At the end of March, a team of undergraduate students from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management competed in the 7th Annual National Undergraduate Supply Chain Case Competition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During their time in Minneapolis, the students had the opportunity to tour local companies including 3M’s Innovation Center, Polaris’ engine manufacturing, and CH Robinson headquarters. After immersing themselves in the learning opportunities at these prestigious companies, the students completed a case study competition from Friday morning through Saturday night.
For twenty-four hours straight, undergraduate students in teams of four, from a total of 17 schools, competed in a business case, which culminated into final presentations that were judged by a panel of business professionals from the corporate sponsors. Cash prizes totaling $8,000 were awarded based on the quality of these final presentations. However, the end goal of the competition was not monetary gain. Instead, the undergraduate supply chain students that attended each got a unique learning opportunity and chance to grow their exploration of supply chain management and operations as a potential career path.
Alyson Weber ’20, Maddix McWha ’20, Whitney Ize-Iyamu ’19 and Aby (Boyang) Feng ’20 were the student attendees that represented Syracuse University under the supervision of Julie Niederhoff, associate professor of supply chain management at the Whitman School. The team found that the twenty-four-hour timeline of the case competition fostered an exciting, challenging environment.
“Twenty-four hours is a short amount of time to work on a case competition,” said Ize-Iyamu, “My team and I worked for almost 24 hours straight on a case that allowed us to test our knowledge of supply chain while challenging each other in order to make the best recommendations.”
Beyond the incredible hands-on learning experiences afforded to these students, Niederhoff explained that participating in this competition can also lead to tangible professional gains in the form of internships and networking opportunities. Specifically, the skills learned, such as performance under time pressure, can be great conversation topics during job interviews.
“During a job interview, if you’re asked ‘tell me about a time you had to make some tough decisions under intense time pressure’, this is what they’re talking about!” said Niederhoff. “It can be overwhelming at first to face a huge project as a team of four students while the clock is ticking, but once the ideas start flowing and the team finds a rhythm of pulling in concepts and ideas from their classes and experiences, the mental stimulation and excitement are incredible!”
Although Syracuse’s team did not rank in the competition, the experience was certainly a valuable one. Weber put it best saying, “Although we didn’t come away with a win per se, the experience was extremely beneficial for my learning in new supply chain skills, growth in business professionalism, and understanding for what I want to pursue within the supply chain industry post-graduation.”
Ize-Iyamu urged supply chain management students to take advantage of this amazing opportunity in the future saying, “For anyone in supply chain I believe that this case competition would be great experience for you because it really allows a person to showcase their skills and knowledge to people who are currently working in the supply chain and get honest feedback.”