Pace victory in national policy

For most of us, monetary policy is terra incognita, the land that ancient cartographers knew existed, but didn’t know much about. Macroeconomics is not given much attention in high school curricula, so most freshmen arrive at college without understanding macroeconomics generally, and even less about monetary policy. Pace freshmen are no exception. The mystery of monetary policy extends far beyond the freshman year. Early in my career, I served as deputy assistant secretary for capital markets policy at the US Department of the Treasury, and I attended the monthly Treasury-Federal Reserve lunch with senior officials from both agencies. Let’s just say I was on a very steep learning curve.

Believing that this woeful gap needs to be filled, the Federal Reserve Board sponsors an annual competition for undergraduate economics teams to test their understanding of and facility with the major monetary policy issues facing the nation. The competition has two rounds: An initial round, run by five of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks; and a final, national championship round at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. Pace has had a team competing for approximately 10 years. In their first year, the Pace team placed 20th out of 35 teams in the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s initial round.

In 2012 and 2013, the Pace team came in first in the New York Fed’s initial round, besting students from fine economics departments at institutions like Cornell, Princeton, NYU, Hamilton, and others. In the national competitions, Pace placed third in the whole nation both years—which I regarded as a hugely impressive accomplishment.

This year, the Pace team again won the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s first round, and then was awarded first place in Washington, DC, besting teams from Princeton, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Bentley University. Three Pace team members suffered significant health issues before and during the competition—yet several judges at the Federal Reserve Board said that the Pace presentation was one of the best presentations they had ever seen.

The Pace team’s championship is an extraordinary accomplishment. The team members are smart, but so was their competition. More than smarts is required for success at this level. Their victory is a testament to the team’s hard work and total commitment to mastering this complex area and the many conflicting policy considerations that attend each decision of the Federal Reserve Board and its Open Market Committee. It also bespeaks a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment by the team’s formidable coaches, professors Mark Weinstock; Gregory Colman, PhD; and Anna Shostya, PhD; as well as Department Chair Professor Joseph Morreale, PhD. The members of the team have our great admiration: Dyson College Economics majors Kelsey Berro (co-captain), Jordan Jhamb (co-captain), Julia Mikhailova, Katherine Craig, Lauren Price, and Daniella Gambino.

The team’s victory is so much more than simply coming in first in a very challenging competition. It is a graphic demonstration of the fact that Pace students, with the kind of superb leadership that our talented faculty coaches provided, can compete on equal terms with the best students in America—and win. We are very proud of all of them.

Grace and celebrity

A few weeks ago, I accompanied two of our students to a small reception for The Kevin Spacey Foundation (KSF): America.

The event was hosted by business leader and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht at her splendid house in Washington D.C. to thank some of the larger supporters of a concert for Mr. Spacey’s global foundation. Adrienne is a wonderfully generous patron of the performing arts (e.g., the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami). Adrienne and I also served together on the Board of the American Ballet Theatre many years ago.

The KSF sponsors the creation of new works, designs, and tailored educational opportunities through KSF Learning. The Foundation also offers scholarships. We were very proud that the first five scholarships in the U.S. were awarded to Pace Performing Arts students. The two sophomore scholars, Larissa Jeanniton and Nicholas Delgado, were invited to the reception.

It was a lovely evening with an interesting group of people. Both Adrienne and Kevin Spacey spoke movingly about the Foundation’s important work. Among the highlights for me and for many of the people there was Larissa and Nicholas’ maturity, charisma, and dedication to their art.  I was very proud of them and their representation of Pace and its students.

For Larissa and Nicholas there is no doubt that the highlight of the evening was when Kevin Spacey took them aside to talk to them and give them advice about their careers as performing artists. He talked with them for some time, and had we not had a plane to catch, the conversation would have continued. As you can see from the photo below, his interest in them and their careers was genuine and very inspiring.

Kevin Spacey Pic

Bo’s story

I often talk about the amazing stories at Pace University. These stories recount victories of exceptional students and teams of students, highlight the accomplishments of our well-respected faculty, and demonstrate the heart of our University—like when everyone pulled together after Superstorm Sandy.

Then there is Bo’s story. It is a story that embodies the best elements of all our other stories combined. Bo’s story reminds us that Pace is a very special place, made up of very special people.

Nine years ago, 10-year-old Robert “Bo” Jones was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma—a form of brain cancer. The little boy that loved to run and lift weights underwent surgery to remove tumors. He endured radiation, chemotherapy, and more doctors’ visits and tests than most adults face in a lifetime.

During Bo’s ordeal his mother introduced him to Make-A-Wish—the national organization that grants wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While most kids wish for a trip to Disney World or to meet their favorite celebrity, Bo, who was then a teenager and in remission, wished for one year of strength and conditioning workouts with a Pace athletics trainer.

“I was struck by his determination,” Mike Bohlander, Pace’s strength and conditioning coach said. “He could have had anything with his wish. But he chose to come to Pace three days a week for one year and have me push him to improve his cardio and strength fitness. He had a plan and it was a pleasure to help him.”

Bo said he had wanted to attend Pace since high school, and his plan was to build himself up before his freshman year. Bo accomplished both goals. He started at Pace in Pleasantville earlier this month. He’s an education major. He’s also a Make-A-Wish volunteer. Best of all, Bo remains cancer-free.

Coach Bohlander said he still works with Bo, but Bo knows what he wants to accomplish and doesn’t need anyone’s help. “Bo inspires me,” he said. “The amount of progress he made in a short amount of time was truly remarkable. You can’t teach desire, and every day I work with him I get to see him accomplish something new.”

As I said, there are many amazing stories at Pace. I think one reason we have so many great stories is because our students, faculty, and staff support and care about each other. I also believe that the very special qualities that everyone brings to Pace will lead to more great stories in the future. I just have a feeling, however, that it will be difficult to top Bo’s story.