Students Meet Jerome Powell at NABE Conference


Courtesy of National Association for Business Economics

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell poses with students at the 38th annual NABE Conference.

Anthony Grasso, Staff Writer

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had his V’s up as he showed his support for Villanova at the NABE conference in Washington D.C. last week.

On Monday, March 21, approximately 30 students and two faculty members from Villanova University’s Economics Department traveled to Washington, D.C. for the National Association for Business Economics (NABE)’s 38th annual policy conference. The conference took place at the Ritz-Carlton in Downtown Washington, D.C. The event was highlighted by an address delivered by Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The trip was organized by professors Mary Kelly, Ph.D., Associate Chair and Teaching Professor of Economics, and Theresa Rissell, Associate Professor of the Practice of Economics. 

Students boarded the bus outside Bartley Hall at 4:30 a.m. Monday and traveled to the nation’s capital. The event began at 8 a.m. with a talk given by Raphael Bostic, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Amid this fragile situation of rising inflation, Bostic emphasized the fact that we need to see the trajectory of aggregate demand in the economy more clearly before we can make significant policy changes.

The following speaker was Cecilia Rouse, Chair of President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. The moderator of this discussion was George Kahn, former Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Their discussion was very informative as Kahn asked Rouse some tough questions about the current state of our economy and the actions being taken by the Administration. Rouse cited the fact that job growth continued nearly uninterrupted during the wave of the omicron variant and that the labor force participation rate is growing at its fastest pace in 30 years as indicators of the strength of our economy. There was a little contention in the audience when Rouse seemed to be repeatedly blaming the pandemic for the entire range of economic struggles people are currently facing and when she dismissed criticism that Congress and the Biden Administration had injected too much stimulus into the economy in comparison to European countries. 

After the conclusion of Rouse’s remarks, attendees listened to a roundtable on fiscal policy before having the opportunity to network with other conference participants. Before breaking for lunch, attendees attended one of three concurrent sessions. One of the options was a discussion on growth of entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic, one was a comparative analysis of job recovery around the globe after COVID-19 and the final was a discussion on the current state of energy markets amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. The third option was a popular selection among Villanova students. Edward Morse, one of the most well-respected energy economists in the United States, framed his remarks around two current challenges in the energy market: the energy transition crisis and the Russia/Ukraine conflict. Both Morse and the other speaker, Robert McNally, Founder and President of Rapidan Energy Group, agreed that the demand for oil will likely come down in the next 10 years. There was also consensus among them toward the idea that retribution is not how we should be addressing climate change but rather we should be doing so through market-based mechanisms. 

One of the most memorable times of the day for everyone occurred when all the attendees came back together to hear the speech of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The remarks that Powell delivered caused reverberations throughout all different financial markets on both a national and international scale. Perhaps the most impactful part of the speech was his announcement that the Federal Reserve was open to increasing the federal funds rate in increments of 0.5 percent, something that has not happened since May 2000 during the Dot-Com Bubble. For students and professors of economics and many other disciplines, meeting the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is an incredible, possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

At the conclusion of the lunch, the Villanova students, along with Kelly and Rissell, had the amazing opportunity of getting their picture taken with Chairman Powell, who even held up a Villanova V during the photo. When asked where he had us in his bracket, he first said that he did not really follow the tournament, but then he admitted that he would be rooting for us to beat Michigan.

One student present at the luncheon with Chairman Powell was senior Olivia Pfeiffer.

“Having the opportunity to be in a room with [Powell] and hear his insight was insane,” Pfeiffer said. “It was interesting because as he was talking, we watched all the markets plummet in front of our very eyes.”

Following the luncheon, attendees once again split up to attend one of three different sessions. The options this time were a discussion on U.S. immigration policy and its contribution to labor shortages in some industries, an analysis of the long-term expectations of productivity in the United States and an overview of efforts to manage the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve. Next up was another networking opportunity, followed by a discussion featuring Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Krugman. Krugman reduced some fear about the future worsening of inflation in the U.S. economy by explaining how medium and long-term inflation expectations were higher in 1980 than they are now. Some economists have attempted to draw comparisons between 1980 and our current situation, but Krugman said the chance of stagflation, which occurs when inflation and unemployment are high, is much lower now than it was four decades back. 

Kelly, Rissell and the students then departed Washington, D.C. and arrived back at Villanova around 8 p.m. This day full of economics provided the students with an amazing chance to see so much of their coursework being applied by some of the most influential economists in the country. Even though most of the conference attendees were business professionals, NABE was very impressed with the showing of college students. Villanova and Temple University accounted for the two largest groups of students at the event and received recognition during the luncheon. Attendees also mentioned that the attendance of a group of Villanova students at the conference is a testament to the faculty that we have in our economics department. The students that attended are extremely grateful to Kelly and Rissell for their efforts in organizing the event and for their generosity in giving up an entire day to afford them the opportunity to attend such a high-profile event in the world of economics.