CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — A group of Penn State Lehigh Valley students traveled to University Park last week to participate in the Deloitte Undergraduate Case Competition. These 12 first-year and sophomore students represented three of the 15 teams chosen to compete out of 26 total teams that applied. They participated in a two-day competitive event where students were given real-life business challenges and then had to develop and present a strategy and recommendations to a panel of judges.
Penn State Lehigh Valley was the only Commonwealth campus represented at this competition, with the remaining teams from University Park and one from Penn State Altoona.
After round one of competition, one of the Penn State Lehigh Valley teams was chosen as one of four teams to move to the final round. The Lehigh Valley students were thrilled to be named finalists.
“It was really amazing and not entirely expected, though we were hopeful,” said Samuel Johnson, a first-year electrical engineering major. “It meant a lot to us to go up there and represent Penn State Lehigh Valley. The other final three teams were all part of a consulting society at University Park, so we realized just how impressive it was to be included in the same group as them.”
The case given to the students was about a car company that had declining sales revenue, was resistant to innovative technology, had a disrupted communication system, and outdated databases. The teams had to provide advice on what was wrong and suggest how the company could bring in more revenue, be on the cutting edge of technology, and help revamp the communication and databases in order to succeed.
The team prepared a presentation with the acronym TRUST at its foundation for how they would fix the company’s problems. The “T” stood for Transition digital and cognitive technology into the vehicles. The “R” stood for Reconstruct company management system. The “U” stood for Updated technology databases and servers and training materials. The “S” stood for Shift from reactive to proactive business model, and the last “T” stood for Transform marketing strategies.
“The case was challenging and mentally taxing, but my team and I worked hard to do our best. The overall experience was very rewarding, and we had a lot of fun hanging around University Park and meeting up with old friends. I feel honored to have been a part of this and have gotten as far as we did,” said Kristen Swantek, a sophomore criminology, security and risk analysis major.
The case competition also provided the students the opportunity to explore a future career in consulting.
“This experience showed the importance of cross-functional teams and collaboration — and it helped me shape my future path,” said Marena Trauger, a sophomore chemical engineering major. “I was iffy about if I would apply my engineering degree to a job in consulting, and now it is something I can see following through with.”
The team was appreciative to the support they received throughout the process.
“I was glad the faculty supported us and pushed us to do it. Mike Krajsa was great to have by our side, and Dr. Thigpen’s and Dr. Richardson’s support were crucial to our success. All three teams from Penn State Lehigh Valley got to partake in this competitive event, which shows the strength of our academic excellence and the motivation and drive we all have at the Lehigh Valley campus,” said Muhammed Sheikh, a first-year project and supply chain management major.
All three Penn State Lehigh Valley teams were made up of students from the Lehigh Valley Campus Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society. Krajsa, the club's adviser, said there is tremendous value for students to participate in co-curricular activities such as this.
“Not only does this experience build teamwork, leadership and communication skills, but it gives them a sense of confidence and a real world perspective that they will graduate into. I am particularly impressed with these 12 students because they are first year and sophomore students who came together and formed wonderful, interdisciplinary, collaborative teams to work on their solution,” said Krajsa. “More importantly, they had an opportunity to network with more than 20 Deloitte consultants, some of whom are recent Penn State graduates who gave them advice, direction and encouragement as only a peer-to-peer interaction can provide.”
The other two Penn State Lehigh Valley teams were comprised of Kim Lay, a sophomore project and supply chain management major; Omar Ramin, a first-year finance major; Previn Joseph, a sophomore computer engineering major; Joseph Hazler, a sophomore accounting major; Adam Hager, a sophomore business major; Akash Kaneria, a sophomore information sciences and technology major; Ethan Vazquez, a sophomore business major; and Raunit Mathur, a sophomore business major.