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UofGH takes home international case competition championship
A team from the University of Guelph-Humber has won the prestigious Network of International Business Schools (NIBS) Worldwide Case Competition. UofGH Business students Agam Sharma, Justin Mihaly, Sierra Zinni and Mairi Dinnin defeated 15 teams from universities across the globe to claim the championship this March.
The NIBS Worldwide Case Competition is one of the oldest undergraduate competitions of its kind. Students analyze real-world global business challenges and present recommendations to a panel of judges comprised of business leaders, policymakers and entrepreneurs.
“I'm so proud of their accomplishments and their growth,” said Acting Program Head of Business Justin Medak, who coached the team alongside Business instructor Hailey Zysman.
“We're asking them to be the best students in the world at critically analyzing a business problem and solving it to a panel of experts. That is a big ask that requires pushing their boundaries beyond what they think their academic limits are to really understand what is happening in the business world and provide practical solutions,” said Medak.
Zysman added, “It feels incredible to see the students win an international competition as prestigious as NIBS. I have watched them develop their skills throughout the year and they truly deserve it.”
The road to victory
The team has been hard at work since the fall with weekly training and feedback sessions.
“This team’s success is a result of their dedication and unwavering focus,” said Zysman. “The students have been training since September, with weekly training sessions and occasional boot camps. Outside of their practice sessions, the students reflect on what they have learned in their other courses and through the news.”
During the weeklong competition, which was hosted online by the University of Northern Iowa, UofGH placed first in their division through two rounds of competition. They then went head-to-head with three other teams in the Championship Final. Each team presented solutions to help knitting company We Are Knitters achieve global success.
“Unlike a class assignment there is no given rubric that needs to be followed in order to successfully solve a business case,” explained third-year student Sierra Zinni. “A clear answer is sometimes unknown, and it is your ability to effectively defend your course of action that will set you apart from the competing teams.”
The UofGH team presented ideas including a monthly seasonal craft subscription box and new mobile app. The team also proposed the company partner with First Nations artists to create beading kits, as well as partner with schools to help students with disabilities improve their fine motor skills.
“Our team had only 10 hours to read, analyze and solve the case,” explained fourth-year student Justin Mihaly. “You need to have a good awareness of how long tasks are going to take and how to best use your time. Being aware of the importance of time management while doing the case was truly the key to our success.”
Applauded for their creativity, innovation and realistic goals, UofGH was crowned the champions—a moment that made months of hard work well worth it.
“After much time and dedication, it is extremely rewarding to come away with the first-place victory,” said Zinni. “My team and I have worked vigorously to get to where we are today and to be recognized on an international level is a tremendous success.”
“Our team has been training for months non-stop and throughout it all there has been immense sacrifice and blood, sweat and tears throughout the way,” added Mihaly. “Hearing our names announced as the winners was truly one of the happiest moments of my undergraduate experience as all of our hard work had paid off.”
An unforgettable experience
While the victory was the perfect cap to their experience, the students also appreciated how much they learned throughout the year.
“The biggest thing that I have learned is how to analyze a company and create a solution,” said second-year student Mairi Dinnin. “I have learned so much through this experience, from working within a group in a competitive environment, presenting in front of a crowd and executing a case study.”
“After all the hard work from the hours of practice with my team and the endless support from our coaches, it feels indescribable. It really is an incredible feeling to see my team accomplish this victory,” Dinnin added.
Along with the team championship, fourth-year student Agam Sharma was named Best Individual Presenter—the first time a UofGH student has won the award.
“The team and I put in a tremendous amount of effort prior to the case competition. As we progressed through each competitive round, it became very important for me to remember the higher ideal I pitched for myself, which in essence was to perform at the best of my abilities, with the sole purpose of representing my university on the world stage,” said Sharma.
“The dedication both of our coaches have placed on the entire team is truly inspirational. I cannot thank them enough, especially for taking the time to polish me to the extent of not only performing at the case competition but also towards my professional career. The experience has been the highlight of my undergraduate studies.”
The team will be back in action at the Central European Case Competition, where UofGH will look to add to its case competition success. The latest victory marks UofGH’s second NIBS championship and the sixth first-place victory in major international case competitions. These achievements, said Medak, highlight UofGH Business students putting their knowledge into practice.
“Our focus is on blending academic theory and knowledge with hands-on learning that you would traditionally find in a college setting,” said Medak. “That's what these students were able to showcase: theory and practice coming together. It showed in their solutions, and it showed in their presentations. It really highlights the strength of the Guelph-Humber Business program.”