Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business hosted the highly anticipated 12th annual National Diversity Case Competition. The premier event brings together top-level, diverse talent from colleges and universities across the United States for networking and an engaging case. Not only that, but there are also opportunities for students to connect with corporate partners such 3M, EY, Crowe, Altria, AbbVie, Tek Systems and Bank of America through workshops and evaluations during the case competition.
Broad College students are always seeking such opportunities outside of coursework and have participated in this competition for the past five years. This year, the case was centered on designing a solution to clean up and mitigate future pollution caused by 3M’s manufacturing plants across the United States.
“Case competitions such as the NDCC are important in that they permit students to showcase themselves and the Broad College,” said Matthew Anderson, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, who served as one of the Broad faculty mentors for the event. “In general, diversity is critical both to education in general and to the business environment — broadly speaking. Such competitions permit students and faculty to gain a better appreciation of the potential contributions of others to a decision process.”
This year’s Broad undergraduate team was composed of finance senior Vineeth Kallumkal, accounting junior Walter Kearney II, marketing freshman Morgan Persell and supply chain management sophomore Dakarai Young. They were mentored by Anderson and Scot Wright, the Broad College’s DEI program manager, in formulating and fine-tuning their arguments and ensuring that a breadth of information was crafted.
At the event, the Michigan State team presented and pitched their solutions to an audience of company representatives from Bank of America and 3M. Their recommendation was to create committees of 3M representatives and members of the community affected by the pollution. The committees would work in tandem to bring to light the unique challenges each stakeholder faced and work together to come up with solutions to clean up these problems. They tentatively named this the Environmental Justice Action Committee.
Out of over 30 colleges and universities, the Broad team was honored as runner-up, placing second within their bracket and among one of the most impressive presentations. The inspiration for their innovative, feasible solution came from the idea of restorative justice; they believed it is imperative to include aggrieved parties in solutions that would further impact their communities.
“The judges were particularly impressed with their channel strategy and answers for developing the firm’s current resources to broaden awareness,” Wright said. “I was also impressed with each of our team members’ ability to provide thoughtful answers to tough questions in the Q&A. For each of our team members, this was their first case competition experience, so trusting Dean Anderson’s experience and leadership helped fine-tune their messaging and delivery.”
Something that contributed to the team’s success was their diversity in terms of majors and school year. They were able to leverage input coming from four different majors from four different school years, allowing them to tackle the case from multiple angles.
“I think what made my team and I successful amongst all the others competing was the respect for each other’s opinion and creativity,” Kearney said. “Each and every one of us brought something different to the team, the case study and the presentation that made everything great. Everyone had different perspectives, opinions, suggestions, and we all came to a conclusion on every decision being made. It was all about encouraging one another, collaboration, respect, being kind and open-minded, teamwork and leadership.”
“What I enjoyed from this experience was working with Walter, Vineeth, Dakarai, Professor Anderson and Mr. Wright,” Persell added. “Collaborating and learning from these individuals allowed me to see and interpret the case from many different perspectives, and being a part of a supportive and effective team also created a positive and memorable experience.”
The participants gained new insight on skillsets such as inclusive leadership, effective communication and enhanced problem-solving skills. Social responsibility was another thing that really resonated with the students.
“I learned to stand up for myself and others if I see prejudice happening everywhere,” Kallumkal shared. “It isn’t enough to check my own prejudices but to hold other accountable for theirs.”
In preparation for the competition, the students went above and beyond to meet with the faculty mentors several times to run practice presentations and discuss feedback.
“The constructive criticism we received from Dr. Anderson made us successful amongst all the others competing. This was the most significant part,” Young explained. “He would help us improve in some ways, pointing out things that could be said better and giving us tips about our presenting skills. This helped tremendously when the actual presentation came because we had to implement all the positive changes; this especially helped during the Q&A session as we were prepared to think quickly on our feet.”
The case competition, workshops and networking events exposed the Broad Spartans to new advice they could bring back to campus with them and various opportunities they weren’t familiar with previously. Connecting with new people who shared the same passion and values for DEI made for a memorable experience.
“Case competitions serve as barometers and reflect student ability to work effectively in teams to solve complex problems,” Wright said. “This is at the heart of what outstanding employers are seeking. In terms of diversity and inclusion work, the case competition weekend offers participants and advisers the opportunity to network, hear best practices within the field and showcase talent from across the country. It’s invaluable.”