For the second time in three years, a team of Earlham College students has been selected to compete in the regional round of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) Case Competition.
Marc Gendreau, Kayla Newman, Winnie Nguyen and Denise Bergdolt will compete virtually on Saturday, Feb. 20, for a chance to advance to the national ASCM competition. The competition is sponsored by Deloitte Consulting LLP, a multinational professional services organization and one of the “Big Four” accounting firms in the world.
“Advancing to one of the eight regional rounds of this global competition is a special honor that underscores the quality of our faculty and the dedication and knowledge of our students,” said Seth Powless (pictured right), associate professor of Global Management and faculty adviser for the team. “Our students will be competing against undergraduate and graduate students from large universities with established business schools, but our students are once again proving that a strong liberal arts education provides the kind of foundation that can help them be successful.”
The team advanced to the regionals earlier this year after winning a quarterfinal competition against students from Purdue, Indiana and other Midwestern universities. That competition challenged participants to solve a real-world case involving distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The students believe the next round will have a similar focus.
“We received a huge layout of a floor plan for a vaccine and all of the glassworks that went into it. We had to figure out how to best create four different types of vials and keep them sanitary and move them out into the world,” said Kayla Newman, a junior Global Management major from Richmond, Indiana, whose studies focus on supply chain and operations management.
“In the first round we had a few weeks to submit our case and work on it with our team,” she said. “This next round is more intense. We will get our case at 7:30 a.m. and have to submit our video by 5:30 p.m. the same day.”
Earlhamites have competed in supply chain case competitions since 2017 with support from the College’s Global Management faculty and the Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity. A team of Earlham students last participated in the ASCM competition in 2019 and advanced to the regional round, which included an expenses-paid trip to Chicago. Earlham also finished first in the 2018 and 2019 Conexus of Indiana Supply Chain Case Competitions, an industry-driven event that featured more than 20 colleges and universities across the state.
“We are successful because our faculty make connections between students who might not typically work together,” said Denise Bergdolt, a junior Global Management and Economics double major from Germany.
“We are four people from Earlham, but we have three different majors and three nations represented on our team,” she said. “Two of us are student-athletes. Two of us are not. There are lots of different ideas and perspectives on our team we can bounce ideas off of. That’s what makes this so great.”
The teammates are learning how to leverage their strengths in the lead-up to the competition. For example, Bergdolt and Nguyen, an Economics and Computer Science double major from Vietnam, have emerged as the team’s data experts.
“When Marc and I have been sweating the details, Winnie has calmed us down and said, ‘It’s OK everyone. Let me type out some numbers,” Newman said. “Denise is writing on the chalkboard speaking in half German and half English figuring out formulas we didn’t even realize we needed.”
The team’s budding camaraderie has been one of the best parts of the competition, Gendreau said.
“We all bring such different strengths to the team,” said Gendreau, a Global Management major from Cincinnati with a concentration in supply chain and operations management.
“It makes the team camaraderie so much better. We’re learning from each other throughout this process. We’re hoping to make it to the end of this competition and make a statement.”