Imagine having just four hours to solve a major economic crisis—and then competing against three other teams to ensure that your solution is even implemented.
“There is really nothing like this here at Brandeis IBS,” said Catherine Mann, the Barbara and Richard Rosenberg Professor of Global Finance, at the opening of the second annual Brandeis IBS NABE Crisis Game. “To have an incomparable intercollegiate game is an invaluable experience so let me say: Game On!”
Four teams, including two teams from Brandeis IBS as well as squads from Fordham University and Bentley University, compiled and presented innovative solutions in front of a panel of judges for Brandesia, a fictional Middle Eastern country plagued by a heavy dependence on oil exports, corruption, human rights violations, and a “brain drain.”
The judges this year included: Jeffrey Fuhrer, Executive Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Sara Johnson, Senior Research Director at IHS Economics, David Katsnelson, MBA ’09, Senior Economist at RISI, Stuart P.M. Mackintosh, Executive Director at the Group of Thirty and Olaf Unteroberdoester, PhD ’98, deputy division chief of the International Monetary Fund. Fuhrer noted before the presentations that the 20 students certainly had their work cut out for them.
“This crisis had all of the above—political, military, and cultural conflict,” he said. “This will be a real challenge— so good luck to them.”
It was a Brandeis IBS team that won the grand prize that had eluded the hosts and fallen into Boston University’s hands at last year’s inaugural Crisis Game.
Mitchell Schwartz, '14, MA '15, Alex Schmidt, '14, MA '15, Toma Cubrilo, '14, MA '15 and Rosby Kome-Mensah, '14, MA '15 secured top honors at the event.
“It was intimidating to face off against MA’s and PhD’s but we bonded and stood true to the test,” Schwartz said. “We brought the title back to Brandeis and hope to defend it as the reigning champs next year.”
The winning team received a $250 cash prize as well as the opportunity to interview for a transformative internship this summer with one of the judges’ employers, which included landmark organizations such as RISI, IHS Economics and McKinsey and Company.
Anna Gramer, MA ’14, a co-president of the Brandeis NABE chapter, opened the Crisis Game with an introduction of the national dilemma that kept the teams fully occupied that morning.
She noted that each team had just four hours to crunch the data and put forth a presentation that would be judged along five sets of criteria: the quality of analysis, the comprehensive address to the crisis, coverage of economic concepts, feasibility and creativity.
After remarks from Mann and a presentation from Ali Abdul Raheem, MA '14—Vice President of Publications—about the Brandeis NABE-sponsored Cypraea magazine for students and professionals, the attention shifted back to the four student teams that vied to make the most impactful change for a troubled nation.
Proposed solutions included a diversified economy, deregulation, a flexible exchange rate and a refined system of oil production.
Mackintosh commented before the deliberations that he was impressed with the comprehensive nature of the solutions in light of such time constraints.
“I particularly wanted to note the breadth of presentations… the variety and styles of approaches here,” he said. “I am pleased that the event is in its second year because it is so important for young economists to learn [as they can here].”
At the end of the day, the BA/MA team secured the title with its “Repainting the Black Swan” presentation, encompassing a two-fold monetary and fiscal solution. A managed exchange rate during transition, a decreased corporate tax and cooperation with the International Monetary Fund stood to win the judges over.
Schmidt credited the victory to great team chemistry.
“We had such amazing synergy,” he said. “We were so familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses and that showed.”
The Career Fair—a new innovation from Gramer and co-president Alok Mistry, MA’14—then brought together students and representatives from McKinsey and Company, IHS Economics, RISI and the Boston NABE Chapter.
Gramer noted, at the end of the day, that the event proved to be a huge success.
“The most successful aspect of the Game is the fact that participants were so happy to take part and compete,” she said. “There are 1,001 different issues in preparing for the game but I think we achieved our goal.”
Fuhrer closed his remarks at the Game by reflecting on his crisis-management experience at the Fed. “Think how much tougher it is to manage a crisis in the short-term and in real time,” he said. “Day-by-day, we constantly have to wonder what the heck we’re going to do next.”
If anything, Brandeis IBS and NABE are ensuring that students will know just what to do next.