UMSL hosts annual international business case competition, sponsored by Bayer

by | Apr 25, 2022

The competition challenged students to utilize what they’ve learned about business so far and push themselves beyond traditional thinking to produce inventive solutions.

Leo Bastos of Bayer explains the challenge to the students at the UMSL annual international business case competition. (Photos by Wendy Todd)

Robert Ottinger is a sophomore at the University of Missouri–St. Louis majoring in business administration and got a chance to directly apply what he’s learned in his studies at the ninth annual International Business Case Competition last week.

“I thought it was really good,” Ottinger said. “It offered insight into the business world that I hadn’t gotten before. I really appreciated the networking it provided as well. I learned that it’s not just about your solution but how you get to that solution.  And being able to articulate the answer is also important.”

The International Business Institute in UMSL’s College of Business Administration hosted the event, which attracted seven teams from universities across the country to take part in the competition to create the best business solution for a carbon initiative by Bayer, the sponsoring company. The competing universities were UMSL, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Florida International University, Illinois State University, Truman State University, University of Tennessee–Knoxville and Washington University in St. Louis.

The carbon initiative was to involve the creation of low carbon products, processes and practices to aid farmers in producing more food with a lower greenhouse gas footprint.

Joe Rottman, UMSL professor and director of the International Business Institute, addresses students from the seven participating universities at the annual international business case competition.

Joseph Rottman, chair of the Strategic Planning and Innovation Committee and director of the International Business Institute, and Program Manager Renita Miller, led the first in-person competition in two years. The objective of the competition was to get students to utilize their research, analytical, problem-solving skills and business acumen in a collaborative setting, to prepare for “real world” work scenarios. Cash prizes were awarded to the top three teams. UMSL came in third in a competition won by Washington University.

Leo Bastos, SVP Global Commercial Ecosystems, Crop Science Division at Bayer, introduced the case, which involved solving the question, “What are the best strategies and models for Bayer to explore and be the winner in sustainable agriculture?” The students then split up into their teams and went to work on a solution that would be presented the next day.

Andrew McVicker, a senior business major at Truman State looked forward to convening with his fellow students to engage in the competition.

“I’m very excited,” McVicker said before the competition. “I remember reading the case study in the hotel, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so passionate and focused on a project in a long time. We’re all working together with people who have similar passion and drive. I think it’s been a lot of fun. I’m very excited to see the kind of results that we get.”

Other students appreciated the significance of the competition and its ability to enhance their personal skills and contribute substantively to a major company. Mackenzie Cossette, a junior at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business who participated in last year’s competition, believed UMSL’s event is one of the best competitions of its type.

“Being able to interact with a VP of this big organization was so interesting.” Cossette said. “It allowed us to have a more hands-on look because sometimes with a lot of these case competitions, we’re more removed from company. And it really feels like we’re contributing to something bigger than just a weekend case competition. I think we can actually provide some insight as undergraduate students that could be beneficial.”

Insights offered by the teams were seen and evaluated by actual executives who served as judges.

“They get immediate constructive feedback on their strategy and delivery,” Rottman said.

The competition challenged students to utilize what they’ve learned about business so far and push themselves beyond traditional thinking to produce inventive solutions.

“I thought the teams really embraced the case and worked hard to propose creative and innovative solutions to the problem,” Bastos said. “I was pleased to see all the presentations and how much thought went into them.”

Drew Hoffschwelle, a senior and business administration student on the UMSL team believes the competition was a special learning experience.

“When we started the case, I had no prior knowledge on the subject matter, the carbon trading market,” Hoffschwelle said. “After we were finished, I learned so much and got insight from professionals in the industry. The most enjoyable part was spending time with my team members and bouncing innovative ideas off each other and building on those ideas. I enjoyed presenting as well and answering the questions of the judges. I felt honored to be the first UMSL team that has placed in a long time, and I would suggest anyone who is a business major to think about participating.”

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Wendy Todd

Wendy Todd

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