DANBURY, CONN. — When Federal Reserve System Chairman Ben Bernanke visited the Economic Club of New York to address its November luncheon, Western Connecticut State University students from the Ancell School of Business were on hand to gain monetary policy insights from the source and take a critical look at the impact of Fed actions and federal budget negotiations on the struggling economic recovery.
Ancell School Dean Dr. Allen Morton, an Economic Club member who sponsored the group of eight ASB students and one alumnus attending the Nov. 20, 2012, luncheon in New York City, emphasized the importance of providing Western undergraduate and graduate students with real-world exposure to the government policymakers, business leaders and financial market professionals whose decisions influence the U.S. and global economic outlook. While Bernanke’s message was familiar to those who had tracked Fed policy in recent months, Morton noted, “it’s much different to hear him talk in person about issues he has been studying for his entire professional life.”
Western students in attendance included Timothy Chamberlin, Christopher Dalton, Christopher Edwards, Kathleen Lindenmayer, Thomas Loughman, Jessica Murphy, Corey Paris and Merritt Schneider. Following the talk, the students engaged in a lively discussion led by Morton and joined by Ancell alumnus Kenneth Silliman, who oversees a team of interest rate traders and sales staff as a managing director at TD Securities in New York.
“Bernanke talked about why the economic recovery has been slower than expected, and why economies that fall into recessions caused by financial crises typically take a lot longer to recover” due to factors ranging from a steep fall in home values to severe tightening of credit, Morton said. The Fed chairman reaffirmed the present policy commitment to maintain historically low interest rates while preserving a stable price environment, but also stressed the limits to further monetary stimulus.
“He made the very important point that there is only so much the Fed can do, and it cannot do much more until the government puts its fiscal house in order,” Morton said.
As Bernanke reviewed policy options to sustain and strengthen economic growth, he added, “you got to see how policy decisions are made, and that you make these decisions only after you have looked at all the contingencies and determined that the appropriate economic conditions are in place.”
Silliman shared the real-time commentaries by securities analysts tracking Bernanke’s speech to provide additional insight into the influence that the Fed chairman’s public remarks can exert in the financial markets, Morton noted. Silliman expressed pride at the opportunity to participate in the event and confidence that the Ancell School is preparing current students for future success in their careers.
“As a business professional who interviews students from some of the finest schools in the country, I have been very impressed with the caliber of student leaders coming out of the Ancell School, and I have an Ancell graduate currently working on my sales team,” Silliman said. “The senior members of the administration have done a tremendous job of weaving the WCSU alumni into the fabric of the Ancell School to help in the advancement of its mission in becoming one of the nation’s leading business programs.”
Loughman, a Certified Public Accountant and Master of Business Administration student at WCSU, observed that Bernanke’s message of continued low interest rates and slow economic growth over the next two years struck a sobering note. “This has to be very depressing news both to the elderly who are seeing almost no returns on their investments in retirement, and to students who are about to enter the job market,” he said.
Morton remarked students had the opportunity to contrast Bernanke’s perspective with a significantly different take on monetary and fiscal policy offered the previous evening by Commonfund president and CEO Verne Sedlacek, who delivered the annual President’s Lecture at WCSU. “This is what you learn as a student, to hear two very expert authorities who can differ, but who both can be convincing in their own ways,” he said.
“What I hope students take away is an appreciation of how monetary policy is established, what the good points and limitations of monetary policy are, and why we don’t always see its results for a while to come,” he said. “At the same time, our students should begin to think about whether there is a better way to accomplish these policy objectives. I would ask them, ‘Knowing what you know and hearing what you’ve heard, is there a way to do things differently?’”
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