German team takes Penn State Abington case competition title

A student team from Hof University of the Applied Sciences emerged victorious after weeks of intense preparation for the Penn State Abington International Case Competition. Another group from Hof, Abington’s German affiliate, captured second place and a four-member squad from Abington placed third.

Six teams comprised of 25 students and their faculty leaders spent a suspenseful eight-hour day at Penn State Abington as each group presented their analysis in the Sutherland Building’s new high-tech classroom.

The competition involved three teams from Abington, two from Hof and one that traveled from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. The true case concerned Pacific Gas and Electric’s “Greening the City” campaign in San Francisco and the resulting accusations of greenwashing by a local environmental group. Greenwashing is a term used for marketing tactics that tout a company’s environmental friendliness while obscuring other practices that are not so green.

For the Hof students and their Abington cohorts, the daylong event marked the culmination of a busy week of cultural activities, site visits to area companies, and academic workshops.

They toured the Harley-Davidson factory in York as well as two German-based technology companies, Siemens Healthcare in Malvern and SAP North America in Newtown Square. The site visits featured networking opportunities and discussions with leading managers.

A welcome reception and dinner the night before the competition gave the Hof and Abington students a chance to relax and mingle with the team from Eastern Mennonite as well as Penn State alumni and members of the campus community.

Abington Chancellor Karen Wiley Sandler introduced keynote speaker and alum Joseph Vassalluzzo to an audience of about 60 at the reception. In his keynote address, the chairman of the multibillion dollar Federal Realty Investment Trust recounted stories from his successful career and then distilled them into several pieces of advice for the students.

“Be opportunistic, positive, passionate, and take calculated risks. There is nothing wrong with fear of failure but don’t let it envelop you,” Vassalluzzo lectured enthusiastically. And lastly, you can pursue money while maintaining social responsibility.”

The next day the teams donned their business attire and took turns making their case before a panel of prestigious judges. Each team was allotted 20 minutes to present their analysis and then addressed an additional 10 minutes of questions from the panel.

The judges, all successful businesspeople, devoted time from their personal and professional endeavors to enrich the case competition experience for all involved. The judges were: Singer, chair of Abington College Advisory Board; David Rocchino, executive vice president and co-founder Health Advocate; Michael G. Cohen, founder and president, Situs Properties; Pat Foell, global marketing knowledge center lead, MasterCard Advisors; and Dick Jones,  healthcare executive in residence at Penn State Abington.

The faculty leaders were professor Hans-Peter Sonneborn and Maximillian Walter from Hof, Professor Chris Gingrich from Eastern Mennonite University, and business lecturers Janine Black and Nicholas Santarone from Abington campus.

For images from the competition and visit, search Penn State Abington on Facebook. To read the greenwashing case that the students analyzed, go to online.