University of Vermont

Business School Students Gain Skills While Advancing to Finals of Case Competitions

Kristen Caron and Greg Van Kleeck
Team members Kristen Caron and Greg Van Kleeck placed first in the ethics division of the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition at the Queen's School of Business in Kingston, Ontario.

Business students' time investment in practicing for and competing in case competitions, an initiative championed by Dean Sanjay Sharma, is starting to pay dividends. With more than 40 students having participated in competitions across the globe since the fall of 2012, UVM has established itself as a rising power on the case competition circuit.

Funded by members of the School of Business Administration’s board of advisers, teams from the university have advanced past the preliminary rounds of three major case events and are headed to the finals of the Royal Roads University International Undergraduate Case Competition (RRUIUCC) in Victoria, British Columbia; CaseIT in Vancouver; and the Network of International Business Schools Case Competition in London.

“The opportunity to exercise critical thinking and apply academic frameworks to real-world business scenarios is unique,” says senior Tim Helman, who is headed to London. “Competing on an international stage will help us learn not only about various regions and industries but also help understand different perspectives on commonly faced challenges in business. Demonstrating the ability to think on our feet to make specific recommendations is a skill that will benefit us all through graduation and beyond."

The success in these events comes on the heels of a major victory at the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition at the Queen's School of Business in Kingston, Ontario – one of the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate business competitions in the world. Team members Kristen Caron and Greg Van Kleeck placed first in the ethics division out of six finalists, including teams from McGill University, Queens University, Sheridan College, Okanagan College and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"Case competitions have provided an important opportunity to sharpen analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, presentation skills, and time management capabilities," said Van Kleeck. "They allow us to integrate academic frameworks from all functional areas of business and apply them to real-world business scenarios. Not only are the case competitions a great way to further expand upon what is learned in the classroom; they also allow us to strengthen the skills and abilities that are needed in highly competitive, post-graduate job markets."

Faculty members Rocki DeWitt, David Jones, Cathy Beaudoin, Hugh Marble, Marti Woodman and Dann Van Der Vliet have helped coach and critique the team while Thomas Chittenden has served as the coordinator of all of the case teams and events. Some of the topics that UVM teams have excelled at include ethics, family business and management information systems.

“These competitions prepare students for the business world in a number of key areas,” says Sharma. “They are competing with schools from different cultural backgrounds with a different strategic focus, so they learn how to compete against people from other countries who are trained in a different tradition and have a different way of thinking and doing business. They also build confidence. When students start they are shy and inhibited when having to present to judges from business and industry, but by the end of it they are much more confident and have acquired important presentation and communication skills.”

The establishment of UVM’s Global Family Enterprise Case Competition by Sharma and Professor Pramodita Sharma, co-author the book Entrepreneurial Family Firms (2010) and editor of the leading journal Family Business Review, has put UVM at the forefront of family business-based case competitions.

 “In my opinion, this has been a very successful effort placing our most engaged students on local, national and international stages representing the University of Vermont with grace, poise and professionalism,” says Chittenden.