Five students from the Fox School of Business elected for a non-traditional spring break. Their remote destination was a placid campus. Their beach was a third-floor conference room in Altar Hall.
And instead of vacation, they opted for preparation.
The group’s discipline paid off. Five members of Temple University’s Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter comprised the team that won first place in the SHRM East Division Undergraduate Case Competition and Career Summit.
This marked the first time the Fox School had fielded a team for the regional case competition, which was held March 20-21 in Baltimore. Fox’s team included juniors Megan Rybak, Ryan Colomy, Connor McNamee and James Harootunian, and senior Nicole Bieri.
“We are extremely proud of this inaugural SHRM case competition student team, for preparing so diligently and then winning this prestigious competition,” said Dr. Deanna Geddes, Chair of Fox’s Human Resource Management department. “They are impressive ambassadors for our undergraduate HRM program.”
Fox’s SHRM team, one of 17 in the competition, received its case March 1, on the first day of Temple University’s spring break. The members were required to submit a two-page executive summary and the PowerPoint slides to their presentation only three days later, a deadline that significantly cut into their spring-break downtime.
“We spent the majority of our break in a conference room, pouring over the case information,” McNamee said.
“The case was a small non-profit hospital that was having challenges with its talent-development function,” Harootunian said. “We argued that there was a problem with who was responsible for overseeing employees’ long-term growth. While it’s important for the managers of each division to have a hand in it, we made a case that HR, the employees and the hospital should all factor into the process.”
Lacking case competition experience, the team delivered its presentation on four occasions at the Fox School in the days leading up to the summit. In doing so, the members hoped to elicit genuine questions from a fresh audience, in order to replicate the queries they might face from a judging panel.
In Baltimore, the Fox SHRM team made its 15-minute, first-round presentation March 21. The members were informed later that day that they had been selected as one of two teams to advance to the next day’s final round.
“Once we learned we were one of the finalists, to us, that felt like we won,” said Rybak, the team’s captain. “Making the final round was a bigger achievement than we had expected. We were new to the competition. I think that helped us remain calm in our second presentation, which was in front of a larger group and in a larger room.”
Each of the Fox SHRM team’s five members earned complimentary registration to the 2015 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, to be held June 28-July 1, in Las Vegas, Nev., as well as a $2,500 stipend to cover most of the team’s travel expenses for the Baltimore-based case competition.
More importantly, Fox’s SHRM team received sterling feedback from the final-round judges, who lauded the team’s use of metrics to support its analysis. Judges also cited impressive business communication skills, professionalism, and presentation fluidity. After the announcement of their win, a healthcare-industry professional approached the team seeking a future collaboration.
“One gentleman even gave us his business card and asked us if we could help his hospital make similar improvements to their HR practices,” Colomy said.
“Our excellent Temple educations showed and, at that moment, I was never more proud to represent the Fox School,” Bieri said. “We could not have done this without the support of the other Temple students who attended the conference, and our two advisors, Dr. Debra Casey and Dr. Andrea Lopez, who supported us the whole way.”
Temple’s nationally recognized SHRM chapter is one of 24 student-professional organizations at Fox. The group has been recognized previously as one of SHRM’s top-10 chapters nationally, and, in 2013-14, receives the national organization’s Outstanding Chapter Award.
The case championship is not the first notable distinction earned by the chapter, and it likely won’t be the last.