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UofGH qualifies for semifinals at CFO Case Competition in South Africa

UofGH's team poses with Justin Medak

The University of Guelph-Humber has qualified for the semifinals of the prestigious and deeply competitive CFO Case Study Competition, giving three UofGH students and one alumnus the opportunity to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa on an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in the final rounds.

In all, 1,800 students on 450 teams from 42 countries and six continents began the CFO Case Study Competition on March 1. Of that huge number, only six schools were selected for the semifinal round, with UofGH being joined by teams from Hong Kong, Nigeria, Germany and South Africa.

UofGH students Cristina Morrone, Pankush Jhamat and Conor Kelly and alumnus Marco di Stefano will represent the University at the competition. Although the University of Guelph-Humber has achieved tremendous success in case competitions in recent years, the CFO competition will mark the very first time that UofGH competes outside North America in an external case competition.

“The success in the CFO competition shows the maturity of the case competition program at UofGH,” said Justin Medak, the Assistant Program Head of Business at UofGH who personally trains and prepares the University’s case competitors. “Over the past few years, we have competed at Harvard (third place), Wharton (second place), Dalhousie (first place two years in a row) and made the quarter-finals of the Network of International Business Schools Worldwide Case Competition in Guatemala.

“We are quickly becoming global leaders in undergraduate business case competitions.”

A world of experience

The University of Guelph-Humber team began preparing for this case competition in March, spending two months readying a submission for the competition’s first round. The team analyzed a case involving the company AB InBev, which was looking to expand business into Africa. Together, the team drafted a 15-page board report that covered areas including finance, ethics, innovation and leadership. After the UofGH contingent advanced to the next round of 20 teams, they submitted a PowerPoint as well as a 10-minute and a one-minute video presentation.

The upcoming semifinal round will require the team to present a 10-minute PowerPoint live to a mock board, followed by a 15-minute Q-and-A session.

For students, there are many deeply compelling benefits to participating in case competitions: the awards look compelling on a resume; the competitions provide extensive networking opportunities with judges and fellow students; and the competitions help build teamwork and leadership skills as well as business acumen.

Moreover, there is simply no substitute for overcoming the pressure of a presentation in front of a panel of critical business experts.

“Case competitions have helped me tremendously in both my academic and professional life,” Morrone said. “In my academic life, I have learned concepts from case competitions that I have been able to apply directly to my coursework. Before participating in case competitions I was very shy and afraid to deliver presentations in front of people. But through training for and participating in case competitions, I have become more comfortable with presentations.

“My experiences in case competitions also helped me land my summer internship and other work and volunteer opportunities. In interviews I am able to provide examples and speak to working in teams, working under time constraints and pressure, problem solving, and delivering presentations.”

Di Stefano found that even though he is now immersed in industry, coming back as an alumnus to assist the team has been an educational experience.

“It’s a combination of wanting to give back and support UofGH, and also wanting to continue learning,” said Di Stefano, a retail accountant who obtained his master’s of accountancy after graduation.

“I bring some new perspectives to the team, having undergone the CPA process and working in industry, but the current students keep me sharp and are bringing fresh technical ideas and phenomenal slide decks. The entire competition is really helping me continue to improve my skillset.”

In total, four team members have achieved 22 top 3 victories in external case competitions.

“The team members have excellent synergy, determination and their collaborative approach to solving cases is what has helped them make the top six teams,” Medak said.

“I am very proud of their success to date.”

How you can help lift UofGH to victory

While the UofGH team works overtime to prepare for the competition, the rest of the University of Guelph-Humber community has a role to play as well.

The top six universities are competing in a 65-day social media challenge until Sept. 15. Each team has produced a video, and the three teams to receive the most “likes” and “shares” will receive a five, three or one per cent boost in their judges’ score during the semifinals.

That could be a pivotal advantage, so UofGH students are encouraged to give the team a huge assist by clicking “share” and “like” on the University of Guelph-Humber’s submission on Facebook.

In the meantime, the competitors will continue diligently preparing.

“The opportunity to travel to South Africa and participate in this competition means a lot to me,” Morrone said. “South Africa is likely not a place I would be able to go on my own, so having the competition sponsor the team and provide us with travel and accommodations is really amazing.

“To present our ideas in front of highly esteemed executives and CFOs of international companies, it is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”