A record-breaking number of 50 teams of Huskers from diverse backgrounds, countries and majors competed in the 2023 Global Case Competition hosted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln International Business Program. Students worked together to solve a business challenge focused on global food security with a case developed by Scoular, an Omaha-based company providing global agricultural supply chain solutions.
"Students got to think quickly on their feet, develop models, formulate forecasts and navigate changing legal landscapes, which are inevitable to be effective in global business," said John Kalu Osiri, director of the International Business Program, associate professor of practice in management and Robert B. Daugherty Water For Food Institute Faculty Fellow. "Working with Scoular not only exposed students to a top global cooperation in the food and agriculture sector, but it also allowed them this great hands-on learning experience."
This year's case theme sparked to life in an unforeseen way — through three guests in Osiri's Global Leadership class (BSAD 420). Nebraska Secretary of State Robert Evnen and Deputy Secretary of State Cindi Allen attended the class, where the guest speaker Mike Manga highlighted the hyperinflation economic environment in Zimbabwe. During her visit, Deputy Secretary Allen and Osiri discussed the state's efforts in international trade.
"We talked about how they create conditions and an enabling environment to support global businesses. She mentioned that Nebraska has been playing a big role in global food security," Osiri shared. "We had been discussing at our advisory board meetings that our International Business Program should further focus on global business and agriculture. Advisory board member Syl Orsi connected us to Scoular to do this, and the rest is history."
The power of Husker connections led to the competition becoming "the most inclusive and collaborative with involvement from government, business, industry professionals and academia," Osiri said. It also produced a case with an ultra-real-world situation. The students explored recommendations for how Scoular should react when Vietnam, the world's second-largest importer of meat and meat by-products, banned the importation of mixed species products from the European market. Scoular provided access to their company strategy, data and challenges.
Deputy Secretary Allen and supply chain and food security expert Manga returned to serve as judges alongside 35 other professionals and advisory board members. After three rounds of judging, the team that presented the most well-rounded recommendations were Grant Cope, junior economics major; Aidan Linder, junior supply chain management major; and Nolan Johnson, junior economics and political science major, all from the Omaha area. Judges, including Joe Thompson, vice president and senior associate general counsel at Scoular, noted they seemed to have the most intuitive sense about what needed to happen.
"Our team strategy was to first to hammer out our knowledge of the case and dig into the numbers before we worked on our presentation. We each looked at the situation from a different lens because of our majors," said Cope. "Brainstorming came easier to us because we've been friends since high school and know what each brings to the table.
While the trio won the grand prize, judges mentioned the quality of the top four teams. Kyle Canning, product group manager of animal products, developed the case and shared feedback with them, focusing on their strengths and opportunities.
"I was impressed. Often in group projects in college, you'll see one or two people carry a team. These top teams had depth where I could ask any of them a question about anything and get a really smart answer," said Canning. "I think they each came from a unique and valuable perspective that would add value to any organization."
The top four teams included:
- First-Place ($5,000): Grant Cope, junior economics major from Omaha, Nebraska; Aidan Linder, junior supply chain management major from Gretna, Nebraska; and Nolan Johnson, junior economics and political science major from Omaha
- Second Place ($3,000): Chase Kavanaugh, junior accounting major from Lincoln, Nebraska; Nick Lauver, senior actuarial science and finance major from Papillion, Nebraska; Eduardo Sicilia, junior management major from Cancún, Mexico; and Braden Starck, junior finance major from Glen Carbon, Illinois
- Third Place ($1,500): Erica Gesner, senior international business major from Allen, Texas; Lauren Hargreaves, senior management major from Dunedin, Florida; and Morgan Scherrer, senior international business major from Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- Fourth Place ($500): Martin Little, senior international business major from Lincoln; Hannah Osborn, senior management major from Dwight, Nebraska; Alison Steger, senior management major from Eagan, Minnesota; and Brody Thomson, junior business administration major from Menomonie, Wisconsin
The competition was open to all students though most participants came from two classes: International Management (MNGT 414 - Online) and Global Issues (BSAD 320 - In-Person). The first place team not only came from outside the class, but it was also their first time participating in a case competition.
"We heard about this competition from the College of Business Instagram account. We didn't really know what we were getting into here, but now that we've done it, we should get more involved with other opportunities. That would be my advice for anyone — if you see it advertised by the school and think you could possibly do it, just go for it," said Johnson.
To learn more about the International Business Program, visit: https://business.unl.edu/ib.
Published: May 8, 2023