June 23, 2020

Class of 2020: Economics grad puts acting experience to work

Jordan Bartsch helps lead UCalgary team to Bank of Canada Governor’s Challenge finals

Sometimes, being the underdog is the best way to make your mark.

When Jordan Bartsch, BA’20, helped to lead a group of UCalgary undergraduate economists into the Bank of Canada Governor’s Challenge this year as the team co-ordinator, they were hungry for a win. No UCalgary team had made it this far.

The national undergraduate competition requires university teams to conduct a macroeconomic analysis and use their skills to try and determine what the Bank of Canada interest rate should be going forward.

The five-member UCalgary Governor’s Challenge presenting team had worked hard for six months, weighing factors such as global trade uncertainty and the resilience of the Canadian economy. 

  • Photo above: UCalgary team co-ordinator Jordan Bartsch, second from right, during a tense moment at the Bank of Canada Governor's Challenge.

It was an uphill battle, says Bartsch, who is graduating with a BA in honours economics.

There we were, a rag-tag crew that met once or twice a week for no credit, going up against veteran teams. We were underdogs, ready to give it our best shot.

Some of the teams from other universities in Canada had placed in the finals before, during the competition’s five-year history, and they were flush with experience.

The UCalgary Team at the Bank of Canada Governor's Challenge, from left: Jacob Graham, assistant to the team coordinator; Ryan Sartori , backup presenter; Korbin Ducharme , presenter; Stephen Poloz,  former Governor of the Bank of Canada; Brandon Hodge, presenter; Tyrell Jaques , presenter; and Jordan Bartsch, presenter and team coordinator.

The UCalgary Team at the Bank of Canada Governor's Challenge, from left: Jacob Graham, assistant to the team coordinator; Ryan Sartori , backup presenter; Korbin Ducharme , presenter; Stephen Poloz, former Governor of the Bank of Canada; Brandon Hodge, presenter; Tyrell Jaques , presenter; and Jordan Bartsch, presenter and team coordinator.

'Interesting time' to be graduating as an economist

For the UCalgary team, 2020 was an opportunity to put themselves and the undergrad economics program on the national map. It was the team’s first invitation to the final round at the challenge.

“This year, they Skyped us in, and after the presentation, they told us they had some followup questions,” says Bartsch. “When they said we’d made it to the finals in Ottawa, I yelled so loud I think I shook the building.”

The squad was one of five teams to go to Ottawa in February for the second round and present to then-Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz in an intimidating boardroom.

“Poloz put on this kind of grumpy face during the presentation and the last thing you wanted was to appear stupid to him,” says Bartsch. “It was pretty stressful but exciting, too.”

This year, the University of British Columbia was crowned the champion of the challenge, and coincidentally, it is where Bartsch is pursuing a master’s degree in economics.

“Now is an interesting time to be graduating as an economist,” says Bartsch, who has received numerous awards and scholarships. “The downside is that there are sparse jobs.”

Acting experiences helped with presentations

How did he arrive at the intersection of arts and economics?

During his high school years in Alberta, he acted in plays and at one point decided he wanted to be an actor full-time. He realized later that it would be tough to earn a living and spent some time as a pipefitter.

His acting experiences informed his presentations in the Governor’s Challenge and helped him to develop a rigorous work ethic, he says.

Bartsch made another detour in his education and acquired an advanced diploma in architectural technology in Ontario before deciding he should try to go to a business school, which brought him to UCalgary. He fell in love with economics, particularly for its heady mix of “math and logic and creativity.”

Growing up in and around Central Alberta has helped him to understand the importance of humility and the need to consider other people’s perspectives, which he believes is fundamental to becoming a good economist.

Economics is really about helping others. You should look at people’s incentives and the more you learn, the more you can understand and be sympathetic to their choices, especially if you are involved in policy.

During his time as an economics “department reader and demonstrator” at UCalgary, assisting professors in developing weekly tutorials and worksheets, and providing assistance to other students, he had an aha moment — he loves to help others by teaching.

Student would like to return to teach at UCalgary

Dr. Jeffrey Church, PhD, professor and undergraduate director at the Department of Economics, says Bartsch is a leader among his peers.

“We hired three undergrads instead of graduate students in fall 2019 to lead tutorials in two sections of Economics 201 and Jordan was one of them,” he says. “Jordan was fantastic; his rapport and connection with students reflected in his student approval ratings and attendance.”

If things work out the right way down the road, Bartsch says, maybe he can come back to UCalgary one day and teach economics.

“The professors at UCalgary have done a great job of accommodating students like me who have a lot of questions,” he says. “The faculty really helped. One day, maybe I can return and do the same.”

He has an affinity for underdogs. If he can extend a helping hand by teaching, he’ll in a sense come full circle and, who knows — he may be helping others in future Bank of Canada Governor’s competitions.

Jordan Bartsch, far right, enjoys the keynote presentation at Industry Night 2019, an event hosted at the Silver Springs Golf and Country Club by the Society of Undergraduates in Economics (SUE)

Jordan Bartsch, far right, enjoys the keynote presentation at Industry Night 2019, an event hosted at the Silver Springs Golf and Country Club by the Society of Undergraduates in Economics (SUE).