Annual Kohl's-sponsored case competition requires teamwork, presentation skills

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- More than 60 Penn State students — including teams from campuses at New Kensington, Greater Allegheny, Berks, Lehigh Valley and Altoona — participated in the 2014 Smeal College of Business Case Competition, sponsored by Kohl’s Department Stores.

Student teams in the competition address a Kohl’s business challenge and present a 20-minute talk on their proposed solutions. At the end of the three-day competition, one winning team earns a $5,000 scholarship.

This year’s winning team was The Solutioners, announced at the March 29 awards presentation. Team members included supply chain and information systems major William Belsterling, marketing major Madelyn Koch, finance major John Moran and accounting major Kaitlyn Schmeck.

“Public speaking was the biggest struggle for me, but now I know that I’m capable of doing a presentation."

                  -- Madelyn Koch, marketing major, Smeal College of Business

This was Koch’s first case competition, but through the experience she learned just how much knowledge was applicable from her classes.

“Sometimes you wonder how you’ll use the things in class, but we used a lot of things that we learned in putting the presentation together,” Koch said.

The biggest challenge for her, she said, was delivering the presentation. Her team had to present their findings twice: in the first round and in the finals, both times to different sets of judges.

“Public speaking was the biggest struggle for me, but now I know that I’m capable of doing a presentation,” said Koch.

After the first round of presentations, four teams were chosen to present in the final round, judged by Charles Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal; Andy Gustafson, assistant professor of business administration; Katie Boscoe, senior vice president of Kohl’s Department Stores; and Fred Hurvitz, Kohl’s Professor of Practice in Retail.

“The final round was nerve-wracking,” Koch said, “but it was really helpful that our first-round judges had given some feedback.”

The Smeal Case Competition, sponsored by Kohl’s, is an undergraduate competition that challenges students’ knowledge, problem-solving abilities and teamwork skills to solve realistic business problems in a demanding 24-hour format. The 2014 competition was the fourth annual event.

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Last Updated April 23, 2014