’s allocation of resources towards alternative energy will decrease the cost of nuclear energy production by 8.2% by 2023. During the Frontiers event, Matthew answered questions from the audience and defended the nuclear energy as the safest energy source compared with other sources.
This year, the “posters” that students developed were in the electronic format and were projected on a big screen at the Welcome Center Atrium at the Stamford campus. Those posters will now be shown till the end of the semester on the monitors in the Concourse rotating among all eight projects.
The inaugural Frontiers event at the Stamford campus showcased the diversity of talent of our students and the continuing effort of the faculty to strengthen the undergraduate research program.
On April 7, 2022, Dr. Smirnova presented at the UConn Career Champions’ training event “Working with the Career Center to get Employers & Alumni into the Classroom”.
Dr. Smirnova provided the evidence from the National Alumni Career Mobility Survey, 2020, collected by the Career Leadership Collective that “receiving helpful career advice during an undergraduate degree is a significant contributor to educational satisfaction as well as to career pathway preparation. It plays an important role in economic mobility and career satisfaction.” (NACM, 2020)
Dr. Smirnova shared examples of her work with Alumni and Stamford business leaders, which was aimed to help other Career Champions provide invaluable resources, connections, and experiences for our students as they venture on their career journeys.
Professor Smirnova’s ECON 3431W – Public Finance Writing Intensive class was visited in March by a professional writer and entrepreneur, UConn Stamford Economics major alumna, Anne McAuley Lopez (CLAS ’96). Ms. Lopez, is a business owner of Agency Content Writer, LLC.
Writing-intensive courses are always challenging for students. Professor Smirnova’s class focuses on writing a scientific research paper in economics, which is often the first time a student is exposed to a scientific writing approach. It is overwhelming for students to face a fast-paced environment of selecting a topic, formulating a research question or a hypothesis, conducting literature review, obtaining and analyzing data to find the answer to the research question or accept or reject the hypothesis. All of that with the emphasis on scientific writing with in-text citations and a proper bibliography.
Ms. Anne Lopez volunteered to help with the inspiration of students several years ago. She worked with Dr. Smirnova to prepare a series of videos that motivate students along their research journey. These videos are now on HuskyCT site for this course. This year, Anne came to the class itself, albeit virtually.
On that evening in March, Anne started by sharing her story about how she changed her career from financial analyst (she was an Economics major!) to a writer. On her company website, Anne writes: “Since my earliest years, I remember loving writing. Teachers would give us options of telling stories visually with poster boards and markers or with words. I always chose words.” She told students that she discovered that people value her writing and would ask her for help. Eventually, she decided to change her career and since September 2010, she has been a professional writer, helping businesses get found online.
Students were appreciative to hear Anne’s wisdom about being open to change and being flexible. Another advice: find what you are passionate about, and that passion complemented by hard work will lead you to success.
In the second part of the evening, Ms. Lopez talked with students about their selected topics and recommended several strategies of how to cope with writer’s block, find inspiration in reading, and how to “eat an elephant” (you have to be in class to know what that means!). Students responded well to her allegories and had fun discussing their challenges with writing in this class.
Such visits from UConn alumni are very valuable. They connect students to the real-world and to UConn graduates, especially if those graduates pursued the same major while in college. The stories of career trajectories, the stories of workplace dynamics are inspiring and insightful. For the alumni, such visits give the opportunity to connect with younger generation, to share successes and challenges, and to give back to the University.
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:
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.
A forecast of near-term economic and financial conditions relevant to the formulation of monetary policy.
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.
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.
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
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).
During the Stamford campus Convocation ceremony on September 9, 2021, Professor Smirnova received the 2021 Faculty Recognition Award given to faculty member who goes above and beyond the call of duty to serve the students and the campus. According to the Award criteria, the nominee should have a balanced and thorough record of achievement in the areas of scholarship, teaching, and service.
In addition to teaching various Economics courses, Dr. Smirnova was recognized for her work with students as academic adviser, as club advisor to the College Fed Challenge Stamford team, as Career Champion, and the organizer of several community outreach events.
During 2020-2021 academic year, Dr. Smirnova collaborated with Political Science Department, Center for Career Development, Honors Program, and UConn Foundation to bring two well-attended career-focused events to Stamford campus:
Dr. Smirnova also serves as the Economics Department liaison to the Early College Experience Program, which works with high schools across Connecticut. In 2020-2021, the Economics was the largest discipline of the ECE program, working with 68 instructors teaching 52 courses.
The scholarship of Dr. Smirnova encompasses her work on pedagogy, promotion of women in economics, and supporting students with their research aspirations. To this end in 2021, Dr. Smirnova was instrumental in sending her students to the Diverse Economics conference and the National Conference on Women in Economics WE are Resilient.
Her own research on data visualization use in the undergraduate classroom was showcased at the TeachECONference2021 organized jointly by Cornell University and the University College of London.
At the Convocation, Dr. Smirnova shared her passion for teaching and working with students and encouraged students to seek resources that will help them succeed.