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February 7, 2011
By Misha Ray
Four students from the University of Nevada, Reno were awarded first-runner-up and $2,000 in the national iOMe Challenge, a competition that challenges students across the country to demonstrate the need for individuals to maintain personal economic security through a six percent personal savings rate.
The four participating students, Jenna Fox, Brian Parcon, Kathleen Phelan and Elysia Ulrich, were responsible for demonstrating this need for a six percent savings rate by submitting an in-depth research paper and video. The students were part of Professor Robert Ostergard’s Global Political Economy class in the fall of 2010 and were given the choice to opt out of a class project if they chose to participate in the iOMe Challenge.
“I gave students the opportunity to do this as an assignment or to participate in a global economy simulation,” Ostertgard said. “The competition gave students an opportunity to see how concepts they learned in the classroom apply to real world problems and scenarios.”
Though one of the students, Phelan, was unfamiliar with the subject of personal savings rates in the beginning of the project, she came away with a greater sense of the importance of what they were studying.
“Overall, I'd say that the competition really opened my eyes to the severity of the economic situation,” Phelan said. “The competition reinforced the fact that relying on credit is incredibly risky and that people should be saving much more than they do. In order to adequately save for retirement, people should be saving at least 6 to 10 percent of their income each year, which I didn't know before entering the competition.”
Ulrich came away from the challenge with an understanding that personal savings also affects the economy, as a whole.
“It was a great way to learn more about how one aggregated personal financial behavior can affect an economy,” she said. “Writing this essay really emphasized why it is so important to save, not just for personal financial well-being, but for the long term benefit of our national economy.”
Professor Ostergard pointed out that thousands of students go through introductory political science and economics classes each year, but many often leave without a sense of real-world relevance.
“The competition gave students an opportunity to see how concepts they learned in the classroom apply to real world problems and scenarios,” Ostergard said. “It gave students the opportunity to see how some of the classroom concepts they have encountered could affect them on a personal level.”