Britons Balance Soccer, Study of Monetary Policy

Evan Malecke and Andy Bieber spent many long nights in the Gerstacker Institute lab during the fall semester.Evan Malecke and Andy Bieber spent many long nights in the Gerstacker Institute lab during the fall semester.Albion College students are noted for their ability to juggle their academic and extracurricular pursuits, though the balancing act performed by Andy Bieber and Evan Malecke this fall may stand alone.

Both concentrating in the Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management, they went to class until about 4 p.m. each day when they would go to practice or matches as midfielders for Albion’s men’s soccer team.  After soccer, the juniors would have just enough time to grab dinner and clean up before spending hours sifting through papers and debating economic policy with members of Albion’s Fed Challenge team as it prepared for its Nov. 16 regional competition in Chicago.

Though they were eventually named alternates to the Albion group that won the regional to advance to national competition against heavyweights such as Harvard University, Rutgers University, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in Washington, D.C., Bieber and Malecke both tout how participating increased their understanding of the amount of influence the government has in moving the economy forward and created connections with professionals off campus.

“The Fed Challenge is an economics contest where the (Federal Reserve), the part of the government that controls monetary policy, asks “What do you think about the state of the economy?’ and second, ‘If you were in our position with our tools what would you do?’” Malecke, a product of South Lyon who prepped at Detroit Catholic Central, explained. “We give a 15-minute presentation that consists of our overall review of the economy’s performance and our recommendations on how to improve it. After the presentation there are 15 minutes allotted for Q-and-A where they can ask us about anything related to our recommendations to basic economics – questions, terms, definitions – to gauge our knowledge of the economy and monetary policy.

“Andy and I always had to be prepared (as alternates) because you never know if something unfortunate would happen causing us to go in (to present),” Malecke added. “We had to read the same articles, and we weren’t reading them solely for our knowledge but to make sure they have read them and know them as well as they should. There was an aspect of preparing myself, but there was a more important aspect of making sure they were prepared.”

Bieber, a Macomb native who prepped at Dakota High School, noted that adviser and assistant professor Kotaro Yoshida waited until late in the process to select the members that would make the presentation in Chicago. Already taking 4 ½ units – the equivalent of five classes – during the fall semester, Bieber wasn’t initially interested in the Fed Challenge because he had heard about time commitment from teammates and brothers in the Sigma Chi fraternity. He decided to join when he learned about Malecke’s involvement.

The Fed Challenge forced Bieber and Malecke to become knowledgeable about current events and how decisions in Europe were affecting the U.S. economy. It made for interesting discussion when the men’s soccer team was on the bus for road contests as Bieber and Malecke would sit across from each other talking about the economy while teammates majoring in chemistry sitting behind them would make their own comments about the state of the economy.

“I was behind at the Fed Challenge meetings if I didn’t hear about something happened during the day,” Bieber, a double-major in economics & management and German who will study in Heidelberg during the spring semester, said. “I created a twitter account because of the Fed Challenge and I started following magazines and news sources like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and FOX news.

“The science guys were talking about the economy and everything they were saying was wrong, there was no relevant background, so Evan and I would look at each other and start laughing,” Bieber continued. “That would have been me before the Fed Challenge because I had a sense of how the American economy is intertwined with the global economy, but I didn’t know it was so intertwined that one little change in some data would change everything else. I also didn’t realize how the macro economy affected the stock market.”

Malecke, who will work as an accounting intern at Rehmann during the spring semester to stay close to campus while he serves as one of the captains for the 2012 soccer team, said his participation in the Fed Challenge has already bolstered the experience listed on his resume and his list of contacts.

“Interviewers who knew about the Fed Challenge were impressed and if they didn’t know about it they would ask a question,” Malecke said. “When I articulated what it is and what I had to do then they really became even more impressed with my resume. I’m confident I will develop more contacts through this and I am considering doing this again next year because I am excited about the people I could meet.”