Not only did UConn senior Rebecca Frutos win two awards at the 11th Annual UConn CIBER Case Challenge, but she ended the competition with a network of new friends across the globe.
“It was such a good experience,” she said. “All of us came at this project with completely different perspectives. We played off everyone’s strengths and knowledge, and that made our presentation even better.”
The case competition is one of many programs that the University offers as a result of its designation by the U.S. Department of Education as a Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). The goal of CIBER programs is to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. businesses in the global marketplace.
One of the unique aspects of this competition, said CIBER Director Kelly Aceto, is that teams are composed of students from different universities, who must quickly bond as colleagues as well as devise their strategies. Each team had at least one international student from either Italy or Japan.
“We do this so the students have the opportunity to network with their future peers and colleagues in the business world,” Aceto said. “They learn to work as a team and reflect on how others analyze business. They come from different cultures, they bring varied styles and different knowledge, and they have to become a team and make it work.”
Participating universities included: Belmont in Nashville, Tenn., Bryant in Smithfield, R.I., Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., Rikkyo in Tokyo, Japan, San Diego State, University of North Carolina and University of Trento in Italy.
The students were assigned a case study in which Amazon.com was selecting a new region in which to expand its business, either China, India or Brazil.
Frutos’ team, called 4Sight Consulting, identified India as the place with the best opportunity for growth. Her teammates included: So Ikeya of Rikkyo, Steven Bell of Belmont and Haoshi Cheng of UNC. They had just 24 hours to complete their case.
“The case was very challenging, but also very enjoyable,” said Frutos, who is a management major with a concentration in international business. “Emerging markets is one of my biggest interests.”
Their presentation won the top award and, in addition, Frutos won the award for best question-and-answer session. “They asked some tough questions about why we chose the India market, and I had to present our analysis,” she said. “It was nerve-wracking. I didn’t think I did that well. They asked challenging questions and I really didn’t expect to win.”
Frutos, a native of Newtown, Conn., is vice president of administration for the UConn chapter of Pi Sigma Epsilon, the national marketing and sales fraternity, and works as a student marketing manager for Coca-Cola on campus.
Other UConn students who participated in the competition included: JungMin Lee, Gui Wu and Emily Vasington.
The four-day competition in October was open to undergraduate business students. Each college was asked to send four students from different disciplines. A week in advance, students were assigned their teams and given a software that allowed them to exchange information and begin to get to know each other.
The first full-day on campus involved team-building exercises and ice breakers, such as building towers out of marshmallows and spaghetti, and having races while blindfolded and carrying a ping-pong ball on a spoon. In the afternoon, the 36 participants went to Mystic Aquarium for a scavenger hunt. By then they were becoming friends and discovering each other’s strengths, Aceto said.
Another unusual aspect of the UConn case competition is that it is student-managed, with UConn students handling logistics, coordinating volunteers and arranging to host the students during their stay.
The Student Management Team included Kara Bordieri, chair; Eric Czapor, competition day manager; Tyler Delano, judge liaison; James Huang, activities manager; Sarah McManama, team host manager and Juli Rodrigues, public relations manager. The competition judges included professors and local business executives.
This fall, the CIBER program at UConn received a four-year grant in excess of $1.1 million to produce a series of programs and partnerships that center around manufacturing. The competition was the first of those programs, which serve students, faculty and the broader business community.
Frutos said she has kept in touch with the friends that she has made through the competition via Facebook and LinkedIn, and especially enjoyed hearing the foreign students’ impressions as they continued their travels in the United States.