At 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday in January, Benjamin Bunyatipanon, Evelyn Wong, Marisol Martinez and Rebeca Semere gathered on a Zoom call for one, final practice run of their presentation. They were less than an hour from the culmination of months of hard work, when they would represent the University of Washington (UW) in the Preliminary Round of the National Diversity Case Competition (NDCC).
Ultimately, this dynamic team would win their Preliminary Round bracket, and place second overall out of 24 schools competing on the final day, and nearly fifty schools total whose initial applications and Executive Summaries were accepted for the competition. This UW team would beat out the likes of Boston College, University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania, falling short of the top prize only to the team from the host, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. The most impressive aspect of this momentous day? All four members of the University of Washington team are currently in just their second quarter at the UW.
Ben, Marisol and Rebeca first met as high school students through Young Executives of Color (YEOC), and all four participated in Business Bridge (B2), both programs run by Foster’s Undergraduate Diversity Services. UDS strives to empower students of historically underrepresented backgrounds seeking to earn a degree or start a career in business. Last spring, in the midst of the first months of the pandemic, all four were admitted to the University of Washington, with Evelyn and Rebeca also accepted into the Foster Freshman Direct program!
Upon gaining admission to the UW, Ben, Evelyn, Marisol and Rebeca all applied and were admitted into the UDS Business Bridge program, which aims to build a cohort community amongst diverse freshmen planning to study Business while at the UW. Along with 32 peers, these four completed a five-credit College Writing class during the Early Fall Start term, and participated in four-weeks worth of professional and leadership development programming. An annual staple of B2, is the end-of-program Case Competition, and our foursome were randomly selected to compete together, and placed first out of eight B2 teams competing! Their winning streak continued in Fall Quarter at the annual Deloitte Diversity Case Competition (DDCC), a collaboration between UDS, the Consulting and Business Development Center (CDBC), the Student Engagement, Learning and Leadership (SELL) team, and Deloitte Consulting, which has acted as the annual qualifier for NDCC since 2018.
Once Ben, Evelyn, Marisol, and Rebeca won the DDCC in late October, they had to wait until the end of November to receive the NDCC Case and instructions. Increased bandwidth due to the new virtual format allowed IU and the Kelley School to add another round to the competition and accordingly to admit more schools than usual. In total, forty-six (46) schools were accepted for this ‘First Round,’ in which all teams were required to submit an Executive Summary of their proposed solution. The case was sponsored by the manufacturing giant 3M, and asked students to propose new Diversity & Inclusion initiatives for 3M to champion.
Leveraging their personal perspective as first-generation college students, Ben, Evelyn, Marisol and Rebeca proposed a scaffolded program which would introduce diverse, low-income students in elementary, middle and high school to STEM curriculum, experiences and professional mentors in industry. Expertly weaving together research on 3M and comparable outreach programs with their own experiences in programs like YEOC and B2, the team delivered a unique and holistic solution in their Executive Summary, and were selected to advance. In preparation of their final presentation, the UW team met and practiced with former UW team members from past NDCCs, Foster staff and Foster faculty. But on the final day, it was up to Ben, Evelyn, Marisol and Rebeca. In spite of having to wake up early on a Saturday for a competition organized on East Coast time, and having to compete against teams made up of majority upperclassmen, these four brought together all of their past experiences and preparation to deliver a powerful and dynamic presentation, proudly representing their school and communities and leaving us all excited for what lays ahead for these talented freshmen!