Who Is Janet Yellen? NYU Grads Don't Know — And If You Don't Either, Read This Primer
College can offer you many things in life: a route to a career, a batch of long-lasting friends, and future bragging rights about your obscure degree in folklore and mythology. One thing it apparently doesn't tell you: Who the Chair of the Federal Reserve is. On Wednesday, NYU grads admitted they didn't know Janet Yellen, their commencement speaker. No biggie, she's just the first woman to ever head the U.S. central banking system.
During the ceremony at Yankee Stadium, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked graduates what they thought of Yellen. The responses? Well, they didn't really think much, seeing as how they couldn't say a thing about her. "I'm not quite sure," one student answered. "I wasn't really sure who she was, quite honestly," another said. Cue uncomfortable laughter. One student hoped for someone more entertaining to speak, like Tina Fey.
For further proof that college doesn't prepare you for the real world, some couldn't say what role the Federal Reserve plays. "Are these trick questions?" a graduate asked. Obviously the answer is, like money, and stuff. In fairness, a number of NYU students had a good handle on current affairs, explaining the Fed's handling of bonds and its regulation of financial institutions. You can check out the video below (click on the image).
If you didn't know who Yellen is either, here's a quick rundown on Federal Reserve Chief.
She's The First Woman to Run the Fed
While her appointment to lead the country's central banking system is momentous, it's not about gender for Yellen, who asked to be called "chair" rather than "chairwoman." She's here to get the job done, and that's heading the economy.
Succeeding Ben Bernanke as chair, she's had a bit of history on the Hill, serving as the President’s ex-monetary advisor and the Vice Chair of the Fed. She's also the first Democrat to take the position since 1979, since prior Democratic presidents have nominated Republicans to fit the bill.
She's a Brooklyn Girl at Heart
Yellen boasts an impressive resume, having earned a Ph.D. in economics from Yale, and teaching at Harvard, UC Berkeley, and the London School of Economics.
She's also responsible for successfully forecasting economic trends, such as her concerns over home prices before the Great Recession. The Wall Street Journal even placed her at the top of the list for policymaker predictions. In short, the woman know's what she's doing.
Still, she keeps it real and doesn't forget about where she came from. Classmates at her Fort Hamilton High in Brooklyn remember Yellen as an overachiever, and her work ethic has stuck through. During a tough hearing in 2013, New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said her “Brooklyn wisdom shines through” after she maintained a defensive stance on her policies.
“I will never forget my roots,” she replied.
She Gives Credit to Her Predecessor
The Fed chair faces a bevy of difficult challenges in restoring the economy, but as Yellen places prominence on fixing the housing market, she also gives credit where credit is due when it goes to the progress that's been made.
While she has more experience than her predecessors did when they first assumed the position of leadership, in her NYU speech she praised Bernanke for his response to the financial crisis. He "demonstrated such courage," Yellen said, telling graduates to follow his "grit and willingness to take a stand" when times get rough.
What She Really Does
If you were too embarrassed to ask what the Federal Reserve does, it's okay — college graduates don't know either.
The Federal Reserve has the power to print money, ensures the country's economic health through interest rates, open market operations, and the like.
As chair, Yellen helps direct the central bank of the United States to oversee the country's money supply. She, along with the Board of Governors, assists in determining monetary policy.