Lehigh Valley teams make strong showings in national, regional case competitions

PSU-LV Students (L-R) Hayya Khan, Sabiha Kermalli, Huda Khan, and Kevin Pierce

Penn State Lehigh Valley, consisting of students (L-R) Hayya Khan, Sabiha Kermalli, Huda Khan, and Kevin Pierce won first place in the Smeal Undergraduate Case Competition on March 31 at University Park.

Credit: Penn State Lehigh Valley

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — A team of Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) students participated in the Deloitte Undergraduate National Case Competition on March 15-18 at Deloitte University, the corporate headquarters of the global consulting firm, in Westlake, Texas. This was the first time a team from a Commonwealth Campus represented Penn State in this event. The students competed against teams from other universities across the country. Less than two weeks later, three team members took first place in a regional competition.

Huda Khan, Sabiha Kermalli, Hayya Khan and Joseph Confer comprised the PSU-LV team at the national event. The students performed well in a series of different case competitions throughout the semester. They capped their winning streak by taking first place in the Deloitte case competition in February. Unlike previous case competitions, where teams have several weeks or more to prepare, for the finals in Texas, the students only had five intense hours to collect and submit their information. After submitting their recommendation, they had overnight to prepare their presentation for the judges the next day.  Although PSU-LV did not win, the students said they had an unforgettable experience.

“The great part is the students got to go to Texas. Deloitte has a beautiful facility, and everything was free for them,” said Denise Ogden, professor of marketing and case competition advisor at PSU-LV. “Deloitte paid for the entire trip, including the students’ airfare. They really rolled out the red carpet. It was a tremendous learning experience for our students.”

Huda Khan said the experience was amazing.

“Deloitte University was beyond my expectations. It really gave me a glimpse into the corporate world. When we won the regional competition, we felt like we’d finally done it — last year we placed third in the same event. Seeing how much we improved was an accomplishment in itself.”

For the finals, Khan said, “We’d never worked so hard in such a short time frame. The case was given to us at 2:45 p.m. and we had to submit our recommendation by 8 p.m. It was the most mentally draining five hours of our lives.”

Kermalli said the national event gave the team the chance to apply everything they learned from previous case competitions.

“We’ve done a bunch of [case competitions] in the past, and as we went along in the process, we’ve picked up different strategies. To take everything we learned and use it in the finals was really great,” she said.

After their return from nationals, Kermalli and Huda Khan, along with Jasmine Khan and Amir Siddiqui, competed in the Council for Retail and Sales case competition, sponsored by Walmart and held at DeSales University on March 21. The team placed second. Additionally, Huda Khan won the Best Student Award in the judges’ question-and-answer session.

Problem solving, critical and creative thinking, and working as part of a team are just a few skills the students have honed by participating in case competitions. Huda Khan secured an internship at JP Morgan and will be living in Chicago for the summer. She said she has no doubt prepping for case competitions gave her an advantage.

“I think the case comps helped with the interview process,” she said. “The interview was a three-part process: technical, behavioral, and then a case study. I realized the case studies have helped me problem solve at a fast rate. I think they have helped me a lot.”

The students’ winning streak continued in March. PSU-LV’s team placed first in the Smeal Undergraduate Sustainability Case Competition on March 31 at University Park. The team consisting of Kermalli, Huda Khan, Hayya Khan and Kevin Pierce were one of 19 competing; five made it to the finals.

“I’m so proud of this team!” Ogden said. “The topic was food insecurity on college campuses. They beat Smeal [College of Business] teams, a team from [Penn State] Behrend, and a team from Morgan State [Maryland]. It was a bittersweet time, as the three women will be moving to University Park in the fall.”