Gophers of the Last Decade: Grace Brang reflects on her time at the U and her career path so far
In this interview, Grace Brang (BS '18) reflects on her time at the U of M and shares some advice for students. During five years at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Grace has held numerous positions and helped implement government relief programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can you tell me a bit about your career path?
I graduated from the U in 2018 with an Economics B.S. and minors in Statistics and Spanish. Postgrad, I moved out to DC to start a job at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. I was pretty dead-set on doing my PhD in Economics, so working at the Fed was a great opportunity. They have a 2-year research program for people to beef up their research skills and make sure that a PhD program is the right decision.
But I started in the Summer of 2018, and my two years would have been up in the Summer of 2020 — in the heart of the COVID pandemic — so my plans changed a little bit! I ended up taking a job as an analyst with the Federal Reserve and was even able to work on the Fed’s emergency lending to support the financial system during the pandemic. Then just as things were starting to settle down, I was asked to join the Treasury Department for a temporary assignment in March of 2021 to help implement the American Rescue Plan. After that, I returned to the Fed and my current analyst role in the division of Financial Stability. I’ll hit my 5 year mark at the Fed next Summer.
How did you decide to study economics?
I took an economics class my junior year of high school. I was always interested in business, commerce, and people’s day-to-day transactions, whether they’re monetary transactions or just interactions with each other—but I didn’t know econ was the field for me until that class. I found it to be a very intuitive subject, but a lot of my classmates didn’t share the same affinity for econ that I did. So I took that as a sign; if it clicked and I enjoyed it, why not pursue it?
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at the U?
If I’m being honest, probably the football games were my favorite, specifically the game that was Minnesota vs. Michigan on Halloween my sophomore year. It was a perfect Minnesota fall day, filled with fun events around campus—it was quintessential college vibes.
I studied abroad during May term, with a trip led by Dr. Simran Sahi to London. The class studied international trade and specifically Brexit, because the Brexit vote happened while we were there. That was an amazing experience, and I made lifelong friends in that program, including Dr. Sahi. I sometimes see her in D.C., and we get together and have lunch!
Is there anything you did as an undergrad that really helped prepare you for life after college?
I held two student jobs with the econ department, first as a communications intern and second as an undergraduate research assistant. In the first job I interviewed faculty and prominent students and grad students who were doing really cool research in the department, and then as a research assistant, I worked with Professor McGrattan on retirement financing and pension policy. I didn’t think I would find those topics very interesting at first, but I quickly learned that they have a huge role in the functioning of our economy. I realized that I’m just really interested in economics—if you give me a specific topic, I can find importance in it and run with it.
Another thing that helped me a lot was being surrounded by people that I thought were smarter than me. In all of my classes, I really had to work hard to meet the bar and keep up with my peers because the caliber of students in the econ program was very high. I felt very comfortable starting work because it was just a continuation of all the hard work I was doing the whole time as a student. I know I’m never the smartest one in the room, which is a feeling I’ve gotten really comfortable with throughout college and now in my recent working years.