The University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business hosts an annual competition that invites top MBA student teams from across the country to compete for cash prizes, as well as the honor and recognition of bringing home the award for their school. Each year, the Katz Invitational Case Competition sets a theme that encompasses that year’s trends and relevant issues, and the 2021 theme was centered on envisioning change and transformation to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

Graphic with headshots of MBA students Carly Mileki, Marques Moore, Kimberly Rodriguez and Elva Bardhi who won 2nd place at the Katz Invitational Case Competition 2021

Team of MBA students, clockwise from top left: Carly Maleki, Marques Moore, Elva Bardhi, Kimberly Rodriguez

Katz chose a case about a fictional company, Riverlink Software, and focused on the company’s current struggle to find diverse talent local to the Pittsburgh area. Riverlink Software had been making many DEI-positive strides but needed to continue building momentum, and they were in the process of bringing on their first chief diversity officer. The company was evaluated by Vibrant Pittsburgh, an organization that created a rating scale called the Vibrant Index to grade companies based on their benefits and policies, employee networks, leadership traits, supplier diversity and other important metrics. Riverlink Software needed solutions in line with the Vibrant Index to continue making progress.

This year’s Michigan State Broad Full-Time MBA team came up with four unique recommendations for Riverlink Software, with a goal of attracting, retaining and elevating diverse talent. The team recommended creating a DEI advisory board that would support and assist the new chief diversity officer in rolling out diversity initiatives and mentor or sponsor employees within the pipeline. They also recommended partnering with nearby high schools and a community college to teach classes and recruit for internships and create a direct link to local diverse talent.

One of the strongest recommendations was for a satellite recruitment office to recruit diverse talent to relocate from major cities to Pittsburgh, helping to reverse the previous trend of talent leaving the city. The final recommendation was an expansion of employee resource groups, specifically including a multicultural group that would feature diverse employees in imagery and ad campaigns and create a stronger sense of community.

Jeffrey Hittler, fixed-term faculty in the MBA program, provided guidance and support that were an enormous asset to the Full-Time MBA team, composed of Elva Bardhi, Kimberly Rodriguez, Marques Moore and Carly Maleki. Of the 11 teams competing at the event, the Broad Spartans took home second place and a cash prize of $5,000. Katz’s motto of “signature competition, signature experience” couldn’t be more accurate.