Students train for Penn State Abington business case competition title

You could almost hear the opening trumpet notes of the Rocky theme emanating from eight German college students who visited Philadelphia last week. It could have been related to the “title fight” they were about to wage in the Penn State Abington International Business Case Competition, but more likely it was connected to the item at the top of their bucket list, scaling the iconic steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

“When I found out we were coming to Philadelphia, I couldn’t wait to run the Rocky Balboa stairs,” said Martin Heier, a student at Hof University of Applied Sciences, as his teammates laughed and nodded in agreement. “But I was the only one who did it!”

Sandwiched between cheesesteaks and visits to New York City and Lancaster County’s Amish country with Abington faculty and students, the Germans and their leader, Professor Hans-Peter Sonnenborn, kept a rigorous academic schedule.

There were site visits to two German-based technology companies with U.S. headquarters near Philadelphia, Siemens Healthcare and SAP North America, along with long days and nights of preparation for the case competition, which left them exhilarated and exhausted.

“This is my first visit to the United States, and it is overwhelming. There are many tiny differences between our countries, but many similarities,” said Ronja Altenpohl, who wore a traditional Bavarian dirndl ensemble to a dinner for the five competing teams.

Each Hof student was paired with an Abington counterpart for their weeklong stay, and Altenpohl was thrilled with the result. “My Penn State buddy was amazing,” she said as she hugged Kate Morgan, who studied in Germany last summer.

For her part, Morgan was able to renew some acquaintances. “I was happy to have the opportunity to reconnect with my German friends,” she said.

The International Business Case Competition involved three teams representing Penn State Abington, two teams from Hof and one team that traveled from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. The case they evaluated focused on greenwashing, or marketing tactics touting a company’s environmental friendliness while obscuring other practices that are not so green.

The competition was organized by Gary Calore, division head for Social Sciences, and Dolores Arevalo, coordinator of International Affairs, both at the Abington campus. Financial support was provided by the Chancellor’s Vision Capital Fund. The judges and panelists were comprised of alumni and friends of the campus.

Learn the results and behind the scenes information from the Penn State Abington International Case Competition in next week’s Philadelphia Regional newswire. For images from the weeklong competition and visit, search Penn State Abington on Facebook.