Rutgers financial whizzes beat Ivy League teams to win championship

Standing in the boardroom where top economists chart the nation’s financial future, a team of Rutgers University students beat out competition from Princeton and Dartmouth Thursday to win one of the nation’s most prestigious economic competitions.

The Rutgers team, made up of five undergraduates from the New Brunswick campus, were crowned the winners of the 13thannual College Fed Challenge, a national competition about the U.S. economy and monetary policymaking.

The Rutgers competitors gave a 15-minute presentation analyzing economic and financial conditions, then answered questions from top federal officials at the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C.

A five-member undergraduate team from Rutgers that included juniors Karn Dalal and Shivram Viswanathan, beat out teams from Princeton, University of Chicago and Dartmouth in competition to win the ‘College Fed Challenge’, a competition that encourages students to learn about the U.S. economy, and the role of the Federal Reserve System, in Washington, D.C. last week.

At the prestigious competition, the Rutgers students evidently demonstrated a grasp of economics that propelled them to the top of the tough national competition.

The Dec. 1 finals took place in the boardroom of the Federal Reserve Bank with five Rutgers undergraduates facing teams from prestigious and Ivy League colleges.

“It was an absolutely stunning moment,” said Jeffrey Rubin, an emeritus professor in the Department of Economics, School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), and the team’s adviser since the competition began in 2003. “There we were in this very imposing boardroom, where the Fed sets policy, and competing against students from these outstanding schools,” he said in a statement.

At the College Fed Challenge students deliver a 15-minute presentation, analyzing current economic conditions and conclude by making a recommendation on monetary policy. The students then respond to a series of questions from a panel of three top economists at the Federal Reserve System who serve as judges.

After defeating Columbia University, among other schools, during the New York Federal Reserve District regional competition in October, the team advanced to the finals feeling relaxed and confident. Shivram Viswanathan, a junior majoring in economics and mathematics, said the other teams’ presentations at the finals were very impressive, and included ambitious and sometimes esoteric references that demonstrated considerable knowledge of macroeconomics.

“But I think what ultimately allowed us to get the edge is our ability to make our presentation in a comfortable, cohesive, and cogent manner,” he said. “We’d tie in a lot of different aspects of the global and domestic economy all at once, working disparate ideas into a single, clear concept.”

But in the boardroom, as the results were announced, the students and Rubin found themselves in a state of disbelief. The judges called the honorable mentions first – ASU, Princeton, and Chicago. “I remember taking a deep breath after the three honorable mentions, and thinking I’d still be happy to get second place,” said Dalal a junior majoring in economics and biomathematics. “Then we hear that second place goes to Dartmouth. That took a moment to register. And then you get that rush in your head and it’s like: ‘Yes! We did it.’”

His teammates had similar reactions.

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