For the second year in a row, undergraduates from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business took top honors at the University of Connecticut’s Case Challenge, hosted by Connecticut’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) from October 9-13, 2013 in Storrs, Connecticut.
Raaheela Ahmed, a junior finance and economics double major; Ben Hsieh, a junior accounting major; and Ningwei Li, a junior finance, economics, and mathematics triple major; represented Smith at the Case Challenge.
Hsieh’s team – consisting of fellow students from Brigham Young University, University of Connecticut, and University of Trento – took second place in the competition. Li was awarded “Best Presenter” while Hsieh won “Best Q & A.” This year’s successes follow on last year’s UConn CIBER Case Challenge at which a Smith Student, Fabian Castro Acuna, was also on the second-place team.
All three students spoke to the importance of the event for their professional development.
“I have made contacts not only with my peers from universities all over the world, but also professors and advisors from other colleges, Li said. “In particular, a finance professor from Rikkyo University in Japan introduced to me the industry of sports finance valuation. I enjoyed speaking about finance from different perspectives and I have kept in touch with the professor since the competition.”
“The Case Challenge has broadened my LinkedIn professional network by 40 high-achieving students.” Hsieh said. “The experience gave me my first real life experience in international collaboration on businesses. Being able to meet and befriend top students from other universities also will make me a better professional with great contacts to work with in the future as co-workers, clients, or advisors.”
Ahmed agreed that “the network of students and staff at CIBER was by far the best part of the experience.” She went on to say that “the experience of working with teammates whom I barely knew is something that is definitely transferrable to my post-Smith career.”
All Case Challenge teams worked on a real scenario regarding the expansion of Gillette’s low-end razor into the U.S. market. Students considered many factors such as market growth rate, applicability of the product’s success in the Indian market to the U.S. market, and marketing and operations strategies.
Each student explained how the Smith School and University of Maryland prepared them for the competition.
Ahmed said that courses taught by Gary Bulmash, Hanna Lee, Roxanne Lefkoff, and Eric Wish were especially valuable to her performance. Hsieh stated that the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program’s emphasis on the theory of disruption innovation proved crucial to his success. Li reported that the QUEST program was instrumental in his preparation: “QUEST really helped me gain the mindset of being a consultant. Especially in team bonding and working with others, the QUEST program really prepared me in teamwork, presentation, and ways to think.”
In addition to the University of Maryland, the following universities sent students to compete at the 2013 Case Challenge: Belmont University, Brigham Young University, Bryant University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, Rikkyo University (Japan), San Diego State University, University of Connecticut, University of North Carolina, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Trento (Italy).
“The chance to work with such amazing students from around the world allowed me to grow and mature as both a student and individual,” Hsieh said. “Being able to work for 18 straight hours with a group of people that I had only met a day before did not seem possible until it happened. The amount of teamwork, endurance, hard work, and care that my team and I showed to each other was unparalleled,” Hsieh said.
Ahmed agreed the Case Challenge was a “unique and rewarding experience. Every minute of the weekend was a learning moment. It has changed the way I look at marketing and consulting; in essence, it has changed the way I look at business. I am planning on taking the knowledge and skills learned from the Case Challenge to further advance my understanding of business and the economy,” Ahmed said.
The Smith School’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) was pleased to have sponsored undergraduates’ participation in this Case Challenge for the fourth year in a row.
“At CIBER, one of our goals has been to make a rich set of experiential learning opportunities available to Smith students,” said Professor Kislaya Prasad, CIBER Director. “The internationally-focused case competition hosted by the University of Connecticut is unique in that it gives students the opportunity to work with peers from universities around the world. At the same time it challenges them with significant real world scenarios where they apply what they have learned in the classroom. It is gratifying to me that our students have done so well in this competition. This is a testament to the quality of our undergraduate students, but also to the commitment of the Smith School to giving our students a solid grounding in international business,” Prasad said.
- Matt Grieger, Office of Global Initiatives