Dr. Dennis Nsafoah, assistant professor of economics, Jerome Powell, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Lauren Palaoro, and Rhys Mandaville.

Four Niagara University students from the Holzschuh College of Business Administration competed against their peers from more than 100 colleges and universities across the United States in the 2023 College Fed Challenge, an annual competition hosted by the Federal Reserve System’s board of governors and the Federal Reserve Banks.

Lauren Palaoro, Rhys Mandaville, Trevor Hasley, and Megan Smith analyzed economic and financial conditions in the U.S. and evaluated potential risks to make a monetary policy recommendation, modeling the Federal Open Market Committee. Interestingly, none of the students were economics majors, Palaoro, a sophomore accounting major from Tonawanda, N.Y., noted.

“We had only taken intro economics courses,” she said. “We learned a lot on the fly.”

Megan Smith, a junior marketing major from Pittsburgh, Pa., agreed. “I didn’t have a lot of background knowledge," she said, but she “learned a lot about interpreting graphs and coming up with an analysis and recommendations for the economy” from participating in the competition.

Rhys Mandaville, a sophomore marketing major from Niagara Falls, N.Y., participated in the challenge because he thought it would be an interesting way to apply what he had learned in the economic classes he had taken.

“Through the competition, I learned a lot about interpreting and analyzing leading and lagging indicators at a high level, and how to make a recommendation based on those indicators,” he said, adding that he found interpreting some of the raw data in the way that government websites provide it and packaging it in a digestible way to be the most challenging part of the competition.

Trevor Hasley, a junior accounting major from Pendleton, N.Y., said that the "time crunch" was difficult, but that they "were still able to work together and submit a good presentation.”

"I am overwhelmingly proud of our team's accomplishments this year,” said Dr. Dennis Nsafoah, assistant professor of economics and advisor for the team. “Their presentation was not just good, but exemplary. It reflected a deep understanding and insightful analysis of complex economic issues. As we look forward to future competitions, I am motivated to use the insights gained from this year's challenge to further enhance our preparation and performance."

On Feb. 9, Dr. Nsafoah accompanied Palaoro and Mandaville to the challenge’s open house in Washington, D.C., where they were able to network with Federal Reserve staff, including Chair Jerome Powell, other competitors and judges, and explore career opportunities within the Federal Reserve.

“I found that getting to meet Chair Powell and hearing the lecture on fine-tuning our PowerPoint presentations to be both entertaining and extremely useful to my future,” Mandaville said.