Students Participate in College Fed Challenge at Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Trinity College Team Members Work with Economics Professor Joshua R. Stillwagon in Independent Study

Hartford, Connecticut, November 24, 2015 – As part of an independent study, three Trinity College students recently attended the annual College Fed Challenge at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Led by Assistant Professor of Economics Joshua R. Stillwagon, the students presented their proposal for monetary policy recommendations to the Fed as part of the competition on November 6. The team did well overall, Stillwagon said, and scored just two fewer points out of 100 than the winning team in their section.

Each year teams of college students gather to analyze the nation’s current economic status, and to provide a monetary policy recommendation based on their assessment. Stillwagon brought the challenge to Trinity in 2013, the year he began teaching on campus. He has helped organize – this year along with Ted Hartsoe ’83, a Trinity alumnus and economics teacher at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn. – teams to bring to the competition. Most of the students who participate have taken a 300-level economics course, and are usually juniors or seniors. Stillwagon said, “I [usually] ask former students from my macroeconomics course. We start [preparing for the competition] right when classes begin.”

​Trinity College Assistant Professor of Economics Joshua R. Stillwagon (left) and Choate Rosemary Hall economics teacher Ted Hartsoe ’83 (right) accompanied the team of Mackenze Genauer ’16, Vance Giarratana ’16, and Max Bohall ’17 to the annual College Fed Challenge at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Photo courtesy of Joshua R. Stillwagon.
 This year’s team was composed of Vance Giarratana ’16, Mackenze Genauer ’16, and Max Bohall ’17.  Dave Chester ’17 and Doug Lyons ’17 also contributed to the presentation, but were not in attendance at the competition. In order to prepare for the competition, Stillwagon provides students with videos and speeches on monetary policy to analyze the labor market, economic activity, and inflation. Successful participation requires knowledge of the Federal Reserve, research and analysis skills, and the ability to effectively work on a team to present data.

Stillwagon wants the project to be solely the students’ work. He encourages students to provide as much input as possible, preferring to serve only as a reference for questions or suggestions. While in past years the competition was solely an extracurricular event, participation in this year’s competition was offered as a for-credit independent study, allowing students more time to dedicate to preparing.

Giarratana said, “I was encouraged to participate ... because it was an opportunity to take what I have learned at Trinity and apply it in a way that would challenge my ability to think critically. I was also excited to get another chance to work with Professor Stillwagon before I graduated.” Giarratana advises future participants to make a presentation that they can be proud of. “Professor Stillwagon gives so much freedom to the students, so the experience and the result is really what you make of it,” he said.

Students also enjoyed interacting with other college students interested in the topic. Genauer said, “To surround myself with people who also enjoy thinking critically and analyzing economic indicators seemed like an exciting opportunity.” His favorite part was actually getting to present at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “Our presentation allowed us to see the culmination of our hard work and effort, and granted us the opportunity to field questions and offer our policy recommendations to professional economists,” Genauer said.

Stillwagon and the other participants have high aspirations for winning in Boston next year and advancing to the national competition in Washington, D.C.

For more information about the College Fed Challenge and how to get involved, e-mail

Written by Ana Medina ’16