At this year’s Early Leader Case Competition (ELCC), hosted by the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester, HWS students led their teams to finish in first, second and third place. The 12 students from HWS, who were selected to compete against students from some of the top business schools across the country for only 50 spots, brought their liberal arts approach to the challenges and opportunities facing global business leaders.
After arriving on Friday, Nov. 4, students were split into randomly assigned teams and given until 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to review a case, develop recommendations, and create a presentation to be given to a panel of judges who critiqued and challenged their proposals. This year’s challenge: Develop a business plan for Fitbit to increase and diversify the company’s revenue.
Assistant Professor of Economics Warren Hamilton, who judged the competition for the sixth year, says HWS’ success was a combination of “critical thinking and analytical skills” that are unique to the liberal arts mindset. He also said that the ability of HWS students to provide depth and clarity to their recommendations made their presentations stand out.
The students included first-place team member Angel Salas-Espana ’18; second-place team members Rebecca McDonald ’20 and Kyle Baradzi ’18; and, third-place team member Mary Catherine Kowalsky ’18. Other HWS students attending included Dominique DeRubeis ’18, Christian Higgins ’17, Brett Friedberg ’18, Sam Solomon ’17, Soren Anders-Macleod ’18, Emily Ott ’17, Charlie Carr ’18 and Lanlan Lin ’17.
They competed with students from the University of Rochester, University of Massachusetts, Knox College, Ursinus College, Alfred University, Hartwick College, Rochester Institute of Technology, Clarkson University, Lewis & Clark College, University of Richmond, University of Connecticut, Carnegie-Mellon University and SUNY-Brockport. More than 100 students applied to fill the 50 available seats, and were selected based on an application including their resume, transcript, and their post-graduate plans in business.
“My approach centered on being practical and logical but at the same time innovative,” says Salas-Espana. His team’s winning proposal showed how Fitbit can help corporations make smarter decisions about healthcare packages for their employees using the data collected by a Fitbit wearer. They also recommended corporate partnerships and the possibility of healthcare providers encouraging the use of Fitbits to improve their assessment of patients.
DeRubeis, whose group proposed marketing to gamers, says the most challenging part of the competition was “idea consolidation…. We probably had five different directions we could go in and not enough time to distill the pros and cons of each, so we went with the idea we liked most,” she says.
DeRubeis adds that she gained skills throughout the weekend. “I developed confidence and I have a better understanding of how I work under pressure with a group and in front of an audience.”
The ELCC competition was started 10 years ago. HWS has participated for the past seven years.