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Penn State Smeal team finishes as finalist in fourth Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition

December 20, 2017

A team of MBA students from the Penn State Smeal College of Business was once again among the top five finishers in the fourth Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition, which the college held Dec. 1 at its Business Building on the Penn State University Park Campus. 

Five MBA students from the University of Washington’s won the $10,000 prize for first place. 

“This is a great competition. I was looking for a competition like this early on in my MBA program. It allowed us to integrate the different disciplines at Foster and apply them in addressing a really tough sustainability challenge. I would absolutely recommend this experience," said Emma Hohenstein, a member of the winning Washington Foster School of Business team. 

A team from Cornell won the $5,000 second-place prize. A team from Carnegie Mellon was awarded $2,500 for third place. 

“It’s gratifying that in just four years our competition has drawn a record number of teams from across the country,” said Smeal’s Director of Sustainability, Erik Foley, who wrote this year’s case. 

“I think our dedicated sponsors’ continued support is recognition of our willingness to engage the world’s most pressing issues. That, in turn, allows us to attract high-quality students.” 

Each team was allotted 30 minutes for its presentation on the case, which focused on one goal from PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose 2025 Sustainability Agenda, specifically a strategy to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Another 15 minutes were devoted to questions and answers with the panel of judges, which included:

  • Carl Pfleger, vice president, global quality control, PepsiCo
  • James Gowen, vice president, supply chain operations & chief sustainability officer, Verizon
  • Francis (Fran) Lutz, chief financial officer, Opportunity Finance Network
  • Dan Bena, senior director, operations, PepsiCo
  • Al Halvorsen, senior director, environmental sustainability, PepsiCo

A record high 44 teams from 27 different universities from across the country submitted initial entries to this year’s competition. Those entrants were pared down to the five finalists: Washington, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Penn State, and Arizona State. 

"We challenged the case competition teams to come up with unique real-world ideas to address a complex problem faced by PepsiCo and other multinational companies. All of the teams delivered strong, executable solutions,” Halvorsen said. “Congratulations to all the schools who made it into the finals."

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