Natalia Smirnova

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

Women in Economics Symposium

On February 27, 2020, two Economics students from the Storrs campus (Daija Brunson and Pershae Gilling) and one Economics student from the Stamford campus (Viviana Castillo) got the chance to travel to Cleveland, OH, for a Women in Economics Symposium. In the morning of the event the students got the chance to meet Research Assistants for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and ask them questions about their journey so far. A lot of insight was given by the Research Assistants and they were very helpful in providing guidance to the students about what they should do in the future.

The students also got the chance to tour the bank and they were even able to go down to the cash processing center where they could see how automation plays a big role in their daily processes.

The symposium was held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and included keynote addresses from Dr. Lisa Cook, Director of the AEA Summer Program and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Founder of Economic Education Institute. In addition, during the symposium the students got the chance to sit through different discussion panels with topics about what to do with a degree in economics, how to get a PHD, and how to navigate the workforce as a female.

During the reception they got a chance to meet other students and employees from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, including Dr. Loretta Mester, the President and CEO of the bank. Overall, the full day was filled with a lot of information and it provided the students with a lot of guidance as to what they should do in the future. The students came back feeling very energized and excited as to what the future holds for them.

 

Written by Viviana Castillo and Dr. Natalia Smirnova

Stamford Math Econ Students Working with the Business Community

IRL Case Study LogoThis Fall, Professor Smirnova’s Mathematical Economics class in Stamford engaged in  collaboration with the local business community. A key element of the course was the empirical project, which gave students hands-on experience in working with data and proposing a solution to a real problem for Stamford-based businesses. Separated randomly into seven teams, students pondered the research question: How to attract and retain Millennial talent in Stamford, CT?

This question was posited by Kelly Pierre-Louis, UConn alumna, Founder & Executive Director of #IRLCONN – (In Real Life Conference:  #IRLCONN: Edu). Kelly devoted a substantial amount of time observing teams’ presentations throughout the semester and giving constructive feedback. On the last day of classes, December 5th, teams presented their answer to the research question, their analysis of data, and their recommendations for the Millennial talent retention in Stamford. In attendance at the event were local business community leaders from Stamford Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Fairfield County, Ferguson Library, Waddell and Reed, GAIA Real Estate, Congressman Jim Himes’s office, and Luigi and Associates.

Students had the opportunity not only to showcase their research but also network with business professionals, ask and answer questions, and connect. Our guests were very enthusiastic about student projects’ outcomes. They asked questions, provided their views on the subject, and were interested in implementing some of the students’ recommendations in their businesses or their line of work. Good dialogue and an exchange of ideas for future collaboration inside and outside of the classroom commenced.

Such real-world projects’ integration in the economics curriculum proves to be an exciting new way of connecting our students to the realm outside the academia. It also makes class projects more meaningful and develops skills that can be easily transferred to the workplace.

UConn-Stamford Team Participates in College Fed Challenge 2019

This year, the UConn-Stamford team participated again in the College Fed Challenge competition of the second district of the Federal Reserve System. Thirty teams competed on October 23 at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This program is designed to bring real-world economics into the classroom. Teams play the role of monetary policymakers by analyzing economic conditions and recommending a course for monetary policy.

The UConn–Stamford team this year consisted of the following eight students.

Ignacio Gonzalez is a junior pursuing his Economics degree at UCONN-Stamford. This is his second year on the College Fed Challenge team. Through the program he has enhanced his understanding of economic indicators and how they interconnect in signaling the current state of the economy. This past summer he interned for the Treasury department at DZ Bank AG. He was able to use the experience gained in the Fed Challenge program as a base for assets and liabilities management as well as for bond pricing.

Viviana Castillo is currently a senior majoring in Economics. In addition to her studies, she works for People’s United Bank as a relationship administrator in their Commercial Real Estate department. Through her job, she has gained knowledge in the real estate lending market in the U.S. and how rates are affected by the current economic conditions. As part of the Women In Leadership program through her job she has been matched with a mentor who is the Chief Risk Officer of the company. With him, she has been able to gain knowledge of the different risk components of the bank. All of this being done while analyzing the risk appetite of the company regarding the current economic conditions and predictions for the future. After graduation, she is hoping to further her career by getting a master’s degree in the risk management field, preferably with a concentration in enterprise risk.

