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Students participate in economics conference

May 16, 2008

Students participate in economics conference

Looking at the cluster of PLU students making last-minute preparations before a mock meeting of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Mark Gould ’91 said it was at a conference much like this where he got his start 17 years ago at the Federal Reserve Bank.“I think they noted they were looking for people,” Gould said during a break at the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Conference in May. “I literally graduated on a Sunday and started work that Wednesday.”The conference brought together economists and regional analysts. It included a University Symposium, attended by students and faculty from PLU and other Puget Sound universities.

Gould, who earned his bachelor’s degree in economics, is now a senior vice president with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and branch manager of the Seattle offices.

Gould explained how the Fed regulates cash flow as well as the flow of checks (some $13 trillion in 2006) in the United States, and checks for counterfeit bills. He also addressed how it tweaks the economy as needed through its control of the prime interest rates, one duty that has come into prime focus due to the nation’s housing crisis.

“You hear candidates for office saying they are going to bring down interest rates,” he said. “Well no. The Federal Reserve does that.”

Gould’s boss, Janet Yellen, CEO of the bank, told the student panels how the Fed meetings, generally held in Washington D.C., are orchestrated.

Both Yellen and Gould took part in an informational meeting for college and university students that explained what the Fed does, as well as the functions of the board and its impact on the economy.

Next it was the students’ turn to role-play at a mock meeting of the board, where they debated whether to cut the interest rates even further than the current 2 percent.

Junior economics major Nathan Tuininga played the role of the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard Fisher. Tuininga’s argument, that the interest rate should be left alone for now, was developed in concert with economics majors Drew Gardner, Amy Spieker, Justin Peterson and Kelby May. The argument eventually won the day as the group debated into the afternoon.

Debates like this, whether as a learning tool or the real thing, are what make economics exciting, Gould said.

“It’s not like there is one right answer in economics,” he said. “Economics really forces one to rely on their thinking skills.”

During the conference, another Lute took the spotlight when Roy Morris ’08 received the Gus Mattersdorff Student Paper Award for the best student paper in the region for 2007-2008. The paper was an economic analysis of geoduck harvesting.