A group of four Robins School students won the National Diversity Case Competition over the weekend at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

“The competition was very exciting and was a great opportunity to meet and network with an array of students and corporate partners,” said Seema Ahmed, ’21.

The National Diversity Case Competition brings together diverse students from colleges and universities across the country to compete to present the best solution to a business problem. Executives from corporate partners, including 3M, GE, and others, judge the competition. Ahmed competed with her team members, Jessie Bonilla, '21, Diwen Deng, '21, and Gabriela Telepman, '20.

“The case was about how 3M could increase STEM diversity within underrepresented demographics,” Ahmed said. “We presented an idea that expanded on the existing 3M TECH (Technical Teams Encouraging Career Horizons) initiative, but added college students to the equation. We pitched a dual mentorship system in which 3M employees would mentor underrepresented college students who simultaneously mentor underrepresented students in middle and high school.”

In addition to this plan, the students recommended integrating the arts into the program, changing the acronym to STEAM. Unlike many of the other teams, the students’ greatest asset, Ahmed says, was the cost of their plan.

“Our program was reasonable and could actually be implemented by 3M today,” Ahmed said.

Gabriela Telepman, ’20, said since it was the first time a University of Richmond team competed at the event, they were only cautiously optimistic.

“We were really nervous that we wouldn’t make it past stage one, but we won our bracket, beating out last year’s first place winning team, UC Berkeley, and proceeded to the finals,” Telepman said.

She says making it to the finals boosted their confidence, and helped them win.

“It was such an exciting and proud moment to win the competition while participating for the first time, and to be recognized for our innovative ideas,” Telepman said. “Competing against some very large business schools was intimidating, and we had no idea what the results might be, but we knew that our presentation was great, and that was all we needed to gain the confidence of a winning team.” 

The team beat 42 other schools including Rutgers, Minnesota State, UT Austin, Syracuse, LSU, and University of Michigan.

According to one of the team’s mentors, Bill Bergman, lecturer in marketing, the judges from 3M and GE shared that the students put University of Richmond on the map with their simple and easy to execute strategy.

“This was truly an inspirational experience watching our students compete and win on a national stage,” Bergman said.

Trey Sutton and Tom Mattson, assistant professors of management, and Raika Sadeghein, assistant professor of marketing, also coached the team to the win.

“This is a proud moment for them and for the Robins School,” said Dean Mickey Quiñones, “what an accomplishment.”

The NDCC is held annually over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend and the Kelley School hosted the 9th annual competition on January 17–18. Undergraduate students from institutions across the U.S. connected with the event’s corporate partners throughout the weekend at various networking events.