Michigan Tech News

SBE Student Wins National Essay Competition

By Mark Wilcox | Published

A promotion used at his financial institution, provided the inspiration a Michigan Technological University undergraduate needed to take the top prize in a prestigious national essay competition.

For the past four years, teams from Michigan Tech’s School of Business and Economics had advanced to the finals of the iOme Challenge. In 2012 the SBE team took home Honorable Mention and a $2,000 prize. Finally this year, a Husky has emerged as the champion.

Jerrid Burdue has been named winner of the iOme Challenge for his essay and innovative video focused on federal government proposals related to education requirements, the myRA program, Social Security taxes and the Saver’s Credit.

As a result of the win, the third-year student from Niles, Michigan, was awarded the top prize of $5,000 and will travel to Washington, D.C. later this month to present his essay at the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) Forum.

Now in its seventh year, the iOme Challenge is a two-part national competition consisting of an essay and video that illustrates the key elements of the essay. Contestants were asked to imagine their selection by the President-Elect to serve on the Council of Economic Advisors. The CEA was asked to “reimagine the private retirement system to accommodate the needs of workers in traditional work arrangements as well as the changes in the work-life patterns of the millennial generations so they can be confident of a financially secure retirement.”

In his essay/video, Burdue proposes a “retirement app” that automatically forwards a predetermined percentage of a purchase into a “myRA” account.

Burdue says the inspiration came during a personal banking experience. “The idea behind the retirement app came from a feature called ‘It’s Your Change,’ from my credit union. When you sign up, they round up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and credit the extra change to your savings account,” he says.

Burdue’s idea expanded on this concept by allowing individuals to designate a percentage of their purchase into the equation as well as link it to a retirement account.

“By doing this, the more a person spends, more money goes into their retirement account since it’s a percentage of their purchase rather than simply rounding up to the nearest dollar,” he explains.

While the essay topped out at nearly 20 pages, it was the 50-second video that Burdue found daunting.

“I have almost zero background in making a video, so that was my greatest challenge,” he says. “I had the idea of creating it with a white board and markers like they do in AsapSCIENCE videos but had no idea where to start.”

In terms of writing the essay, Burdue says it was challenging to elaborate on a fairly straight-forward concept.

“I found it difficult to add more paragraphs and pages,” he recalls. “I said what I wanted and needed to say with my essay. I revisited previous winning essays, and found mine was a decent amount shorter. Ultimately, I focused on my own essay rather than trying to recreate past essays.”

Burdue’s faculty advisor for the competition was Emanuel Oliveira, assistant professor of economics in Tech’s School of Business and Economics.

“This award recognizes Jerrid’s talent and perseverance,” Oliveira says.

“It has been a pleasure to be his advisor, particularly taking into account that he had to endure the loss of a team member early on due to other priorities. Thus Jerrid ended up making a great essay and video on his own. Jerrid is a great example of how crazy smart our students are.”

Burdue says “It was great working and testing ideas with him (Oliveira), especially since he understood what the organization was looking for.”

Burdue, a third-year student who has just finished his first year as an economics major, and Oliveira will travel to Washington later this month along with Dean Johnson, interim dean of SBE. In addition to the WISTER Forum, the Tech contingent is expected to meet with members of Congress and other policymakers including representatives from the Departments of Labor, Education and Treasury.

Burdue says the win coupled with the upcoming trip , has stirred up a variety of emotions.

 “I feel honored to represent Michigan Tech in DC,” Burdue says. “But at the same time nervous to discuss my essay in front of a group. I agreed to take on this competition not to win it, but to learn more about retirement savings, which I did. After just my first year as an economics student, it’s exciting to think that I placed first in the nation in an economics competition.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

Last Modified 12:00 PM, June 22, 2016


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