Smith student Philip Peker ’18 writes about a case competition for high school students on April 8, 2016, hosted by the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
The best way to learn business is to do business. Unlike other disciplines, business has its theories constructed after they have been tried and tested in the real world. You never truly grasp a business concept until you try it in on real people and in real circumstances. On the morning of Friday, April 8, high school students from Prince George’s County got a chance to do just that as they presented solutions at a case competition hosted by DEC and Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity here at Smith.
The students were divided into five groups by discipline: accounting, finance, marketing, supply chain, and operations. Each student group was guided to a classroom and given a short overview on their focus area by Smith students that were majoring in that field. For example, high school students in the marketing room were taught the “4 Ps” of marketing, the importance of strategy, and what a brand really is. After the discipline-based learning sessions, the students re-grouped back into schools and were officially presented the case, which was to create a strategy module for a new shoe brand. The groups were given a tight time frame of 45 minutes to craft a strategy and present it in a PowerPoint presentation…a true test of entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen.
But this summit was more about than just winning a competition. The importance of exposing young minds to the analytical processes involved in doing a case competition cannot be understated. There is no better place to learn teamwork, how to work under pressure, and how to use qualitative and quantitative data congruently to create a winning strategy. This learning approach is at the core of what it means to be a Smith scholar, and introducing this philosophy early on will prepare these high school students for a rigorous business education that awaits them at Smith.
“The purpose of what we’re doing here is twofold: to get the students acquainted with Smith and what a Smith education can do for them, but at the same time, inspire the students to keep learning about business by teaching them tangible skills they can take back home to their classrooms,” says Jiening Wu, a member of AKPSi who, together with the Smith School, organized this event. There was no shortage of inspiration that day, as all around, one could see gleaming faces eager to absorb as much knowledge as they could.
These high school students are a part of challenging and forward-thinking business academies that orient their brains to think quick, think smart, and think big. Speaking to these students, I immediately sensed their razor-sharp focus and determination in academics and beyond. Aminata Diallo, a junior from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md., had her whole career planned out step-by-step: “I’ll be majoring in marketing as an undergrad, and then I plan on going to law school to study business law, so that I can ultimately be a sports agent.” Aminata was merely one among many studious and determined high school scholars who aspire to do great things in the world of business, one step at a time. I asked Aminata what she took away from today’s case competition and she responded without blinking, “Divide and conquer. When you have a lot of people working on something, dividing the work up and having people do what they do best is what can give a team diverse ideas and a winning result.”
With events like the High School Case Competition, Smith continues to expand its youth development program, creating a community of brilliant young minds that will go on to be leaders in Smith and beyond. It is never too early to start coaching and mentoring students in business disciplines, especially when these students are yearning for exposure, opportunities, and experiences. Smith continues to reap the fruits of tapping into young talent, confirming a continuous supply of tech-savvy, fast-thinking, and passionate thinkers.
For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.