2019 APICS Case Competition | Earlham College
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Aleksa Topalovic ’19, Luke Brake ’21, Son Gnoc Tran ’19 and Assistant Professor of Global Management Seth Powless.

Global management students earn spot in selective case competition in Chicago

December 18, 2018

Three Global Management majors from Earlham College will comprise one of just eight teams invited from around the United States to compete in the regional round of the 2019 APICS Case Competition on February 15-16 in Chicago. APICS is a leading source for supply chain and operations management certification, education, and research for supply chain professionals and corporations.

Son Gnoc Tran ’19, Aleksa Topalovic ’19 and Luke Brake ’21 will have 48 hours in the Windy City to solve a complicated case, or challenge, associated with supply chain management and operations. They will present their solution to a live panel of judges.

“It is very significant to be selected for this regional competition,” says Seth Powless, assistant professor of Global Management and faculty adviser for the Earlham team.

“Thousands of schools enter teams in these competitions and very rarely do schools of Earlham’s size get selected,” he says. “It speaks to the dedication and aggression of this team.”

Earlhamites have been competing in local and national supply chain case competitions since 2017 with support from the College’s Global Management faculty and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Most recently, Earlham finished first in the 2018 Conexus of Indiana Supply Chain Case Competition, an industry-driven event that featured more than 20 colleges and universities across the state.

“We won the Conexus competition because we provided a more holistic approach to the case, a whole complete strategy, that was attractive to the judges representing the industry,” says Tran says. “In Chicago, we’re going to have to do more to win. The APICS competition will be judged by academic professors. They are looking for not only academic knowledge of supply chains, but also a business sense of the case, and an understanding of the academic formulas involved in the solution.”

For entry into the APICS regional event, the Earlham team submitted solutions to a case involving shipments of graphic cards from Asia to the United States. The cases in both the preliminary round and the upcoming regional event are selected by Deloitte, a multinational professional services organization and one of the “Big Four” accounting organizations in the world.

“It was really hard and we still don’t entirely understand all the details of the case,” Topalovic says about the case from the preliminary round. “It was very complicated, but I think we were successful because of the broad approach that an Earlham education gives us. It helps us look at things differently. We all bring different areas of expertise to the team, too. Luke is also double-majoring in Biochemistry. Son was very specialized in quantitative areas of supply chain management whereas I think I come from a more qualitative perspective.”

APICS will cover all of the Earlham team’s expenses while in Chicago. The winner of the Chicago regional will advance to the final round of competition in September at the APICS annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“This is unprecedented for Earlham,” Powless says. “The schools we’re going to be up against are not going to be anything like us and that’s what gives them a competitive advantage. I’m highly optimistic they can get to Vegas.”

In addition to case competitions, Tran and Topalovic are also founding members of NadaBot, a resource-sharing app currently being piloted on select college campuses across the country. The app was launched as part of a course called the E-nnovation Lab.

Earlham’s EPIC initiative also supports students with an interest in business-related topics by providing access to several immersive, out-of-the-classroom experiences ranging from funded internships, student-faculty research experiences and opportunities for leadership development.

Every spring, the Earlham Prize for Creative Capitalism awards professional mentorship and seed capital to students with world-changing ideas. The grand prize is $20,000.

The Earlham-Fullbridge Six-Day Business Bootcamp is an intensive program that exposes students to core workplace competencies as well as key concepts and behaviors for success in the modern workplace.

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. We rank 7th nationally by Princeton Review for Best Classroom Experience and 22nd by U.S. News and World Report for commitment to undergraduate teaching.

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.


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