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Virginia Commonwealth University students won the 2018 district title in the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s College Fed Challenge competition. The winning team of seniors included Benjamin Alpern, Kyle Davis, Saajan Sappal, Mahd Mahmud, and Erfan Yakup.

The team advanced to the national competition on November 29 at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. Yale University took home first place. The other national finalists were second place: Rutgers University, with honorable mentions for Princeton University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Virginia Commonwealth University. 

“There is no other competition like this one, nor are there organizations who put as much time into helping college students understand the economy and monetary policy as the Federal Reserve,” said economics professor Oleg Korenok, who coached VCU’s district winners in 2018 and 2017. The students began preparing for the competition in late August. “Preparation requires hard work and a commitment of at least eight hours a week outside the classroom,” Korenok added.

“The College Fed Challenge, now in its 15th year, provides a forum for students to take their studies from the theoretical to the practical as they weigh a real-life set of facts and circumstances and make a judgment about the optimal path for monetary policy,” said Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H. Powell. “It is my hope that the experience of preparing for the competition might inspire these young adults to explore careers in economics or finance.”

VCU competed in the district finals against regional winning teams from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore. Preliminary regional rounds of the competition were hosted by schools within the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which includes Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and most of West Virginia.

The College Fed Challenge is an academic competition designed to deepen students’ understanding of the nation’s central bank. Students delivered presentations on monetary policy and fielded questions from judges during a Q&A session. Teams were scored on content and analysis, responses to questions, teamwork, presentation and style.

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