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Tobin College of Business Undergraduates Take First Place at Fed Challenge

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A team of students from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business (TCB) at St. John’s University’s (SJU) Staten Island campus placed first in the Maiden Lane Division of the 2016 Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) of New York’s College Fed Challenge.  Teams from eight universities competed in the Maiden Lane Division.

Utilizing principles learned in the classroom, the team was required to recommend a specific monetary policy in response to a real-world question posed by the FRB.  The recommended policy was required to be supported by a statistical analysis of the five-year, quarterly data set that was provided to each team by the FRB.  The recommended policy with supporting evidence then was presented to a panel of three FRB officials at the two rounds of competition.

“It is in such experiential and practical learning environments that our Tobin business students are able to show their strengths in teamwork, collaboration, and analysis,” said Norean  R. Sharpe, Dean of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business.

The SJU team worked under the guidance of TCB’s faculty advisor Ralph A. Terregrossa, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics.  “In the principles courses, I teach our students about the increase in productivity that results from the division and specialization of labor based on the concept of comparative advantage, or who is best suited to perform certain tasks,” he said. “As the team analyzed the data and prepared its policy proposal, I discovered the students’ individual strengths, and subsequently divided the team’s tasks accordingly.  As a result, the team became more focused, productive and confident.  When the FRB judges announced that SJU’s team won the competition, I was ecstatic. I was so proud and happy for the students because I witnessed how very hard they worked.”

The competition was “student driven and student focused, and team members had to be enthusiastic about the challenge,” explained Co-captain Vincent Amoia ’19TCB.  The team divided into smaller subgroups to focus on a specific aspect of the global economy.

“Before this challenge, I always preferred to work alone,” said actuarial science major Noah Wright ’19TCB. “Now, after working with these great people, I love working as part of a team.” Risk management major Andrew Johnson ’19TCB agreed: “You can’t do everything by yourself.”

The team members needed to be conversant with each of their colleagues’ area of specialization.  Vincent Amoia, a finance major, added, “If you’re not, then there’s going to be a disconnect when you get to the question and answer session of the presentation because you are not familiar with the material on a level that you truly need to be in order to be successful.” The judges can challenge or disagree with the team at any point during the presentation regarding the team’s knowledge of economic theory, its statistical analysis or its conclusions. 

“I’ve always had a driving and intense desire for economics,” said actuarial science major Matthew McKenna ’19TCB. “Everything I’ve learned in the classroom setting makes far more sense after applying it to case studies. You really have to know everything. You retain so much more after applying it to actual data. I really believe application of what you learn is necessary to understand the theory.”

“The biggest thing I got out of the Fed Challenge was applying all of the theories that Dr. Terregrossa taught us into practice,” stressed accounting major, Noah Canderozzi '20TCB. “In addition, it increases your confidence. You have to know you belong there.”

Dr. Terregrossa said he hopes that in the future at least one of the SJU team members will be employed by the FRB of New York, noting that a number of current FRB employees are former College Fed Challenge participants. “I believe that the Maiden Lane Division of the Challenge has provided our students with a comparative advantage by developing their analytical skills that are necessary to compete in the more advanced Liberty Street Division.  I observed the students mature, excel and succeed—everything a teacher wants to see in his or her students.”