The ninth annual Kelley School of Business National Diversity Case Competition (NDCC) recently welcomed UVA students Genevieve Charles (A&S ’22), Luis Jerez (A&S ’22), Robert Smalls (A&S ’22), and George Villacis (McIntire ’20), who together represented the McIntire School at the Indiana University event. Villacis, who was part of the McIntire team in 2018, returned as captain and was joined by the three second-years, all past participants of McIntire’s Commerce Cohort program.
Held Jan. 17-18 during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the NDCC brought together top diverse talent from colleges and universities across the country, hosting more than 150 students who came prepared to examine diversity challenges while vying for $20,000 in prize money. In addition to the case competition, the event featured workshops, insightful talks by business professionals, and student networking sessions with the event’s corporate partners.
The 2020 NDCC case asked students to develop a specific strategy for a U.S. community to engage more underrepresented and under-resourced students in STEM programs.
The UVA team presented “Building Community through STEM—An Investment in Knowledge Pays the Best Interest.”
“Our strategy was to create an afterschool program that engaged with high school students in a project-based learning environment. We were going to use college students as their instructors to increase the relatability between the students,” says Villacis.
“[Our solution] attempted to solve the issue of underrepresentation in STEM through interactive programs led by college students,” says Smalls. “We felt that this could be a hub for the young talent to develop; also, it would expose our collegiate population to roles of leadership, and keeps our program socially relevant.”
Ultimately, students from the University of Richmond were the winners of this year’s edition of the competition, but the event allowed the UVA squad to work on a collaborative and demanding project.
Jerez says that he enjoyed presenting in front of the judges, “displaying the program my team had worked on all of winter break” and making connections with other university students.
Smalls says that seeing the other teams’ presentations was engaging, as it revealed the many different approaches possible when devising strategies for a case, noting that “the diversity of backgrounds really influences what experiences and expertise are brought to a project.”
Group adviser Deanna Williams, McIntire’s Assistant Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, reflected on the NDCC, calling it “a phenomenal experience for students.” Williams stressed the value of the event’s networking opportunities, offering time with companies such as 3M, EY, and Target. “The competition also provided students with workshops including ‘Cross-Cultural Communication’ and ‘Diversity in the Workplace,’” she says. “Although we did not win, I am so proud of the hard work and dedication our team put into their case. They were extremely proud to represent the University of Virginia.”