Alexander Giannico is a senior majoring in Economics. He is participating in the 2019 FED Challenge team in order to improve his understanding of macroeconomics, specifically labor economics and unemployment. He is helping run the Chess Club on campus as well as participating in the Debate Club.

George Angel Gonzalez is a senior majoring in Economics. As he will be graduating in the Spring of 2020, he is currently applying to graduate schools to further his education in Economics/Finance. He joined the team last spring after hearing a couple of his classmates discussing the competition in class; and, since, it has been one of the most academically enriching experiences of his undergraduate career. The Fed challenge has brought the lessons learned in class into the real-world application, as well as enhanced the understanding of the innerworkings of the American economy. Comprehending how the Federal Reserve operates and its hand in the economy are lessons that he will take beyond his undergraduate education- whether it be to graduate school or the work force.

Isaiah Montanez is a senior Economics student with a minor in Business Management. He is currently working as a business analyst for a small consulting firm. He chose economics because of the effect that the 2008 recession had on his family’s business. He wanted to better understand how the economy affects people. Now, he assists small businesses on recognizing economic trends to make good decisions and capitalize on them. The Fed Challenge has been the backbone of his studies allowing him to see real world applicability of his degree and has led him into the position he is in today.

You Kim is a junior majoring in Financial Management with a minor Economics. He is currently interning as a business development analyst at RIS Media, a real estate publishing company. Prior to this he interned at IBM as a financial analyst. He is passionate about learning and understanding what is going on with the world and the economy. This competition has taught him a tremendous amount about how to analyze different indicators to measure the overall health of the economy.

At UConn Stamford, students can participate in this program as early as their freshman year. The main criterion is one’s interest in economics, passion for research, and willingness to work in a team. This year, we had two first-year students supporting the team through research, collaboration, and constructive criticism.

Sisi Huang is a first-year student. She is studying within the School of Business and is currently a Digital Marketing and Analytics major and is an active member of the BCLC. Other clubs she is participating in are the Marketing Club and Huskies for Charity. Sisi enjoys the arts as well as sciences other than business. She participated in the FED Challenge team as a researcher this year with hopes to join the presenters’ ranks next year.

Francesca Merentie is another first-year student studying within the School of Business, majoring in Digital Marketing & Analytics. She shadowed the UConn–Stamford FED Challenge team and aided them in their research and presentation preparation. She plans on fully joining the team and compete in the Fall 2020 competition. She plans on using her degree in Digital Marketing & Analytics in being either a market research analyst, a marketing manager, or public relations specialist.

The whole team worked very hard preparing for the competition and developed and defended unconventional approaches to monetary policy implementation. The main learning outcome for students is the development of economic analysis, critical thinking and debate, and oral presentation skills. All of these are highly transferable to their future careers and academic endeavors.

This year, we did not advance to the semi-final round. However, the overall experience of visiting the New York Fed, listening to the presentation of John C. Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and competing with 30 teams was an amazing experience for students. Good job, UConn–Stamford Team!

Membes of the 2019 NY Fed Challenge Team

Photo: from left to right: Isaiah Montanez, Viviana Castillo, Dr. Smirnova, Angel Gonzalez, Ignacio Gonzalez, Alexander Giannico, and You Kim.

Stamford “Money and Banking” Class Visits the Gold Vault

On Thursday, October 3, 2019, a group of students from Dr. Smirnova’s “Money and Banking” class at Stamford visited the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The program included a visit to the Money Museum as well as to the Gold Vault.

In the Museum, students learned about the history of New York Fed, and saw old-time photographs and film footage of how the Fed looked and operated during the first half of the 20th century. The exhibit also includes the original trading board, the money cart that is used to transport currency, and the scale that is used to weigh the gold bars.

The highlight of the trip was the visit to the Gold Vault. Students learned that New York Fed holds many tons of gold bricks belonging to foreign countries. The vault is located on the bedrock of Manhattan, several hundred feet below subway level. The size of the vault is half of the American football field, and it goes on forever if you are standing at the entrance. We were able to see one compartment’s gold very close and almost touch it. The gold bricks are different shapes (trapezoid and rectangle) depending on where the brick was cast.

There was an opportunity to ask questions and discover more nuances about the Fed, about monetary policy implementation, and about the gold. Overall, a lot of learning and discovery occurred during the trip. We thank the Department of Economics for sponsoring it! The picture shows the group in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Taking pictures inside is prohibited, so we could not take a picture with the gold! 😊