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Pamplin diversity case competition examines campus climate for underrepresented students


   

Diversity case competition winners, from left to right are Sunny Senedara, Sam Banks, Ian Hamre, and Denise Kee. Diversity case competition winners, from left to right are Sunny Senedara, Sam Banks, Ian Hamre, and Denise Kee.


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 29, 2010 – A Pamplin College of Business student team whose recommendations included discussing diversity issues in freshman orientation and incorporating diversity studies in the core curriculum won first place in the college's second annual diversity case competition. The competition this year examined the topic of creating a more welcoming environment for underrepresented students at Virginia Tech.

The team, which received $2,000, comprised undergraduate seniors Sam Banks, of McLean, Va., who is double majoring in accounting and finance; Ian Hamre, a finance major from Fort Worth, Texas; Denise Kee, of Springfield, Va., who is double majoring in marketing and international studies, and Sunny Senedara, a business information technology major from Falls Church, Va.

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 strategies for creating a more welcoming campus environment, competitors were asked to consider who the underrepresented students at Virginia Tech are, the campus climate they currently experience, and how it can be improved. Other questions were: "What timeline and budget can be allotted to the plan being proposed? What are the best and worst case scenarios? How much and what type of improvement does Virginia Tech need to show in order to be at par or better than comparable nationally ranked schools?"

The event, Wood said, "was designed to provide students an opportunity to develop their skills in analyzing and responding to complex business issues involving diversity."

The second prize of $1,000 went to a team comprising Nasser Mikdadi, a sophomore in accounting and finance from Vienna, Va.; Matt Welch, a freshman in accounting from Annandale, Va., and Steve Wernicki, a sophomore in accounting from Skillman, N.J.

The third prize of $500 went to Billy Clark, a senior in finance from Richmond, Va.; Haythem Hedda, a senior in finance from McLean, Va.; Glenn Sturm, a senior in finance from Richmond, Va.; and Isabella Ton, a junior in accounting and finance from Fairfax, Va.

A total of 15 student teams entered the competition, six of which were selected to present their case solutions in preliminary and final rounds. They were evaluated on presentation skills, presentation flow and organization, the quality of the recommendation, creativity, and their responses to questions from the judges.

Serving as judges in the final round were Fran Randall, international tax manager at Ernst & Young in Richmond, Va.; Patty Tuttle, senior vice president and community bank president at Wachovia in Roanoke, Va.; and Jacquie Jones-Mounts, senior manager of ethics and business conduct at Lockheed-Martin in Manassas, Va. Six Pamplin faculty members served as judges in the preliminary round: Candice Clemenz, Janine Hiller, Kent Murrmann, Robin Russell, Wanda Smith, and Richard Wokutch. Management assistant professor Nichole Phillips and Pamplin undergraduate academic advisor Yalana Bryant helped plan the event.

The competition received external funding from Ernst & Young and Wachovia and campus sponsorship from Pamplin's MBA Program, the college, and the Virginia Tech Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

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.