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U of A economics students to compete in Bank of Canada challenge

A team of University of Alberta economics students are competing in the Bank of Canada’s fourth annual Governor’s Challenge in Ottawa.

The Governor’s Challenge is a competition where undergraduate students from across the country make a presentation recommending what the key interest rate policy should be. Political science student Edgar Medina and economics students Stephen Tearoe, LJ Valencia, Jenny Li, and Greg Watmough will participate in the national finals held in Ottawa on February 16.

Jill McIntyre, organizer of the Governor’s Challenge, said the competition is valuable because it allows undergraduate students the opportunity to experience being part of the Bank of Canada.

For economics students, it’s kind of like getting an Oscar, getting to come to the Bank of Canada,” McIntyre said. “Getting to work so closely with a team, and also giving a professional-grade presentation at the end are all things that people have told us are stand-out experiences for them.”

The competition is an extension of the Bank of Canada’s outreach and recruitment efforts for undergraduate students. The process mirrors work at the bank where months of research is condensed into a 15-minute presentation providing experiential learning not included in their academic program.

“We just thought the more we can be known in the function of Canada’s economy… the better we feel like it serves the economics departments out there,” McIntyre said. “We can provide more insight into this side of economics in Canada, and we also get some interesting feedback from the students.”

Valencia and Tearoe said they’re excited to showcase the evolution of their team since they’ve adjusted their presentation to match changing economic conditions. They hope their strong teamwork, knowledge of economics, and focus on modelling based on machine learning will make their presentation unique.

“We are going to use a data driven approach, ” Tearoe said. “This is where we apply the theories we’ve learned in all of our classes to a real world situation. All those courses will inform us and our policy recommendation that we will decide on.”

Although the main prize is bragging rights, Valencia and Tearoe see the national finals as an opportunity to put years of economic theory into practice. They also hope to network with fellow competitors such as those from the Universities of British Columbia and Toronto, as well as possible employers.

In order to participate in next year’s Governor’s Challenge, students must enroll in associate professor Malik Shukayev’s ECON 485 course, Macroeconomic Policy, in the fall term. Valencia and Tearoe said they highly recommend having a good economics background, time-management skills, and the ability to work well in a team over time.

“Strong presentation skills are also important for the Governor’s Challenge. It’s helpful to know the principles, but it’s also important to be able to present how these principles affect those around us,” Valencia said.

Jonathan Hocnalon

Jonathan Hocnalon is a fourth-year immunology student. He believes everyone's got a story to share: it's just a matter of finding the right questions, knowing when to ask them, and listening respectfully.

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