by Sarah G. Small
ILLINOIS pride spread all the way to New York City on Friday afternoon, when a team of five students won the xTreme Accounting case competition, presented by the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm.
Jingjing Li, David Robb, Ben Sanchez, Grant Stoffle and Peter Van Eck called their team Dynamic Consulting, and together they represented ILLINOIS' third consecutive year at the national level, and won the competition for the second consecutive year.
“The judges said they always wanted to root for the underdog,” said John Hedeman, assistant dean and faculty advisor for the team. “They wanted to give it to someone new, but they said they couldn’t do that. The judges saw the Illinois team as clearly the best in the competition.”
Over 425 teams participated in the xACT competition at universities nationwide. Dynamic Consulting won the campus-level case competition at ILLINOIS in November making it eligible to advance to the national competition. Judges reviewed the team’s performance and invited its members to the New York offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers for the national competition on January 22nd. The students from ILLINOIS competed with teams from Villanova University, Providence College, Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut.
“We understood that both at ILLINOIS and nationally we would compete with some of the best students in the nation,” said Robb, a fifth year student in accountancy. “We worked hard to perfect our performance, which reflects how seriously we took the other competitors.”
Hedeman and Ken Dembek, head recruiter for PricewaterhouseCoopers at ILLINOIS, both said the team impressed them with of the great deal of hard work the students applied to crafting their presentation.
“Obviously you have to have good teamwork and really good chemistry, but this team worked extremely hard,” Dembek said. “They were really willing to work hard to be successful.”
Structurally, the national presentation was the same as the one on campus, but the students knew to expect much more rigorous round of questioning from the PricewaterhouseCoopers judges, said Van Eck, a junior in accountancy.
Hedeman said the long hours of preparation showed when the students responded to the judges’ questions with well-thought answers and confidence.
“They had anticipated every single question they were asked,” Hedeman said. “When a team comes in and is able to answer every single question like its part of their presentation, that’s impressive.”
He praised the students for their hard work, for the intellectual quality of the solution and the particular care they took when writing their presentation.
“It’s funny, even before we won the campus competition; we were talking about the finals in New York City,” said Sanchez, a first year graduate student in accountancy. “We all believed in our solution, and we were working so hard that we felt we had a legitimate chance of winning it all.”
This trip to New York was a first for four of the five students, and when not presenting, they got to explore the city.
“New York was amazing,” Van Eck said. He and the rest of his group saw the Broadway play, “In the Heights,” ate dinner at a popular New York steakhouse, and visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.
With two consecutive victories, all eyes will be on ILLINOIS at the next competition, and while some members of Dynamic Consulting will graduate, the younger members said competing next year is definitely an option.
“I think ultimately, it came down to the fact that we meshed really well as a team,” said Li, a sophomore in accountancy. “We are all very great friends now after this experience, but more so, I believe that we really complimented each other in our presentation because we worked together so well.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers' coverage of the event: