For the past seven years, on the weekend before Martin Luther King Day, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business hosts one of the nation’s largest diversity case competitions—if not the largest—on its campus in Bloomington, Indiana.
This year, an all-female team hailing from Drexel University won first place, followed by teams from the University of Washington, Boston College, and the Kelley School of Business.
Last year, Dean Idalene Kesner of Kelley described the competition to me as a must-attend event.
“Students have 24 hours to come up with a solution to the case, and they’re judged in brackets. They receive cash prizes—it doesn’t go to the schools—and oftentimes offers for jobs and internships, because prospective employers are right there, seeing how the students think on their feet.”
The theme of the competition is diversity and inclusion, and the case students work on is related to diversity. Two members of each team must be from an underrepresented population. But there’s plenty of time for networking with companies that value diversity and inclusion.
“Diversity in business benefits everyone,” Kesner, who is also Kelley’s Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management, says in a statement. “Educators know it, and companies know it. Kelley has long been a leader in establishing programs to increase diversity in the classroom and to contribute to a diverse workforce. We’re very proud to bring together these talented students from all over the country with companies who value diversity.”
Target Corp., a platinum sponsor, provided this year’s case: how to build “on a culture where authentic differences in backgrounds, experiences, cultures, and thoughts are appreciated,” according to a statement. The students’ solutions were evaluated based on their creativity and their utilization of the team members’ diverse backgrounds.
“I’ve had the opportunity to attend and judge the National Diversity Case Competition, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that this event shows why diversity and inclusion are so critical,” Ken Bouyer, inclusiveness recruiting leader for EY Americas, says in a statement. “Seeing the diversity of thought, perspective, and background of the students driving very different and innovative solutions is exactly why study after study shows that diverse teams that work inclusively perform better in solving complex problems.”
This year’s competition was held during a brutal snowstorm, but 33 of the 35 scheduled teams braved the elements to compete. Sharaine Eldafrawy, one of the winning Drexel team members, was inspired by another kind of bravery—that of her parents.
“My parents risked their futures to come to the USA [from Egypt] and seek greater opportunities for my siblings and I,” Eldafrawy is quoted as saying on Kelley’s official blog. “That has always motivated me to work harder and reach higher. My main goal in life is to make my parents proud and prove to them through accomplishments like these that the hardships are worth it. It means so much to them and means the world to me to make them proud.
“To have our work resonate with executives from amazing companies and students from across the nation, that was a huge accomplishment for me.” Eldafrawy is a sophomore at Drexel’s Lebow College of Business. Her winning teammates are Lotus Barron, Alexis Serra, and Amara Uche-Anya.
A total of $20,000 in prize money is awarded to the winning teams of the various brackets, a total of 14 teams altogether; runners-up each receive $200. The top team took home the most: $7,500.
But the winning experience means much more than the money: the networking, workshops, and exposure to top businesses that value diversity and inclusion.
For more, go to the site of the Kelley School of Business.