BLACKSBURG, Va., April 2, 2009 – Pamplin College of Business undergraduates Kevin Battista, Ashley Perry, and Matthew Ferrer won first place for their team effort in the college's diversity case competition, held earlier this week. Battista, of Mechanicsville, Va., and Ferrer, of Chesapeake, Va., are management majors; Perry is an accounting and information systems student from Norfolk, Va.
The team, which received $2,000, earned the highest score for their work on the case question: “Explore different methods and strategies that can be used to increase the underrepresented minority population at Pamplin. Specifically, recommend the most effective strategy that can be implemented at Pamplin to increase the populations of African-American, American-Indian, and Latino/Hispanic students.”
The second-place team of Laurie Manning, of Greensboro, N.C.; Cameron Hart, of Manassas, Va.; and Bethlhem Teshome, of Alexandria, Va., received $1,000. Third-place finishers Christine Damico, of Roanoke, Va.; Estee Rios, of Roseville, Calif.; Eric Poppe, of Oak Hill, Va.; and Ben Yu, of Fairfax, Va., received $500.
Lynette Wood, an assistant professor of accounting and information systems who chairs Pamplin’s Multicultural Diversity Committee and coordinated the competition, said that in addition to proposing effective strategies for college administrators, faculty, and staff, competitors were also asked to consider how Pamplin students themselves could “be instrumental in recruiting underrepresented minority students,” recruitment plan timelines, best and worst case scenarios, and how much the college would need to improve “to be at par or better than comparable nationally ranked schools in enrollment of underrepresented minorities.”
A total of 14 student teams entered the competition, Wood said. The event, she said, “was designed to provide students an opportunity to develop important professional skills, such as analyzing and responding quickly to complex business issues involving diversity.” The students presented their case solutions at preliminary and final rounds over two evenings earlier this week. “They were evaluated on presentation skills, presentation flow and organization, the quality of the recommendation, creativity, and their responses to questions from the judges.”
Battista, who led the winning team, said he learned more about diversity from working with his teammates than he could have in a classroom. “Matt and Ashley are both African American and from areas with higher populations of blacks. I’m from suburban Hanover County where the most diverse person is who has the darkest tan. The two of them really showed me that while I understood the problem, I didn't understand them…we all had different ideas, and we embraced that.”
Serving as judges in the final round were Eva Doss, executive director of Southside Business Technology Center in Martinsville, Va.; Ann Friel, director of strategic business development at CSC in Falls Church, Va.; Kate Krumpelman, general manager of Blue Ridge Business Journal in Roanoke; Frank Larizza, human resources director at GE Energy in Salem, Va.; Richard Larkins, partner at Ernst & Young in Washington,D.C.; and Donna Rhodes, human resources director of Carilion Labs in Roanoke. Six Pamplin faculty members served as judges in the preliminary round: John Brozovsky, Candice Clemenz, Janine Hiller, Robin Russell, Wanda Smith, and Richard Wokutch.
Thanking the student participants and faculty organizers, Pamplin Dean Richard E. Sorensen noted that the competition’s success “exceeded all our expectations.” Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel A. Wubah said, “It was refreshing to hear students provide their perspectives on how diversity will impact their future.” The competition, he added, is a “solid approach to engaging students in an activity that matters to the college and Virginia Tech.”
The competition was sponsored by the college and its diversity committee, Business Diversity Center, MBA program, and undergraduate program, as well as the university’s Office for Equity and Inclusion, Ernst & Young, and CSC.
The event is an example of Pamplin’s commitment to diversity programs, Wood 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.