Richmond students and faculty at the National Diversity Case Competition

Students show how diverse viewpoints can boost business

February 10, 2023


A team of four Richmond students took home second place in the National Diversity Case Competition, which challenges students from across the country to find the best solution to a business challenge involving diversity.

Sophomore Ifti Alam, senior Chris Ortiz-Martinez, junior Mofiyinfoluwa Tunji-Ekundayo, and sophomore Andrea Valderrama-Avila spent the past month preparing for the competition, hosted by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Hosted during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, the students competed against 31 teams from universities across the country culminating in a final presentation to corporate executives from companies including 3M, EY, and GE.

“The competition gave students an opportunity to demonstrate what truly embodies the Robins School student: the ability to think critically to develop a creative and yet practical solution to a real problem facing a business,” said Cassandra Marshall, associate professor of finance and one of the coaches for the Robins team.

The team pitched ways for 3M to mitigate water pollution using the company’s own products and manufacturing footprint along the East Coast. Throughout the weekend they were also able to participate in workshops and networking exercises with fellow student presenters and business executives from around the country.

Their diverse perspectives gave the students a competitive advantage, according to team members.

“No matter the subject of the case, students have to think outside of the box and move away from their current notions of the world,” Tunji-Ekundayo said. “It expands your worldview.” 

Marketing professor Bill Bergman said the competition provides an opportunity to show how well Robins students can compete with students from other major universities. None of the coaches, which included Bergman, Marshall, and Laura Thompson, assistant dean for undergraduate student services, were surprised when the team was one of seven schools selected to advance to the final round.

“We have placed in three of the last four years that a Richmond team has entered the 16-year annual competition,” Bergman said. “Being a finalist and placing second in this national competition is sure to help our students build confidence in their skills as well as appreciate the role diversity can play in strengthening innovative businesses.”