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Kohl’s Business with Integrity Case Competition draws 26 teams

December 22, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team made up of three students from the Penn State Smeal College of Business and another from Information Sciences and Technology collaborated to win the top prize in the Kohl’s Busines with Integrity Case Competition. 

Sponsored by the Tarriff Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility and Kohl’s, the competition drew 26 teams of 3-4 undergraduate students. Each team was required to include at least one Smeal student. 

Team Certified Fresh, which included Haskel Canagarajah (Finance major), Michael Mitole (Enterprise Risk Management), Sean Cullen (Finance), and Erica Mi (Information Sciences and Technology), placed first. Each team member won $750. 

Team GAME Theory, which included Gunnar Litz (Supply Chain Management and International Politics), Madeline Mceachin (MAcc), Allie Mollo (Finance), and Elizabeth Weiland (Supply Chain Management), placed second and won $500 each. 

Team Integrity ICONS, which included Alexandra Carmona (Management), Saige Cestone (Management), Abigail Falce (Supply Chain and Information Systems), and Ryan Willson (Management Information Systems), placed third and won $250 each. 

The fall 2020 competition changed from previous years and moved to an entirely virtual event. Students were first evaluated on their treatment of a generic case, which required the development of a decision-making framework that could be used to ethically lead a company through a post-COVID recovery process. Teams were asked to convincingly identify three important decisions that any leader must make, with respect to their workforce. 

Team submissions were evaluated by a committee consisting of both Smeal and Kohl’s representatives. 

The nine teams that advanced to the live semifinal round were assigned to brackets, with the winner of each bracket advancing to the finals. Each team delivered a verbal presentation of their analysis and recommendations to the judges and answered questions raised by the panel of judges about their presentations or the case in general. 

Teams were tasked with accepting the role of consultants and applying their findings to a specific organization: Science for Life2, a science education center located in the northwest United States. This second case was written by Smeal Board of Visitors (BOV) member Liz Zlatkus, the former chief financial officer and chief risk officer of The Hartford Financial Services Group. 

Leaders of the center were looking for guidance on how to fund their operations, assess and properly leverage the value of their mission, and balance the livelihoods of their employees, senior management team, and donors. The goal was to use the decision-making framework developed in round one to offer recommendations for how the science center could not only survive the pandemic, but also emerge as a stronger organization with increased impact. 

To maximize engagement despite the virtual environment, teams were offered the opportunity to attend a webinar featuring three BOV members and an evening of coaching sessions run by BOV members and leaders from Kohl’s. 

In an effort to continually improve the competition, the Tarriff Center plans to hold a “spring training” event during spring 2021 semester. The training will support the development of skills required for ethical leadership, which will be tested in the fall 2021 Kohl’s Business with Integrity Case Competition.

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Andy Elder
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