Grad Students Examine Corporate Social Responsibility at Net Impact Event in Connecticut

The grad students on the case competition team with Assoc. Prof. Julie Zhang Image by courtesy
Assoc. Prof. Julie Zhang, second from right, led the grad student team of, from left, Mario Gongol, Tri Mai, Joseph McGeoghan and Kasey Mazza at the Net Impact MBA sustainability case competition in Hartford, Conn.

By Ed Brennen

A team of four Manning School of Business graduate students — two from the Master of Business Administration program and two from Master of Science in Business Analytics program — competed at the recent Net Impact MBA sustainability case competition in Hartford, Conn.

Under the direction of Julie Zhang, an associate professor in Operations & Information Systems, the UML team competed against eight other schools at the two-day event, hosted by the University of Connecticut School of Business.

“It was nice to bring students together from two different programs,” said Zhang, who teaches in both programs. “They didn’t win, but they were able to learn from each other. I’m proud of them.”

The team included MBA students Joseph McGeoghan and Mario Gongol and MSBA students Tri Mai and Kasey Mazza.

The case competition focused on corporate social responsibility and related practices, such as “creating shared value” and “conscious capitalism.” Teams were given their case one week prior to the competition to research and prepare their exhibits and presentations. They presented in front of a panel of judges from top local industries, including United Technologies Company and the Cigna Foundation.

“With only a week to prepare a solution to a problem that stumps industry experts, we had to work extremely efficiently and creatively to find an innovative solution,” said Mazza, who added that effective communication between team members was key.

“It was crucial for us on the data side to be able to explain technical and analytical concepts in simpler terms to our MBA teammates and the judges, who don’t have the same educational background,” she said.

The case focused on a philanthropic program of United Technologies, one of the competition sponsors. Teams were challenged to measure the program’s impact on the community, the company’s employees and its customers.

The Manning School competed against teams from Northeastern University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of New Haven, Clark University, Drexel University, Illinois State University and UConn, as well as the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Manning School Dean Sandy Richtermeyer congratulated the team on its work and encouraged more business students to enter competitions.

“Getting our students out there with companies and working on these initiatives is important,” Richtermeyer said.

Mazza, who was among six MSBA students to compete at Teradata University Network’s annual Analytics Challenge last semester in California, agreed that competitions are important.

“Any professor can teach theoretical concepts from a textbook, but the best ones will push you further to understand the application of them,” Mazza said. “Case competitions are a great opportunity for this.”

Net Impact is a nonprofit organization for students and professionals interested in using business skills in support of various social and environmental causes.