Students from Penn State Abington operating under the name Nittany Consultants claimed second place in a highly anticipated business case competition.
Nittany Consultants was comprised of students Kyra Fripps, Christopher Liston, Aidan Pulli, and Tzuyin Su. The competition is judged on a written executive summary and recorded video presentation. Prior to the pandemic, the presentations at the semi-annual event were held in person.
Brenntag Food & Nutrition, a worldwide provider of food ingredients, sponsored the program. Seven teams from five universities competed and were tasked with solving a real business opportunity for the company. The focus of the competition was to help Brenntag launch a new product line during the time of COVID-19 when typical face-to-face sales models are not available. Many customer research and development and purchasing departments are working remotely and are not accepting supplier visits while industry tradeshows have been canceled. Brenntag tasked the teams with finding creative solutions to get this new product line out to market and quickly generate sales.
"I can't think of a better way to prepare Abington students for business careers. We are very proud of our students who worked so hard to represent our school."
-- Thomas Stone, associate teaching professor of business at Penn State Abington
“Really, it's all about finding ways to safely interact with potential customers and that depends on remote solutions,” Abington’s Liston said.
For Liston, the competition provided him with the opportunity to step out of his comfort zone, challenge himself academically, and grow professionally.
"Takeaways for me were applying concepts from lectures, learning how to research/analyze a company, and learning how a business is adapting given the world right now. The pandemic forced businesses to work remotely and digitize their platforms or suffer the economic consequences because of the virus. I think this trend will remain even after people can safely return to offices,” he said.
“The competition provided insight on the perspective of how higher leadership in a company may think and approach their company from the bigger picture perspective,” Liston continued.
His teammate Fripps said she learned the importance of communication, diversity, and marketing.
“Communicating as a team was a key aspect in winning this competition so we could identify each other's strengths and weaknesses and properly allocate responsibilities, decide when and how we wanted to meet as a team, and decide the deadlines we wanted to set for completing the project,” she said.
“It was important to be a part of a diverse team not only because each of us were of different ethnicities, genders, and cultures but also because we each had different experiences, talents, and skills that we could bring to the table. Effectively communicating within a diverse team helped us prevail in crafting our own ideas and opinions,” Fripps said.
Thomas Stone, associate teaching professor of business and a faculty adviser to the two Abington teams that competed, revealed that the program is becoming a high-profile event among students.
“I can't think of a better way to prepare Abington students for business careers. We are very proud of our students who worked so hard to represent our school. They had to learn a new company and industry in a few short weeks while balancing classwork and jobs,” he said. “They all completed effective PowerPoint presentations and executive summaries and defended their recommendations before a panel of judges from Brenntag. The judges were very impressed with our students.”
It was really difficult to pick the best teams, according to Shea Worman, business development manager for Brenntag Food & Nutrition and one of five judges for the competition.
“All the students were professional and did a great job. The judges and I learned so much and have a lot of fresh ideas to share with our teams," she said.
James R. Ogden, chair of program sponsor the Council for Retail and Sales, said, “We were excited to have such high-profile judges who get to witness different perspectives and recruit some of the best students in the state.”
The other faculty advisers from Abington included Peter Hornberger, lecturer in management/entrepreneurship and director of the Abington LaunchBox, and Kevin Mayhew, lecturer in business.
Watch the winning Nittany Consultants’ video here.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 22 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.