Skip to main content

The Past, Present, and Future of the Federal Reserve Public Policy

Enrollment is Closed

About This Course

(Please note that we are in the process of migrating this course to a new platform. Therefore, enrollment for this course will be closed until the migration is complete. Please check back in the near future for updates on how to enroll in this course.)

This special open course on the Past, Present and Future of the Federal Reserve, covers the 100-year history, policies, and processes of the Federal Reserve System. The System has played a pivotal role in shaping the American economy and financial system, stretching from the Great Depression of the 1930s, the spiraling inflation of the 1970s, and most recently to the global financial crisis of 2007-2008.

Frank Sesno, former anchor and Washington Bureau Chief for CNN, serves as the course moderator, joined by a team of top professors of finance, law, political science, and history to shed light on one of the most powerful, yet widely misunderstood, institutions in the world today. Lectures and interviews with key Federal Reserve figures such as former chairs Ben Bernanke and Paul Volcker, as well as former Congressman Barney Frank enrich the course and provide you with special insight into the Fed’s approaches and policies over the years.

The live version of this course is now over. However, you can still enroll and participate in the course at your own pace. All course materials are still available with the exception of real-time instructor feedback to discussion forums and course assignments.


This course is not endorsed by the Federal Reserve System, neither are the persons or entities involved in its creation, production, and distribution.

The Past, Present, and Future of the Federal Reserve was created with the generous financial support of The Clearing House, Pearson PLC, The Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, and the New York Stock Exchange Foundation.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Team

Frank Sesno, Course Moderator

Frank Sesno, Course Moderator

Frank Sesno is director of the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) at The George Washington University. He is an Emmy-award winning journalist and creator of, a user-driven web and television project that highlights innovations in sustainability. He hosts and facilitates the Planet Forward Salon Series focusing on topics such as energy policy, green jobs, and food production. He has moderated events for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Bayer CropScience, Land O’Lakes Foundation, and National Geographic, among others. Sesno's diverse career spans more than three decades, including 21 years at CNN where he served as White House correspondent, anchor, and Washington Bureau Chief. He has covered a diverse range of subjects, from politics and conventions to international summits and climate change. He has interviewed five U.S. presidents and literally thousands of political, business and civic leaders — ranging from Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and broadcast legend Walter Cronkite. Before joining CNN in 1984, Sesno worked as a radio correspondent at the White House and in London for the Associated Press. He has won several prestigious journalistic awards, including an Emmy, several cable ACE awards, and an Overseas Press Club Award. Sesno is a member of the Board of Trustees at Middlebury College, AmeriCares, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves as chair of the Posse Foundation Washington Advisory Board as well. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History from Middlebury College.

Sarah Binder, Course Instructor

Sarah Binder, Course Instructor

Sarah Binder is a professor of political science at The George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, specializing in Congress and legislative politics. She is a past co-editor of Legislative Studies Quarterly and has authored or co-authored numerous articles and four books on Congress, including the award winning Stalemate: Causes and Consequences of Legislative Gridlock (Brookings 2003). She is currently co-writing a new book, Monetary Politics, which explores Congress’s historical and contemporary relationship with the Federal Reserve. Binder received her PhD in political science from the University of Minnesota in 1995 and her B.A. from Yale University in 1986.

Peter Conti-Brown, Course Instructor

Peter Conti-Brown, Course Instructor

Peter Conti-Brown is an Academic Fellow (nonresident) at Stanford Law School’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance and a PhD student in history at Princeton University where he is the John R. Irwin Fellow in History. As of July 1, 2015, he will be an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Conti-Brown’s research and writing cover central banking, financial regulation, and public finance, with a particular focus on the law, history, politics, and economics of central banking at the Federal Reserve. His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the Yale Journal on Regulation, and the Stanford, UCLA, and Washington University Law Reviews, among other journals. He is also the editor, with David Skeel, of the book When States Go Broke: Origins, Context, and Solutions for the American States in Fiscal Crisis, published by Cambridge University Press, author of the book The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve, forthcoming from Princeton University Press, and editor, with Rosa Lastra, of the Research Handbook on Central Banking, forthcoming from Edward Elgar Publishing. He has been quoted in print and online articles published by The Atlantic, The Economist, The New York Times, and Reuters, and has appeared on C-SPAN and National Public Radio. Conti-Brown graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and Stanford Law School, and clerked for the Hon. Stephen F. Williams on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and the Hon. Gerard E. Lynch on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Robert Van Order, Course Instructor

Robert Van Order, Course Instructor

Robert Van Order holds the Oliver Carr Chair in Finance and Real Estate at George Washington University. He was chief economist of Freddie Mac from 1987 until 2002. In that capacity he worked on the development of Freddie Mac models of mortgage default, prepayment and pricing; approaches to risk, capital structure and capital requirements; mortgage market structure; and analysis of housing and the economy. Before that he served as director of the Housing Finance Analysis Division at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, Purdue University, the University of Southern California, Queens University in Canada, American University in Washington, D.C., Ohio State University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the University of Michigan. He has consulted on mortgage markets in Sri Lanka, India, Latvia, Russia, Ghana, Nicaragua, Brazil, Egypt, Colombia, Poland and Pakistan.

Art Wilmarth, Course Instructor

Art Wilmarth, Course Instructor

Art Wilmarth is a Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. He joined GW Law School’s faculty in 1986 after 11 years in private law practice, including as a partner in Jones Day’s Washington office. Professor Wilmarth has published more than thirty law review articles and book chapters dealing with banking law and constitutional history, and he co-edited a book on the financial crisis of 2007-2009. In 2005, the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers awarded him its prize for the best law review article published in the field of consumer financial services law during 2004. Professor Wilmarth received his B.A. degree from Yale University and his J.D. degree from Harvard University. He has testified on financial regulation issues before committees of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. In 2010, he served as a consultant to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the body established by Congress to report on the causes of the financial crisis. He is a member of the International Advisory Board for the Journal of Banking Regulation (Palgrave Macmillan, U.K.).

Michael Whitehouse, GW-Federal Reserve Project Director

Michael A. Whitehouse, GW-Federal Reserve Project Director

Michael A. Whitehouse is the program director for The George Washington University Federal Reserve Project and president of Vital Venture Networks. He founded Vital Venture Networks in 2002. During the past decade, he has undertaken marketing and communications assignments for NYSE Euronext, Archipelago, The Research Triangle Institute, and a number of universities including Yale, Northwestern, Stanford and The George Washington University. He also has held senior communications positions at the NASD (now FINRA) and NASDAQ and was the Director of Media Relations for NASDAQ’s West Coast office in Menlo Park, CA. During the past several years Michael has assisted GW Law’s Center for Law, Economics and Finance in developing a number of programs and seminars including several on important aspects of financial reform under Dodd-Frank. Michael began his career at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington DC as a researcher and speechwriter. He has published a number of articles on the US Banking System and the origins and the history of the Federal Reserve System, including an essay, "The Establishment and Evolution of the Federal Reserve Board: 1913-23," published in the Federal Reserve Bulletin, and a 2014 article in Bloomberg BNA’s Banking Report titled “The Federal Reserve at 100.” He received his BA at New York State University, Fredonia and did his graduate work in journalism at Pennsylvania State University.

  1. Course Number

  2. Classes Start

  3. Estimated Effort