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Penn State Smeal team excels at International Business Ethics Case Competition

May 4, 2021

Smeal IBECC team
Smeal's Business Ethics Case team recently placed in all three categories at the International Business Ethics Case Competition. The three team members were: Katherine Groves, a junior supply chain and information systems major from State College; Annika Sernyak, a junior supply chain and information systems major from Brookhaven; and, Anna Shimek, a sophomore management information systems major from Erie.
By MELISSA MANNO

STATE COLLEGE — In its first time competing at the International Business Ethics Case Competition (IBECC), the Penn State Smeal College of Business Ethics Case Team proved it belonged, as it placed in each of the event’s three main competitions. 

Junior Katherine Groves (supply chain and information systems major), junior Annika Sernyak (supply chain and information systems) and sophomore Anna Shimek (management information systems) represented Penn State Smeal. 

The competition, which is sponsored by Northrop Grumman, requires participating teams to select a topic from any area of business ethics and prepare a presentation describing the problem and proposing a solution. 

The event consists of three separate competitions: a full presentation followed by a question-and-answer session, a 10-minute presentation and a 90-second presentation. For each competition, teams are broken up into divisions of four to five schools for judges to evaluate. 

Smeal’s Ethics Case Team, which is sponsored by the Tarriff Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, presented “Google is Bringing Back the Corporate Town,” which navigated how Google could ethically develop a neighborhood in its corporate hometown of Mountain View, California.        

In its division, the Smeal team placed second in the full presentation, first  in the 10-minute presentation and first in the 90-second presentation. 

Groves said her team’s presentation emphasized the idea that it’s not enough for companies to say certain values are important to them — but rather, that they choose to live by those ideals in the corporate setting. 

“Companies must make sure that they are actively living by those values every day in all of their decisions,” Groves said. “This is reflective of what we learn in Smeal. Through all our classes and other events, we learn how we live by the Penn State values to drive success both in our education and our future careers.” 

Groves said her favorite moment from the competition happened during the Q&A when Shimek challenged Google to take action to live by their guiding principles, which Groves said was “a really bold moment” that inspired her in her own presentation. 

“IBECC is a competition truly focused on developing students into future ethical leaders,” Groves said. “The experience was a great way for our team to learn and develop our skills. Not having any topic constraints was challenging at points, but we had a lot of fun thinking creatively as we put this case together.” 

For Shimek, the competition allowed her to feel more confident about her abilities going into her second year on Smeal’s Ethics Case Team. She said one of her team’s goals was to portray Smeal’s values in their presentation, emphasizing that the IBECC shares the same commitment to honor and integrity as Smeal does. 

“Having the opportunity to represent Smeal, the Tariff Center, and the Ethics Team has been an honor, and I look forward to doing so throughout the rest of my time at Penn State,” Shimek said. “I am incredibly appreciative to everyone who made our success possible.”

This competition was Smeal junior Annika Sernyak’s second case competition on the Smeal Ethics Case Team. She said their presentation outlined solutions to how Google can make its corporate neighborhood a success from an ethical, legal and financial standpoint. 

Sernyak said the competition was an incredible experience that will help her in achieving her goals as a supply chain professional and in promoting ethical leadership, something that Smeal encourages in its students. 

“As Smeal has taught us, we know that we cannot even consider the legality and finances without first analyzing the ethics and the impact on stakeholders,” Sernyak said. “Considering the ethical impacts also ensures the most successful long-term solution.” 

Sernyak said that she and her teammates took advantage of each other’s strengths and weaknesses — something that she believes aided them in being so successful. 

Sernyak also emphasized her gratitude to the team’s advisor and coach, Michelle Darnell, who helped them prepare for IBECC about a month out to craft their story. 

“She goes above and beyond to help us work through our thoughts and progress,” Sernyak said. “I appreciate that while she is always encouraging, she knows when to push us when there is room for improvement.” 

Darnell, director of the Tarriff Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility and Smeal’s honor and integrity director, said it was wonderful to work with the team and be part of their development as leaders in business ethics.    

"Throughout the competition process Katherine, Katie and Anna demonstrated excellence in a variety of ways, including in skills related to analysis, collaboration and communication,” Darnell said. “I am also particularly impressed by the personal commitment to business ethics and social responsibility each of these students continues to display.” 

To learn more about the Tarriff Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, visit the Smeal website.

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