ECON 3413 Financial Economics course at Stamford, taught by Dr. Smirnova, challenges students to apply financial concepts to business problems. In addition to following the textbook exposition of the material, students select a publicly traded company and analyze its financial performance. This semester-long project requires them to interact with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website to retrieve several years of company’s annual reports, use Excel to analyze financial statements, performing ratio analysis and modeling stock valuation, write a business report, and finally present their recommendation to the class whether or not to add that stock to a portfolio.
The students were very excited when Ashley Etheridge, Director of Business Planning at Charter Communications came to class on October 20, 2022. The goal of the visit was to shed the light on what the actual financial analyst at Charter does in Ashley’s line of business – Planning and Analysis. Ashley carefully described the set of skills that is necessary for success in a financials industry job: owning the task from start to finish; data analysis; accuracy; and polished presentations of results in written, analytical, and oral presentation forms.
Ashley also emphasized the use of Excel in business analytics. She suggested to create a story with data, think through model structure, and design validation checks and backup materials. She entertained the class with the discussion of the “Greatest Excel Spreadsheet Errors of All Time”.
Students were able to ask questions and learn about Ashley’s career trajectory and her personal accounts of mistakes she made and successes she experienced while her more than a decade at Charter. She concluded her visit showcasing internship and job opportunities that are currently available at Charter.
The benefits of inviting employers in the classroom could not be overstated. The employers bring a unique perspective that can complement any classroom content while providing industry and career insight. The effect on students is amplified when a presenter can relate their day-to-day activities on the job to the skills that students are acquiring in a course. The clarification of such connections voiced by an industry professional, helps students identify career readiness competencies that they are developing in a particular course and become ready for a successful interview for an internship or a job.
Matthew Gilshteyn, a student at UConn Stamford, has won second place in the Undergraduate Paper Competition conducted by the New York State Economic Association (NYSEA).
The competition is open to undergraduate students from around the United States and involves two steps. First, the papers are submitted and evaluated by the panel of judges who select 5 best papers to be presented at the annual NYSEA conference. The presentation round constitutes the second step in the competition. The presentations are done in front of the new panel of judges and is open to all members of NYSEA. The papers are ranked based on the scores from both steps. So, the competition is quite rigorous and encompasses many skills: writing, economic analysis, oral presentation, and public defense of one’s research.
Matthew Gilshteyn submitted his paper “How will the Infrastructure Act Impact Nuclear Energy Production Costs?”, which he wrote in ECON 3431W – Public Economics class taught by Dr. Smirnova in the Spring 2022. In his paper he analyzed the cost dynamics of nuclear energy sector and forecasted the impact of expenditures proposed by the Infrastructure Act of 2021 on that industry.
During the summer, Matthew worked with Dr. Smirnova polishing the paper for submission. He was notified about “making the cut” for the second step in September, at which time he continued working diligently on the presentation. On October 8, 2022, Matthew presented his research at the conference, which was help at the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. The room was packed with the attendees, who were industry professionals, faculty of various universities, graduate and undergraduate students, and the panel of five judges. Dr. Smirnova was in attendance as an adviser, mentor, and moral supporter. Matthew was confident; his presentation was engaging, which generated several questions from the audience. He answered all the questions satisfactorily.
The competition results were announced later that day before the Keynote Address by Richard Best from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Matthew received the second place, for which we are very excited. This was the first time that Matthew submitted and presented his research to the outside organization; he was unfamiliar with the process and nervous about the large professional audience. He demonstrated, however, a mature attitude through the whole selection process and a genuine interest in economics which reflects Dr. Smirnova’s guidance and commitment as teacher and faculty adviser.
Mr. Peter Becket, a proprietor of Becket Business Appraisals, LLC visited the ECON 3413 Financial Economics class at Stamford on September 15, 2022. In this course, students learn company valuation techniques and apply those to a selected publicly traded company.
Mr. Becket has been an appraiser of privately owned businesses for over 40 years. So, his presentation gave students a real-world view of how he goes about valuing businesses that are not publicly traded.
Peter’s very engaging and interactive presentation showed how financial statements analysis and discounted future cash flow methodology are used in evaluating financial prospects of a closely held companies. Students learnt many nuances of appraisal business, which are not covered in the textbook. Peter shared several publications that present data of financial ratios, for example, which could be consulted for a benchmark analysis. He also explained his proprietary methodology for company valuation. Students were able to ask questions about the business and seek Peter’s advice about their career aspirations.
Mr. Becket encouraged students to invest in their learning, join professional associations, and start their careers working for someone else before venturing on their own if they decide to start their own professional practice. His talk connected the textbook material to the real-world appraisal business.
Dr. Smirnova, who is the instructor in this class, and the students are grateful to Mr. Becket for his time and invaluable wisdom, suggestions, and encouragement. The talk was very fun, as well.
On September 15, 2022, there was a buzz around the Rich Concourse at the Stamford campus. Various academic fields, representing majors and minors offered at UConn Stamford, were showcased. The Economics Department was represented by students majoring in Economics with Professor Smirnova in attendance as well.
Students also shared various career readiness events that they have attended on campus and competencies that they have developed in Dr. Smirnova’s classes. Business community leaders’ visits, career panels, Career Development Center professionals’ presentations, and other events – all of these, in students’ view, contribute to the satisfaction with the Economics major at Stamford.
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.
The Center for Career Development features Professor Natalia Smirnova with their Career Champion Spotlight:
“The Career Champion Spotlight for May 2022 is Dr. Natalia V. Smirnova. Dr. Smirnova is an assistant professor in residence at the Stamford campus of UConn. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from UConn in 2004 and now teaches in the field of Economics, including courses like Principles of Microeconomics, Principles of Macroeconomics, and Financial Economics. She also teaches upper-level field courses in Economics. Her teaching approach is to focus on how economics is relevant to everyday decisions and to engage students in real-world applications and data-driven explorations.”
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.