A Week in Washington with the Business and Economics Society and Consulting Club

Students from Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Quantitative Analysis Navigate the Heart of Policy and Economics

Washington, D.C. – With generous support from the Marriner S. Eccles Institute, University of Utah students recently embarked on a trip that went deep into the heart of Washington’s policy-making environment. Their aim? To gain firsthand exposure to influential organizations and observe the many career opportunities that await them in public policy and economics. Throughout their visit, students engaged with key institutions, including think tanks, US government agencies, and international organizations, offering insights that classroom lectures cannot always provide. The significance of such experiential learning cannot be overstated; it provides students with real-world understanding and connections that will undoubtedly shape their future endeavors.

Overview of the Itinerary
Our first full day in Washington saw the group absorbing insights at the renowned Brookings Institution, where students heard about tax policy from David Wessel and Louise Sheiner of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy. A brisk walk led them to Edgeworth Economics, where lunch and learning combined during a meeting with U of U alum Clara Randall. The day culminated at The Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank dedicated to public policy, where U of U alum Sophia Bagley works.

On day two, they were off to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) with John McClelland as the key contact, shedding light on the CBO’s rapid response to Congressional questions about budget impact of legislation. By midday, students were deep in discussions at the Federal Reserve Board, meeting with alumni Reeves Coursey, Alec Erb, and Jon Dall. The day ended with a visit to the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia.

Day three began with a dive into global development at the World Bank. By noon, the International Monetary Fund beckoned, with Dr. Ali Abbas leading the discourse. The U.S. Treasury was next on the agenda, where students met with U of U Professor Elena Patel, who is a former Treasury employee and is currently on leave in DC, working at the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

Before departure, the group was provided a private guided tour of the US Capitol building. Overall, it was a week that offered unprecedented insight into the many career paths the federal government and affiliated organizations provide.

Highlights from Key Visits

IMF Visit:
The International Monetary Fund, renowned for its role in shaping the global economic landscape, was the first major stop for our enthusiastic students. As they stepped into the hallowed halls of the IMF, the magnitude of this institution’s influence became apparent. Meeting with Dr. Ali Abbas, the Deputy Chief of the Debt Policy Division, students delved deep into intricate discussions on global financial stability, debt policies, and the challenges posed by emerging markets. The session provided an opportunity to understand the complexities of international financial systems and how policies crafted here reverberate across continents.

CBO and Federal Reserve:
The visit to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Federal Reserve exemplified the marriage of policy analysis and data-driven decision-making. At the CBO, students were introduced to the meticulous non-partisan approach to policy analysis, understanding how unbiased evaluations shape legislative decisions. This perspective was complemented by the Federal Reserve’s focus on data analysis and its pivotal role in maintaining the country’s economic stability. Here, they learned about monetary policy, interest rates, and the balancing act of inflation and unemployment. The holistic view offered by these two institutions emphasized the importance of empirical evidence in guiding the nation’s economic course.

Treasury and The Cato Institute:
Moving to the core of U.S. financial systems, the students’ visit to the Treasury illuminated the intricacies of U.S. monetary policy. Engaging with experts, they grasped the strategies to foster economic growth, manage national debt, and regulate the financial industry. Their journey then took a slight detour from governmental bodies to The Cato Institute, a leading think tank. Here, they were exposed to diverse viewpoints on public policies and government, understanding the role of independent research and debate in shaping the policy discourse.

Student Perspectives
When asked what her favorite part of the trip was, Zoe Brown shared, “The CBO does policy analysis, and I am really passionate about public policy, and I liked the non-partisan aspect of it; I think being able to create these reports for Congress to actually use and put into policy and making an impact through non-political avenues are super important and that aligns with my belief system” As a student eager to understand the policy mechanics, the CBO offered Zoe a comprehensive look into the meticulous work behind impartial policy recommendations.

Kaden George, who was particularly intrigued by the workings of the International Monetary Fund, stated, “IMF, for me, was the most interesting; we got talking to very, very intelligent people, got to learn about what the IMF does.” For Kaden, the visit clarified how the IMF extends its helping hand during economic crises, ensuring nations stay afloat and progress.

Importance of the Trip
Hina Baig, Assistant Director of the Division of Quantitative Analysis of Markets and Organizations major at the U, expressed her thoughts on the immense value of the trip: “We took the students to D.C. to expose them to organizations and career opportunities within those organizations. We really feel that our students are highly suited to opportunities in public policy or at think tanks or at international fund organizations like the IMF or World Bank.” she noted. Exposure to such high-caliber organizations, Hina believes, plants the seeds of aspiration, guiding students toward professions they might have otherwise overlooked.

Meeting with alums during the journey was another enriching experience. For current students, these interactions provided a tangible link between academic pursuits and real-world applications. With their wealth of experience, alums offer invaluable insights, mentorship, and, potentially, opportunities for internships or employment.

Greyson Rynders, an undergraduate student in the QAMO program, reflected on the experience, saying, “I would like to mention how insightful this trip has been and what a pleasure it is to be able to take an inside look at these organizations. Each organization brought its own unique set of goals, business processes, opportunities, and most importantly, people that made this trip one to remember.”

Chase Parry, the Business and Economics Society Vice-President, took a moment to acknowledge the scope of the trip, remarking, “Conversations about data, economics, and policy were the highlight of my trip, and I loved learning more about the combination of these things from high-achieving professionals in such amazing workplaces.”

This Washington DC excursion wasn’t just a trip but a transformative experience for the students, potentially shaping their career trajectories. With invaluable lessons learned and connections made, the students return with heightened aspirations and a renewed vision. Looking ahead, there is an undeniable buzz about potential future trips and other experiential learning opportunities, ensuring that the legacy of this journey continues to inspire.

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