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Helping Business students thrive at case competitions
Photo courtesy of Justin Medak
Whether competing in a case competition or standing on a baseball diamond, Justin Medak knows a thing or two about pitching.
As far as baseball, he’s a southpaw who has played every year since he was five years old. And as the University of Guelph-Humber’s Assistant Program Head of Business, he has helped steer our teams of case competitors to new heights of success.
Medak has never been shy about getting involved at school. As a high-schooler in Etobicoke, his extracurriculars were extensive: he was president of the Peer Ministry Organization; he was part of a group called God Squad that travelled the streets of Toronto handing out sandwiches to the homeless; he was part of Free the Children, which raised money to build schools in developing countries; he was on the baseball team; and he was a member of two championship mock-trial teams. He even read the announcements over the PA every morning.
“It’s so important to get involved in extracurricular activities,” Medak said. “It’s something that stands out when employers look at your resume.
“It’s fun at the same time but will also serve the purpose of helping a student find a job down the road once they leave Guelph-Humber.”
Medak was similarly committed to being involved as an undergraduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University. As a student, Medak completed co-op placements with Parmalat and Labatt Breweries, enjoying his time with both companies. That led to an opportunity with Deloitte, the major international accounting firm where Medak would work for five instructive years after graduating.
In the meantime, Medak didn’t want to stray far from the world of academia. Just over a year after he graduated, he was back on campus teaching. He was only 23 at the time teaching a second-year managerial accounting class in which the students weren’t much younger than he was. He had “never been more nervous” than he was teaching that first class, but he instantly discovered his passion for it.
“I knew that was something I wanted to do full-time from the end of that very first class I taught,” Medak said.
He has now taught 75 university courses. Medak began teaching in the Business program at UofGH in 2012 and became Assistant Program Head in 2013. One of his focuses here has been helping to boost UofGH’s success at case competitions.
Medak estimates he spent around 500 hours last year working with school clubs and societies, 200 of which were dedicated to two specific case competitions. In helping students prepare for the difficult competitions, he often does extensive research on his own, reading textbooks to try to find relevant information for his teams.
The work paid off. Last year, UofGH had its best year of case competitions, finishing with 17 first-place finishes to set a new high mark for the school. In the past three years, UofGH has won 70 top 3 finishes. Seeing the students succeed makes Medak “so proud.”
“I liken it to a parental relationship almost,” he said. “When you see they’re struggling and making mistakes early on and then they come out with a clean presentation or a great idea, nothing makes you more proud.
“I believe that the Business program is developing a legacy around case competitions and other universities, nationally and internationally, are starting to notice the amount of work we put in and the number of Top 3 finishes.”
Part of Medak’s teaching philosophy is integrating those cases into his classes to give students a chance to immediately apply textbook theory to real-life scenarios. He keeps in touch with many alumni to see how well-prepared they feel for professional life after UofGH.
“It’s great to catch up with them and see how they’re progressing,” he said. “It’s exciting to see how what they learned in our university is helping them in their careers.”