When GW School of Business Associate Professor Stuart Levy assigned a group project to his Event and Conference Management class, the athletes in the course naturally gravitated to one another.
Students Liam Gallagher, Jatin Nayyar, Lexi Schroepfer, Annie Shipley and Matan Showstack all came from sports backgrounds and were well versed in how to come together for a common goal. So, when one group member would need an assist writing the executive summary or marketing plan, another would slide in to fill the role—just like a help-side defender coming in to help on the post in basketball.
Their project was to put together a hypothetical event, and the group chose to create a conference on mental health in athletes. They hammered home the nitty-gritty details—who would be speaking, what companies would they ask to be sponsors and more.
They turned in their final project, a nearly 30-page paper, for Levy to submit to the Professional Convention Management Association. To their surprise, they were accepted to attend the PCMA Convening Leaders Conference and became the first GW group to win the prestigious PCMA Global Student Competition.
“The biggest thing that helped us was communication,” said Nayyar, a rising senior business administration major at George Washington University. “With our backgrounds, we knew how to handle this experience.”
This quintet was the latest GW Business team to find success at a case competition, where participants work in teams to develop the possible best solution to a business-related case study.
In the past few years, GW Business has had strong placements in case competitions and has sent numerous students to external competitions. Some of those have included the finance and investment focused McGill International Portfolio Challenge, where last year GW placed in the top 25 globally out of 96 teams, the Intercollegiate Business Strategy Competition, where the Zen by GW team earned "best overall" and "best documents" awards out of the 22 teams from four countries that participated, the McDonough Business Strategy Challenge, the Wharton Undergraduate Consulting Conference, the Black MBA Association Case Competition, the National Diversity Case Competition, the International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition, the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators competition and Cornell’s Undergraduate Women in Investing Conference.
GW has had high placements in many of these competitions, including first place for best overall performance at the International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition in April.
GW rising senior Anna Shah, an international business major, has participated in five case competitions, mainly because they give her an opportunity to apply what she’s learning in the classroom to real-world scenarios.
She has also enjoyed the nicheness of them, as she’s participated in ones catered to ethics, sustainability, fashion and business strategy. The co-founder of POP! (short for Power of the Purse), a women-founded thrift shop that focuses on sustainability and affordability, Shah has gotten a great deal out of the competitions and their diverse subject areas.
“You need to think quickly under pressure, but you also have very creative out of the box ideas because you want to have a competitive advantage,” Shah said. “All these skills have been super useful in terms of growing my business, but also thinking [about] it from an analytical and financial standpoint.”
Faculty and staff members work closely with the teams, but they enjoy getting a bird's-eye view of the very hands-on approach from the students who put their heads together to come up with ideas and solutions.
“It’s a good way to learn how to listen to people who are as ambitious as you are,” said Anna Helm, teaching associate professor of international business and Center for International Business Education and Research (GW-CIBER) director. “They go deep in the research. They have to divide and conquer and come together holistically. There are a lot of ways to shine.”
In addition, GW Business has maintained an annual collaboration with Deloitte’s Core Consulting Series that serves as an introduction to case competitions, with a multi-week learning and mentorship program culminating in a competition open to many GW students.
Students appreciate the chance to step out of the box and, especially for those with competitive backgrounds, compete. They also recognize the professional development opportunities that case competitions offer and realize that in the process, they are being well prepared for their business futures ahead.
“It’s one of those things that I’ll find out when [these skills] are needed when the time comes,” Nayyar said, “and I know I will be ready.”