UConn Hosts CIBER Case Challenge

CIBER Case Challenge participants gather around the Husky statue on the UConn Storrs campus for a quick photo. (Arminda Kamphausen/UConn School of Business)

Unique Competition Requires Strong Knowledge; Fosters Quick Team Bonding, Personal Growth

The UConn Center for International Business and Education Research (CIBER) held its 14th Annual Case Challenge in October and the event included business case brainstorming, forging new friendships and a day trip to Boston.

“Each year we choose a case which provides students with the opportunity to learn about an international or global business issue and to advance their skills as they deal with a problem that stretches both their formal education and their personal growth,” said Arminda Kamphausen, associate director of the CIBER program.

This year students had to address the future direction of a company that distributes clothes to the needy in India. They were asked to determine whether the organization should continue as a nonprofit or become a revenue-generating business. At the same time, they investigated whether the program should be duplicated in other countries. The case study is based on a real company dilemma.

“This year we asked students to reflect upon the very important issue of social ventures, their scalability and the place of revenue building and traditional business plans in sustaining them,” Kamphausen said.

“In addition, they learned a great deal about the fascinating country of India, which is sure to play an important part in their futures as global business professionals,” she said. “The judges were all impressed with what these bright students, with all their creativity and innovation, brought to their presentations.”

Unlike traditional case challenges, CIBER’s event forms teams of students from different colleges, giving them the real-world experience of working with new colleagues.

“It was overwhelming at first, meeting students from different universities, and the uncertainty of how your group will be,” said Kahan Soni, a UConn junior majoring in finance, who was on the winning team. “But we knew that we had to give all we can. All of our team members were running on seven hours of sleep in three days! There were many times we had conflicts. It was a bumpy ride where we gave it our best, and in the end it was all worth it.”

Other UConn participants included: Jake Walker, Luke Harper and Aaron Smith.

“The CIBER case challenge is an incredible experience for everyone involved, participants, student workers, and volunteers,” said Manny Harden, event chair and a senior majoring in management and entrepreneurship. “The participants have the opportunity to not only work on their analytical and public speaking skills, but to do so with a global perspective when working with international students.

“The world is constantly becoming smaller and the next generation of business professionals will not even be conscious of the words ‘international business’ because it will be the status quo of any and all business. This case challenge is a fantastic learning experience and applicable to every work environment,” he said.

In addition to Kamphausen, Kelly Kennedy, associate director of student development and outreach, helped prepare the UConn students. CIBER office assistants Kimberly Mentryka; Maximilian Karsanow; Mike Schweitzer and Hunter Dupont helped organize the competition.

During the event, Oct. 13-15, the students visited Boston and enjoyed a Duck Boat tour and a visit to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, as well as dinner with a panel of global business professionals from Henkel. Student participants came from: University of Maryland; University of Trento, Italy; Florida State; Belmont; Bryant; San Diego State; University of Vermont; Bowie State (Maryland) and Purdue.

UConn faculty judges included: accounting professors Mohamed Hussein and Christopher Miller, management professor David Noble, and marketing professor Joseph Pancras. Executive judges were: Heidi Bailey (LEGO Group), Kevin Bechard (Manchester Community College), Phil Ferrari (Virginia Industries Inc.), Bob Kennedy (Citigroup), Ying Liu (UTC), David Freeman (Loctite Corporation), David Mielke (PwC) and Robert Werner (Timex Watches Ltd.).