College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Enterprising students win over stakeholders (and $3,000) in case competition


Your company is initiating a special project in the downstream oil industry. You find vast opportunity in a developing African nation. How do you implement a long-term business plan, make a positive impact on society, and persuade your stakeholders?

Illinois students Lorita Ivanova, Zheng Mao, Sreekant Vijaykumar, and Wenyan Zhu addressed this issue head-on with their oil refinery business plan, winning first place—and $3,000—in the 2014 Professional Responsibility Strategy Competition, held February 21 at BP’s offices in Chicago. The annual competition is developed and supported by BP and the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society at the University of Illinois College of Business.

The winning team competed against another group of Illinois students, including Kevin He, Ginger Jin, Debajyoti Rath, and Chowdhury Sarwar, as well as two teams from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

A few weeks before the competition, business, law, and engineering students—both graduate and undergraduate—are assigned to teams. Each team develops a sustainable business plan, then presents it to a fictitious group of stakeholders at an annual general meeting.

“This competition gives interdisciplinary student teams the chance to grapple with a real-life business problem from top to bottom,” said Gretchen Winter, executive director of the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society.

“Once the business decision has been framed, the financials are in place, and the professional responsibility commitments woven into the overall project strategy,” she continued, “the real work of determining how to best implement the vision begins. Students create a vision and then defend it to a wide range of stakeholders including company leadership, board members, shareholders, pension funds, and community activists.”

“Students had to consider the business and professional responsibility interests of multiple stakeholders, some open to their ideas, but many not,” added Professor Kathryn Rybka. “Participants had to defend their ideas and articulate their positions to judges who convincingly played the roles of individuals and organizations who would be affected.”

The first round of competition was held on campus February 11, when eight Illinois teams competed for the chance to travel to Chicago to square off against the two finalist Notre Dame teams.

You can find out more about the competition on the Center’s Facebook page.

Congratulations to our winners!

Team C (first place)
Lorita Ivanova, Juris Doctor, Law
Zheng Mao, Master of Science in Finance
Sreekant Vijayakumar, Master of Business Administration
Wenyan Zhu, Economics

Team D (fourth place)
Kevin He, Chemical Engineering
Ginger Jin, Master of Human Resources & Industrial Relations
Debajyoti Rath, Master of Business Administration
Chowdhury Sarwar, Master of Science in Financial Engineering

UIUC College of Business