When Matthew Adler '07 headed to Washington, D.C., for a month-long internship with the President's Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), he had no idea that he would meet Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke – yet alone have lunch with him. "He's an easygoing, accessible, and funny guy," says Adler, an economics and politics double major who is planning a career in public policy, policy economics, or international economics after graduation.
But meeting Bernanke was just one of several highlights for Adler, who had daily interaction with the nation's top economic advisors. "I see economic policy work somewhere in my future," he says. "This internship gave me a chance to experience that type of work firsthand."
Adler secured the coveted internship by winning Oberlin's Albert Rees Policy Fellowship. Established in 1996, the fellowship allows Oberlin students to assist the nation's leading economists as they prepare the annual Economic Report of the President (ERP), which summarizes the year's economic activities for the administration.
"Matthew is a terrific student," says Professor of Economics Hirschel Kasper, a member of the committee that administers the Rees fellowship. "His interest in economic policy made him an excellent candidate for this internship."
Founded in 1946, the CEA is a nonpartisan body that seeks to provide the President with objective economic analysis and advice on the development and implementation of a wide range of domestic and international economic policy issues. Most of the council members are academics on leave from teaching positions, and – regardless of their personal politics – have pledged to give the President unbiased advice about economic matters.
"The CEA is one of the few groups in Washington that doesn't have an axe to grind," says Kasper. "That's what makes this internship such a unique experience for the students."
Although Adler was initially concerned that his involvement with the 2004 Kerry campaign might make his colleagues in Washington uncomfortable, he was happy to discover that the CEA encourages a nonpartisan work environment. "I thought that I wasn't going to fit in politically," Adler says. "But once I started working with the members of the CEA, I realized that everyone – including me – had similar economic beliefs."
During his month in Washington, Adler helped fact-check and revise the chapters of the economic report that dealt with international trade, savings, and macroeconomic outlook. He also worked on a project to prioritize bilateral free trade agreements, which involved comparing past free trade agreements to the possible outcomes of future ones. Although putting the ERP together was at times grueling, Adler says that it solidified his desire to pursue a career in economics.
"Working with the council gave me the chance to see how decisions are made in the realm of economic policy," he says. "But on a more personal level, it helped me to improve my analytical skills and taught me how to turn broad directives into a concrete, finished product. I definitely see economic policy work somewhere in my future."