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Showcasing Talent – CBE Students Shine Bright in Case Competitions

     In its effort to develop emerging business leaders, the Lehigh CBE seeks to challenge its students both inside and outside of the classroom by offering undergraduates the engaging opportunity to participate in various case competitions. Some of the case competitions that students participated in for the spring semester include National Diversity, PwC Challenge, and KPMG International.

     The National Diversity Case Competition (NDCC) was an all expenses paid, two day conference held at Indiana University where students were able to network with professionals while discussing business diversity issues. Encouraged by their professors in their respective classes, those who participated in this competition were Alex Bernabel, Bryson Craft, Olivia Hodina, and Justin Mahoney. Craft, a Business Management major and Entrepreneurship minor, was elected the team leader for the competition. “I wanted to participate in the competition because I realized how important diversity is for an organization, and managing it effectively can really grow the business, so I wanted to learn more about how to manage diversity through a competitive case study,” he said. Hodina, a junior Marketing and Supply Chain double major, also comments on her experience, “It was nice because the competition was open to all majors, and not geared towards any certain field of study. I really enjoyed networking with other students. You could tell that they were amazing students because they were so self-motivated.” Both Hodina and Craft discuss how time management was their biggest challenge. “Because the case prompt was not released until after final exams, our group had to work on the project over the phone. When we got back to school, we had one week to put everything together before the competition,” said Craft. This year’s case prompt was geared towards methods of targeting Hispanic consumers. The team’s project was called “¡mi target!” with a concept based on Hispanic families using social media. “I would definitely recommend other students to participate in this case competition. It was a well-organized event and with all of the recent issues regarding diversity on campus lately, I believe that encouraging more students to participate in this competition would help to alleviate some of those issues,” said Hodina. Craft also talks about how much he gained from this invaluable experience, “Competing against schools from all over the country and people from diverse backgrounds enriched my diversity perspective. My experiences from this competition taught me how to work with a diverse group of people to tackle a challenging problem. The mix of industry leaders, like Target, EY, GE, General Mills, and many others, and top universities across the nation make the NDCC a competitive atmosphere where the brightest minds come together,” he said.

     The top two teams who participated in the PwC Challenge Case Competition included “Team Project Green,” at 1st place and “The Avengers” at 2nd place, where only the 1st place team moved further in the competition. Members of the winning team were Foster Rankin, Max Liu, Andrew Sandor, Nigel Corea, and Carolyn Mazzie. Members of The Avengers included Anthony Piccione, Jon-Michael Beckelman, Christopher Steele, James Burns, and John Yingling. Students who participated in this competition were given a general business case, and had to come up with a solution within 12 days. Senior Accounting major and team leader Foster Rankin shares his experience during the competition, “The case painted a broader picture and focused on everything we learned in undergraduate programs instead of focusing on things like financial statements,” he said. The other members of the Project Green team consisted of two Finance majors and two students in the IBE (Integrated Business and Engineering) program. Rankin discusses the challenges of developing a finished product with his teammates in a short time span, “We had difficulty centralizing and utilizing what we all agree upon, since everyone came from different fields of study. It took us 2-3 days to get a picture of what we wanted the project to look like. You have to be prepared to work, with everyone on board. Most importantly, your team goals have to be oriented. We met a couple hours a day, discussing the project and going over research. The topic of our case had to do with green energy,” he said. Although the time commitment tied with the case competition was challenging, Rankin encourages other students to take advantage of this opportunity. “Having a victory on my resume was enormous; it [the competition] was the closest thing to the real world other than an internship,” he said. “Being in the same room with professionals in the industry, and getting feedback from them on our presentation….you can’t put a price on that experience,” said Rankin.

     Lehigh’s winning team of the KPMG International case competition, also known as "Dream Chef,” included Chen Zhong, Guo Yu, Cheryl Wei and Emma Zhang. This competition consisted of two rounds, the first in Rauch and the second in Boston, MA. During the first round, the team was given a prompt with roughly two days to figure out a solution to the problem, but in the second round they were given only three hours to prepare and present their ideas to a series of KPMG professionals. “The case was about a merger and acquisition that had been taken out by two companies. Our job was to evaluate the effects of this merger and acquisition and give the company some further information about how to improve their performance,” said team leader Guo Yu. “In the second round, the case was between two fierce competitors, Apple and Samsung, and we acted as the consultants of Samsung to come up with a recommendation for its competition with Apple. The case in the first round was more technical, because there was more data where you used accounting knowledge to solve the problem. In the second round, the case is more broad management consulting,” he said. When asked what their biggest challenges were, team member Emma Zhang claims, “When we were in the second round, we had some disagreements among team members, and so we spent a lot of time trying to convince each other within a limited time. This wasted a lot of time because we couldn’t agree. As a result of this, our presentation did not have a consistent idea, which confused the judges,” she said.  Although the team faced these challenges, they were able to learn how to effectively and efficiently work with a team. “It challenges you a lot, and I think we learned a lot from it. I think that we stood out among the other teams because we came up with a solution from three different perspectives. It’s important to have diverse students on your team,” she said.

Contributed by:
Kaamilah Furqan ‘16