By Jim DeLa
True or False: The Federal Reserve was created by powerful bankers at a secret meeting in 1908.
False. The Federal Reserve Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913.
A group of local high school students, along with eight New College economics students, aced that question and others in a tongue-in-cheek quiz during a recent presentation that was part of New College’s Economics and Finance Mentorship Program.
Sixteen high school students from around the Sarasota-Bradenton area applied to participate in the program, which consisted of weekly workshops this spring to teach students about economics and finance, introduce them to New College, and create networking opportunities with a diverse group of economists.
Students also learned about personal finance and economics, and how both fields relate to everyday life, said Tracy Collins, assistant professor of economics. For the New College students, “it’s a way to develop a cohort for econ students,” Collins said, adding they’ve created and maintain their own web page and a Facebook page. Besides earning tutorial credit for the program, it’s all about connection. “What can we do to make economics fun?”
On a recent Monday, Lesley Mace, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s public relations and education office in the bank’s Jacksonville, Florida, branch, came to New College to speak about the history of the Fed; what, exactly, the Federal Reserve does; and how the Fed influences the economy. Her talk was filed with practical exercises and trivia. Paper money, for instance, isn’t really paper. It’s 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.
“It’s less like paper and more like a t-shirt,” said Mace.
Mace also told students about internships and career opportunities within the organization. While most Fed employees have an economics or finance background, the organization also has” IT people, social media managers and others.” Security is very important, she added, saying the Fed’s website is a frequent target for hackers.
An advanced degree isn’t always necessary to get in the door, Mace said. Entry-level positions, such as research associates, don’t always have advanced degrees, although they will have special skills in areas such as real estate or financial markets. The Federal Reserve, however, will foot the bill for an employee to get a master’s degree or Ph.D. That, along with good pay and benefits, makes the Fed “a really great place to be.”
Collins said the mentorship workshops covered topics like budgeting, saving and investing; how to build wealth; how to prepare for the SAT, and how to successfully apply to college.
“They can see just how diverse economics can be,” said Collins, “[and] why we need people from all different backgrounds.”
The New College Economics and Finance Mentorship Program received financial assistance from the American Economics Association and the The Women’s Giving Circle, a group of women in the community who joined forces to steer their philanthropic efforts to New College.
The last workshop this spring will be May 6, at 6 p.m., in Heiser E167-168, when Bradley Hardy, associate professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University, will speak to students about how he combines economics and politics to enact effective public policy. He’ll discuss his research on inequality in the U.S. and research he’s conducted that’s been used by politicians; research that deals with inequality in the U.S.
Hardy will also discuss how his educational background has been beneficial for his academic and professional career.
— Jim DeLa is digital communications coordinator in the Office of Communications and Marketing.