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Guelph-Humber business students see success down under
Abbey Vivian Molina, Jessica Samra, Raj Khatri, and Hailey Del Papa
For most university students, the summer break is a well-earned opportunity to rest, relax, and recharge after a challenging academic year. But instead of taking a breather, four University of Guelph-Humber students spent the recent summer break getting down to business, spending hours preparing to travel to Australia to compete against other top universities in the University of Technology Sydney Global Case Competition.
Guelph-Humber Business students Hailey Del Papa, Raj Khatri, Abbey Vivian Molina, and Jessica Samra recently represented Guelph-Humber at the global case competition, where they went up against students from 14 top global business schools to create the best solutions to two real-world business cases.
To ensure they were up to the task, the students volunteered hundreds of hours of their own time over the summer for weekly virtual training sessions, as well as several week-long, in-person “bootcamps” they held on campus.
Making that schedule work meant making serious sacrifices — but all of the competitors felt the competition was worth it.
“I decided to give up my summer for a chance to present, learn, and grow alongside some of the most intelligent minds of the time,” Khatri said.
“It was also a point of pride for me to represent not only my university, but also my country, which is why sacrificing my summer was not a major issue for me. I’d rather grow and become a solid representative of Guelph-Humber and Canada as well. It’s an honour, so to me, it wasn’t a sacrifice.”
The team’s tireless work paid off. The University of Guelph-Humber finished in second place at the competition, further establishing Guelph-Humber’s growing reputation as a top-performing university at prestigious international case competitions.
Track record of success
With the team’s result at the University of Technology Sydney Global Case Competition, Guelph-Humber has now won a medal at major global case competitions for eight straight years.
Over that time, Guelph-Humber’s international case competition program has placed in the Top 3 in competitions at Harvard University, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Dalhousie University, the University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Prince Edward Island, among others. Guelph-Humber’s teams have traveled to compete in many countries including South Africa, Germany, Guatemala, and the United States, and Guelph-Humber has now placed in the top half of every competition it has competed in.
At the most recent competition in Sydney, the team was tasked with solving two cases. In the first, they were given six hours to come up with a creative solution to a problem presented by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, while in the final round, they were given 24 hours to create and present a business solution for QBE Insurance.
It was also a point of pride for me to represent not only my university, but also my country, which is why sacrificing my summer was not a major issue for me. I’d rather grow and become a solid representative of Guelph-Humber and Canada as well. It’s an honour, so to me, it wasn’t a sacrifice.
To prepare them to perform under such pressure, Guelph-Humber’s team created a practice environment that mimicked the intensity of the real competition.
That’s why the group decided that it was important to gather in-person on campus for those intensive in-person “bootcamp” sessions, despite hailing from different hometowns around Ontario.
Each time they got together, the group would tackle a four-to-12-hour practice case, setting hard deadlines for themselves to simulate the conditions they would face in Australia.
“Our preparation process started off with a lot of trial and error — learning each other’s weaknesses and strengths, understanding dynamics, working on time management, and presentation flow,” Molina said. “The sessions, although they were long and stressful, also gave the team an opportunity to bond with one another and really encompass the tightness of community that our university is about.
“I personally worked full-time during the summer and did three online classes on top of the case team schedule, and it was honestly worth every last second. Our team's dynamic even through the stressful moments is what makes me not feel like I ‘sacrificed’ anything during my summer.”
Even the Guelph-Humber faculty who volunteer their time to coach and mentor the case competitors were impressed by the group’s devotion.
“The team was exceptionally motivated to prepare over the summer,” said Hailey Zysman, who teaches in Guelph-Humber’s Business program and volunteered to train the competitors. “This competition was across the world, and logistics mattered. The team had to shift their time zones in advance of the competition to prepare for arrival on the day of the opening ceremonies. They spent an extra 35 hours travelling on the way there, researching and preparing for the competition during their flights and layovers.”
“What surprised me about the team was the request for additional training sessions throughout the summer to further develop their core competencies,” added Business Program Head Justin Medak.
“Each student made significant sacrifices — including work shifts, friendships, and free time — for the primary goal of placing Top 3 at this competition.”
The word sacrifice is not how Hailey De Papa, who was recognized with an award as best speaker at the competition, would describe her summer.
“I don’t like to think about it as a sacrifice, but more of an investment,” Del Papa said. “I invest my time to create meaningful connections with various executives across the world and train my brain to solve issues in a meticulous and calculated way.”
And it helps that the group genuinely enjoyed the case competition collaboration.
“We worked together, built a foundation of learning, challenged our minds, and ate lots of snacks while we were at it,” Del Papa said.
A result to build on
The Guelph-Humber students who competed were ultimately pleased not only with their result, but also the learning opportunities that came with attempting to solve real issues facing real companies.
Of course, they also relished the chance to visit a country they otherwise might never have had the opportunity to see. Top sightseeing destinations for the group included the Sydney Opera House, the Anzac Memorial, and the famously picturesque Sydney Harbour.
“I had always dreamt of visiting Australia,” Del Papa said. “I am so incredibly grateful that I have had the opportunity to visit.”
Ultimately, there was no doubt among the four competitors that spending much of their summer preparing for case-competition success was time well spent.
“The competition was one of the greatest experiences in my academic career so far,” Samra said. “I will definitely take a lot away from this experience, but the number one thing is confidence in my ability to generate and present ideas in an intense business setting.
“For the University of Guelph-Humber to allocate time, money and resources for four students to travel across the world speaks to the amount of dedication the school has to provide its students with the best possible education.”
“The competition was truly an amazing experience,” Del Papa added. “The competition provided me with relevant experience that will not only benefit me in my academic and professional career, but also in my social life.
“I am so incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to compete in this competition. It was truly a life-changing event.”