WMU News

Students tackle U.S. retirement system

KALAMAZOO–Four Western Michigan University students will take their ideas about a national retirement system to Congress Feb. 4 after winning the national iOMe Challenge competition.

WMU team members beat out proposals submitted by 40 other schools in 17 states to win a chance to speak to U.S. policymakers, along with a $20,000 cash prize and a trip to Washington, D.C. This year’s challenge revolved around the U.S. retirement system and finding solutions to make it solvent for future generations. Entries included a 30-second video intended to capture the attention of young adults, as well as an extended paper that explains the problems and proposes solutions.

iOMe Challenge
WMU’s winning video
WMU’s winning essay [PDF]

The WMU team’s entry was selected as the winner by a blue-ribbon panel that met in Miami Beach last weekend. The four students and their faculty advisor will travel to Washington to be honored at reception in the Hart Senate Office Building hosted by Wisconsin’s Senator Herb Kohl. During that event, they will present their paper to members of Congress and congressional staff members.

WMU’s winning iOMe team

  • Sam Demorest, a junior majoring in English and political science
  • Lauren Hearit, a sophomore majoring in French and public policy
  • Ashley Horvat, a senior majoring in American public policy
  • Brad Kent, a senior majoring in public policy and economics

Demorest, Hearit and Kent are from the Kalamazoo area, and Horvat is from Brunswick, Ohio. All four teammates are members of WMU’s Lee Honors College. Hearit is also a Medallion Scholar. The team’s faculty mentor is Dr. Susan Hoffmann, WMU associate professor of political science.

The first runner-up in the competition is the team from Texas Tech University, while the team from Wisconsin’s St. Norbert College received honorable mention. Three additional schools were named finalists: Harvard University, Saint Louis University, and New York’s LaGuardia Community College.

Hundreds of students from some of the nation’s top colleges and universities participated in the first-ever event, offering solutions that ranged from providing additional visas to gain more payroll taxes, to privatizing Social Security.

Entries were judged for originality, content, style, economic soundness, educational value and accessibility to young Americans. The essays and videos were intended to focus on what life will be like in retirement 40 years from now, if current experience and practices remain the same, as well as focus on whether any changes to policy and how society prepares for retirement should be considered.

The iOMe Challenge was founded by PAi –Plan Administrators Inc.–and was created as an exciting and financially rewarding way to engage young people in the development of public policy. The students were asked to suggest changes that would help secure their financial future, start a retirement dialogue across generations and serve as a call to action on Main Street and Capitol Hill.

In addition to PAi, the competition was sponsored by St. Norbert College in Wisconsin–which helped coordinate a volunteer board that conducted the first round of entry reviews and through a blind process, narrowed the field to six finalists. Additional sponsorship came from Nicolet National Bank, Intellectual Marketing and Piston Manufacturing. The program also received support from the Council of Independent 401(k) Recordkeepers, AARP and The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries.

Additional details about the competition and copies of WMU’s winning essay and video are available online on the iOMe site at iomechallenge.org. The WMU paper also will be distributed in Washington Feb. 4.

For more information about WMU’s team and winning entry, contact Dr. Susan Hoffmann at susan.hoffmann@wmich.edu or (269) 387-5692.

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