An engineering student team, whose recommendations included developing principles of community similar to those espoused by Virginia Tech, won first place in a diversity case competition held recently by the Pamplin College of Business.

The annual competition presents a business case concerning a diversity issue. The competing student teams have to analyze the issue and provide recommendations for improvement. The event, said Robin Russell, a professor of business information technology who chaired the competition committee, is designed to help students develop their skills in analyzing and responding to complex business issues involving diversity.

“The competition also gives them the opportunity to work in diverse groups, hone their presentation skills, and interact with corporate executives and university faculty and administrators.”

This year’s case, created by Pamplin faculty, described a multicultural team that was having difficulty functioning effectively, Russell said. Competitors tackled these case questions: Why are our teams not achieving the kinds of synergies and innovation expected of diverse teams? How can we leverage our multicultural workforce to enhance team performance? The student teams, she said, had to develop a plan made effective use of multiculturalism to improve team performance.”

Russell said 18 teams comprising more than 60 students in all, from five colleges across the university, competed in the preliminary round. Six teams made it to the final round, from which three winning teams were chosen. The teams were evaluated on the quality of the recommendation, creativity, and their responses to questions from the judges as well as on presentation skills and organization.

The first-place winners, who received $2,000, comprised Moises Seraphin, of Miami, Fla., a senior majoring in aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering; Timothy Austin, of Baltimore, Md., a junior majoring in visual communication in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; and Al Glover, of Baltimore, Md., a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering in the College of Engineering.

The second-place winners, who received $1,000, were Sandy Bass, of Virginia Beach, Va., a senior majoring in marketing and theatre arts in the Pamplin College of Business; Amaan Karim, of Springfield, Va., a senior majoring in finance in the Pamplin College of Business; and Katie McManus, of Stow, Ohio, a senior majoring in marketing in the Pamplin College of Business.

The third-place team, which received $500, comprised Roy Xiao, of Sterling, Va., a sophomore majoring in economics in the Pamplin College of Business; Arris Bahrami, of Sterling, Va., a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering in the College of Engineering; and Erin Murdock, of Sterling, Va., a freshman in university studies.

Students enter the competition without class credit or support, Russell said. Many of the teams, she noted, had competed in previous years of the competition.

The competition received external funding from Ernst & Young, The Nielsen Company, and Altria and campus sponsorship from the Virginia Tech Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the MBA Program and Business Diversity Center of the Pamplin College of Business. The Pamplin Multicultural Diversity Committee, comprising students, faculty, and administrators, planned the event.

Serving as judges in the final round were Corey Weidner, Richmond advisory senior manager at Ernst & Young; Connor Fournier, a financial leadership program associate at Nielsen; Diane L. Romyak, of Altria Client Services; and Nancy Brittle, alumni career resources director at Virginia Tech. Nine Pamplin faculty members served as judges in the preliminary round: Rajesh Bagchi, Reza Barkhi, Chris Barnes, Candi Clemenz, Janine Hiller, Lara Khansa, Kent Murrmann, Sue Murrmann, and Michelle Seref.

The event is an example of Pamplin’s commitment to diversity programs, Russell said. The college has included diversity-related goals in its strategic plan for several years and has sponsored the diversity committee, comprising faculty and student members, since 1987.

In the fall of 1997, it adopted the “Diversity as a Core Value” statement, written by the committee and discussed and approved by Pamplin faculty and staff. More recently, the college created an award for diversity excellence to honor faculty for outstanding contributions to the college’s diversity programs.



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