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First Penn State Smeal MBA case competition focuses on sustainability

December 22, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In an effort to share their collective wisdom and help their fellow program members prepare for future case competitions., Penn State Smeal College of Business second-year MBA students organized the inaugural Smeal MBA Case Competition this semester, aimed at first-year MBA students. 

The virtual event was sponsored by the MBA Consulting Association, the Supply Chain Management MBA Association, the Net Impact MBA Association and the Center for the Business of Sustainability. 

The team of Marc Luckey Helms II, John Rush Weber, Ibrahim Arala, and Chun Po Lee emerged victorious from the field of nine four-student teams to place first and earn $400 per team member. 

Bristol Gunderson, Matthew Ryan Hall, Andrew Joseph McKenna, and Jack Ryan Quinn placed second. Each team member was awarded $200. 

Hayley Sharpe, Hansa Shroff, Robert Chait Lorden, and Lu Lu placed third, earning $100 for each team member. 

In the first MBA student-run case competition in Smeal’s history, each team was charged with solving a problem with a holistic approach to sustainability. The focus was on carbon offsets for IBM to focus on when promoting products or services. 

Each team was to act as if IBM’s chief sustainability officer enlisted it to take the capabilities of select IBM technologies and build out innovative applications to address a pressing issue that IBM’s clients are currently facing: the credibility and veracity of carbon offsets as a means to legitimately reducing a company’s contribution of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. 

Teams were expected to take into account:

  • A triple bottom line: sustainability case, business case, stakeholder case
  • An implementation plan: short-term and long-term planning, market adoption, needed buy-in
  • Risks and mitigations
  • Next steps 

Teams were asked to use the capabilities of IBM blockchain, internet of things, and machine learning and artificial intelligence to build innovative applications to effectively address the issue.

After all teams received questions about and feedback on their 10-minute presentations, three teams advanced to the finals. 

Two executives from IBM, a corporate sponsor of the Center for the Business of Sustainability, offered their time and expertise to review the final three presentations. 

Wayne Balta, vice president of Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety, and Edan Dionne, vice president of Environmental, Energy, and Chemical Management Programs, reviewed the final presentations. A panel of judges then selected the order of finish.

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