Smith teams score big at case competitions round the world

Posted on November 23, 2017

Smith’s winning team at the NHH case competition in Bergen, Norway in October (from left): Aislin Roth, Comm’19, Megan Long, Comm’19, Meghan Wood, Comm’18, and Claire Uhm, Comm’19.
Smith’s winning team at the NHH case competition in Bergen, Norway in October (from left): Aislin Roth, Comm’19, Megan Long, Comm’19, Meghan Wood, Comm’18, and Claire Uhm, Comm’19.

Kingston, ON – If this was baseball, it’d be a grand slam. In hockey, a hat trick plus an extra tally for good measure.

Smith School of Business Commerce students have racked up an impressive four wins in a row at international case competitions in recent months.

The latest came at the Citi HKUST competition in Hong Kong, Oct. 21-26, where the Smith team of Daina Norkus, Comm’19, Bonnie Zhang, Comm’19, Alice Ma, Comm’18, and Evan Goldman, Comm’19, took top prize in the finals against teams from Indiana University, Copenhagen Business School and HKUST.

That win followed first-place finishes at the NHH competition in Bergen, Norway in October, NUS in Singapore in September and CIBCC in Phuket, Thailand in May.

The winning Smith teams are all part of the Queen’s Case Competition Union (QCCU), an organization of 19 Commerce students whose members train together and function as essentially a varsity team for business case competitions.

“This is a group of students who are passionate about finding solutions to complex, real-world business problems and are confident when presenting their recommendations to international business leaders,” says Leigh-Ann Fingland, Smith’s Director of Operations, Commerce Program, who works closely with QCCU members.

Fingland says the wins in Hong Kong and Singapore specifically resulted in an invitation to compete in the Champions Trophy in Auckland, New Zealand in January. It’s open to teams that have won one of 12 case competitions deemed the world’s most prestigious. This is the first time a Smith team was invited, Fingland adds.

Representing Smith in New Zealand will be the team that won in Singapore two months ago, comprised of Eileen Smith, Jordan McTaggart, Dustin Zhang and Charmaine Arellano-Chua, (all Comm’18).

Charmaine and Dustin, co-captains of QCCU this year, say Smith’s string of successes at case competitions lately is no fluke. Over the last few years QCCU has worked to formalized its training, introducing, for instance, fall boot camps to help students prepare. More thought has also gone into assembling each four-person squad, ensuring students who work especially well together and whose skills complement one another are on the same team.

QCCU students spend around 100 hours training for case competitions during the school year, says Charmaine. Preparations are designed to mimic the real-life of competition. So, if an upcoming competition includes a 24-hour challenge, teams will practice their ability to develop solutions to business problems and put together presentations in under 24 hours, she says.

QCCU has become “a lot more structured,” says Dustin. “And we have an inflow of talent from new students who have new ideas, which helps us get better.” For this academic year, QCCU added six Commerce students to its teams, from 116 who applied.

The school is also lending a hand. Smith has upped funding to take part in case competitions, while faculty and senior staff contribute their time. They lead workshops, coach teams, provide feedback at practice sessions and travel with teams as faculty advisors.

QCCU was formed four years ago by Commerce students hoping to enter more case competitions — and finish in the Top 3 more often. In that first academic year (2013-14), QCCU teams entered five competitions and scored three second-place finishes. The number of competitions entered has steadily increased since, and podium finishes have gone up, too.

In the most recent academic year (2016-17), QCCU took part in 10 competitions and scored seven Top 3 finishes. Three of those were first place: at the BICC in Norway in February, RSM STAR competition in the Netherlands in April, and the aforementioned CIBCC in Thailand in May.

Now, QCCU is tapping into the school’s alumni network. Charmaine and Dustin say a program launched this year pairs a past QCCU member with a current student.