PSU-LV teams capture first and second place in collegiate case competition

Students holding trophy in front of lion mosaic

First place team, 4K Consulting, is composed of PSU-LV students (l-r) Kevin Pierce, Huda Khan, Sabiha Kermalli and Hayya Khan.

Credit: Penn State Lehigh Valley

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — For the first time, two teams from Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) earned first and second place honors at the Council for Retail and Sales (CRS) annual case competition. CRS hosts one to two collegiate case competitions per year. This year’s event was held on Oct. 26 at DeSales University and sponsored by Haydenfilms Institute (HFI), a nonprofit organization in the filmmaking industry.

The winning team, 4K Consulting, was composed of PSU-LV students Huda Khan, Hayya Khan, Sabiha Kermalli and Kevin Pierce. and advised by Denise Ogden, professor of marketing. Second-place finishers MakeFilms Lions Consultants was composed of Joseph Confer, Justin Hoppes, Aaryan Patel and Brianna Peters.

“It’s really rare for teams from one school to win both first and second place. In my 20 years of doing case competitions, it’s never happened,” Ogden said. “It’s really rewarding for the students.”

For this competition, students were tasked with helping HFI grow Cemboo, a video platform designed to help film festivals efficiently control, monetize and distribute content on a global scale. The product is a B2B tool, marketed and sold exclusively to other businesses rather than available on store shelves for consumers to purchase. Hayden Craddolph, executive director of HFI and founder/CEO of Cemboo, spent a few hours with the participating teams on a Zoom call prior to the competition, answering general questions about the platform to help clarify its purpose, how it works, and its intended audience.

“This helped the students more fully develop a case and appropriate recommendations,” Ogden said. “From my perspective, I like the sponsors to be happy with the end result — they’re the ones who are judging the competition and will hopefully take back some of the students’ ideas and implement them.”

Craddolph was one of four judges on the panel, as well as Chris Saraceno, vice president and partner, Kelly Auto Group; Tamara Ledbetter, executive and leadership consultant of Center Gravity, and Barbara Awad, consumer research and engagement manager, Factory LLC.

Once given the case, students begin researching and gathering their information separately, then meet to brainstorm, exchange ideas and begin putting together viable recommendations for the case.

This was the third case competition for Brianna Peters, a business management and marketing major.

“I enjoy the challenge of it. It’s very rigorous at times — you’re competing against 10, 15, even 20 teams. It’s an exhilarating experience. It’s a lot of work — mental, emotional, and sometimes physical. It’s really great to come together with my team and Dr. Ogden, speak with other professionals in the industry, and apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to real life,” she said.

The teams typically spend several weeks preparing their case, then submit an 8-page executive summary of their recommendations. At the competition, teams give a 15-minute presentation of their case, then have 10 minutes to answer questions from the judges.

“I like the piece where the judges question students on their work. It’s a little intimidating because they don’t know what they will be asked, so they have to think on their feet a little,” Ogden said.

Peters said she was intimidated by the whole case competition process at first, but has changed her perspective.

“It seemed really hard and really tedious, but when I stepped into it, I realized the value behind competing. I developed confidence and felt good about what I had to share. [Case competitions] require promising communication skills, both among all teammates and then presenting the case. From the case competitions, I’ve developed great problem-solving skills, because every case is different,” she said. “I was really excited to see Penn State Lehigh Valley place both first and second. I was proud of the other team as well.”

Ogden said many PSU-LV students who compete in case competitions go on to work for top consulting firms. “When companies see you have done case competitions, that’s attractive to them, because that’s mostly what consulting is — finding a solution to a problem,” she said.

Teams from DeSales University, Penn State Abington, Kutztown University, and East Stroudsburg University also competed.