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UofGH students to compete in inaugural Canada Comeback Challenge
A team of 10 University of Guelph-Humber students from three programs will participate in the inaugural Canada Comeback Challenge, a national student team competition that will create up to 10,000 new work-integrated learning opportunities for students this fall.
The competition tasks teams with creating solutions to real business problems submitted by employers with one goal: hastening Canada’s economic recovery.
These are the students who will be representing UofGH when the competition begins Oct. 18:
- Ashley (Thao) Cao – third year, Business
- Emma Danaher – fourth year, Justice Studies
- Alexis Del Papa – fourth year, Business
- Mairi Dinnin – first year, Business
- Victoria Duarte – fourth year Justice Studies
- Safoorah Forde – third year, Early Childhood Studies
- Jessica Gomes – fourth year, Business
- Fiona Mahadeo – second year Justice Studies
- Nishanth Puvanendran – third year, Business
- Ana Sasic – second year, Business
Supported by the Federal Government, the Canada Comeback Challenge presents students with the chance to choose between the non-for-profit, public and private sectors and to then select a challenge from a list of approximately 80.
UofGH’s team chose the CNIB Foundation, a non-profit advocating for the blind. Their challenge? In the age of COVID-19, they must find new and innovative ways to either minimize the need for touching surfaces in public spaces, or make it safer for people impacted by blindness.
“COVID-19 completely disrupted the case competition circuit with many competitions deciding not to run in a virtual format this year. Given the success of the University of Guelph-Humber case competition program in recent years, we did not want to take a year off, rather this gave us a chance to revisit and develop a new program based on the competitions being offered,” said Acting Program Head of Business Justin Medak, who has for years devoted hours to prepping and training UofGH’s case competition teams.
“When I found out about the Canada Comeback Challenge, I thought it would be a perfect fit for our students given the University of Guelph-Humber’s focus on experiential learning and emphasis on integrating theory and practice. The Canada Comeback Challenge allows students to apply their theory in a real and meaningful way to support these companies.”
Adjusting to an online environment
UofGH’s team has just begun meeting and preparing for the competition – virtually, of course.
Coaching the team alongside Medak this year is Hailey Zysman, a UofGH alum who competed in and won UofGH’s first international business case competition as a student in 2011, took part in international mooting and mediation competitions for Osgoode Hall Law School following her graduation.
Now, she practices as a lawyer and teaches Business Law in the Business program.
“Participating in competitions was the highlight of both my undergrad and law school experiences,” Zysman said. “In addition to the valuable skills learned through participation in competitions such as the Canada Comeback Challenge, students can distinguish themselves in their successes on the national and international level.”
UofGH has had tremendous recent success in external case competitions, including 61 first-place finishes in the past four years alone. UofGH also became the first North American University ever to win the prestigious CFO Case Study Competition in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2019 (before being accepted into the upcoming final rounds again in 2020). The University of Guelph-Humber has also come out on top in case competitions held at Harvard University in Boston, Wharton University in Philadelphia and Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Though it’s very early in the team’s preparation phase, some of the students taking part say they’re already benefiting from participating.
“With just a couple of practices alone, I have already gained so many insights, tips and tricks on how I can present better to a panel of judges. I’ve learned more about the expectations in the business industry, as well gained so much more knowledge about the field in general from Justin Medak, Hailey Zyman, Jessica and Alexis,” said Puvanendran.
Other students pointed out the excellent networking opportunities the competition presents.
“We have a chance to connect with many employers and mentors who are looking for talented students,” Cao said. “The best thing within the group is the opportunity to work with these wonderful minds and to listen to different perspectives about the same problem.”
And a more intangible benefit for the students taking part? The competition gives them another opportunity to connect with one another despite not seeing each other in person.
“So far, I have gotten to know some amazing people from the Business and Justice Studies programs that I would have never met if it wasn't for the competition,” Sasic pointed out. “I have also gotten a lot better with my problem-solving skills and the ability to present my thoughts in a professional way using Business terminology.
“I decided to participate in the Canada Comeback Challenge because I want my university experience to be more than just classes,” she added.
“And I wanted to be a part of a small group of very dedicated and hard-working students who I can learn a lot from.”