Students from Hobart and William Smith Colleges recently participated in the prestigious University of Rochester Simon Business School Early Leaders Case Competition for the third consecutive year, with five students placing as members of the top-three teams. This year, more than 80 applications were submitted for 50 seats.
“The success of HWS students in this competition is a testament to the idea that we create and develop analytical and critical thinking skills in such a way that our students can compete with the business schools,” says Pre-Business Adviser and Assistant Professor of Economics Warren Hamilton. He has been involved in this venture for the past three years and served as a judge for the past two and notes the other students in the competition were primarily business majors or from business schools.
Students from colleges and universities throughout the northeast arrive at the Simon School on a Friday, are given a case study and then each team has just 24 hours to review the case, develop a solution and prepare a presentation. On Saturday, presentations are made to a panel of judges and winners are announced at a dinner that evening. The case this year’s competitors worked on was a study done by Harvard business school about American Express and the company’s utilization of social media. Students had to come up with creative new ideas for how the company could work with social media to reach out to its customers and promote business growth.
Fourteen HWS students were accepted as Case Competition participants, with six of them on the wait-list. Sophomore Kyle Zaverton was called less than two hours before participants were to check in on Friday night and told he was being removed from the wait-list.
“The whole weekend was kind of a whirlwind experience. It was a wonderful opportunity and I was luckily to be able to take advantage of it.” says Zaverton, who echoed Hamilton’s belief in the strength of a liberal arts education. “As for being on the winning team, I think it really speaks to the applications of a Hobart and William Smith education. Despite not having a business program, the way we think gives us a competitive advantage over students coming from a more traditional business background.”
Also on the first place team was Amanda Carney ’14, who chose to participate because she wanted to apply her coursework in economics to a real-world setting that would test her skills.
“Our group didn’t get much sleep, but we were able to come up with some pretty great concepts together. Everyone played a key role in the process, and everyone brought up creative and thoughtful points,” says Carney.
The group she and Zaverton were in, along with an Ursinis student and a University of Rochester student, designed a solution around an already existing partnership between American Express, Facebook, and Foursquare through which exclusive experiences would be available to American Express cardholders. They also created a gaming aspect with an incentive for people who used the promotion the most in an effort to attract the younger consumers American Express sought.
“The greatest benefit for me of having participated in the competition is learning more about a possible career field. After this hands-on experience, I now see myself very interested in learning more about the field of consulting. It was great to experience this potential application of my economics degree from HWS, which I might not have considered before this event,” says Carney.
Nanzi Jiang ’13 and Robert Serenbetz ’14 were on the team that earned second place. Aoyu Liu ’13 was a third place team member. Denise Arroyave ’13, Alexamarie Crivelli ’14 and Jonathan Goldman ’13 were all on teams that presented case proposals. HWS students whose applications to the Case Competition were accepted and were placed on the wait list were Julie Baghajian ’15, Yuqi Ge ’14, Yang Hu ’13, Everest Wein ’14, Sara Wroblewski ’13 and Jieyu Zhou ’14.
In the past three years, the Colleges have sent 21 HWS students to the competition. All received certificates of participation for having been among the select few chosen to compete and those who were among the first, second and third place teams received monetary awards ranging from $300 to $1,000. In 2010, David Fay ’12 was on the wait-list, called in last minute and finished on the third-place team. In 2011, Adam Green ’12 also finished on the third-place team.
Hamilton notes there has been increased HWS student interest in the competition each year, so he plans to continue to field a team annually. He has created the “Early Leaders Round-table” whose mission is “to create campus-wide interest in the competition going forward and to provide a forum to discuss expectations for the event and promote future Hobart and William Smith student participation.”