Pictured Interim President Alexander Conyers (left) and Business Dean Barbara Adams (right) congratulate winning team members (L-R) Jada Diggs, Seth Harling, Ashley Major and Shontavia Riggins.
Students presented real-life solutions for Subway Restaurants.
ORANGEBURG, S.C. – When change is needed, try asking a young person.
That may be the big takeaway from South Carolina State University’s winning solution in the annual National Black MBA Association Undergraduate Case Competition.
SC State senior business students Jada Diggs, Seth Harling, Ashley Major and Shontavia Riggins bested teams from 12 schools across the nation, including such powerhouses as the University of Alabama, Howard University, University of Southern California, Purdue University and Indiana University. The championship brought $15,000 to the College of Business’ scholarship fund.
“I have such pride because these students come from all different backgrounds,” said Dr. Barbara Adams, dean of SC State’s College of Business. “You never know what students are going to do when they get here. Some of them have some experience, but most of them have no experience. They don’t know what to expect.
“To see where they get to when they leave here, that’s my inspiration,” Adams said.
In 2015, NBMBAA hosted its inaugural Undergraduate Business Case Competition with more than half of participating teams representing Historically Black College and Universities. This hands-on student consulting experience provides undergraduates early exposure to MBA-level business case strategy and allows them to be considered for competitive summer internship opportunities. Undergraduate minority business students from the nation’s leading colleges and universities compete for top ranking scholarships and employment opportunities.
Each year, students are given a case about a real company that has a problem, and the students are tasked with creating strategies to resolve the problem. This year the case was about Subway Restaurants and how to reverse a drop in revenue and store closings.
“I have to be ready and willing to dive into any opportunity I’m thrown,” Diggs, a senior majoring in business management, said of what she learned from developing the solution. “This was definitely out of my comfort zone and exposed me to so many things I didn’t know I was capable of. I’m just excited to use it for my future endeavors.
“We put in numerous hours, day in and day out, just communicating from morning to night to make sure we bounced ideas off of each other so that we could come up with the proper solution for Subway,” she said.
The competition gave Riggins a chance to apply what she has learned in her studies as an accounting major.
“I’m a transfer to SC State, and I had not really been involved here yet, so I just took this opportunity to network,” Riggins said. “We had to come up with financials to actually support our ideas.
“It gives me an upper hand as for jobs when they ask, ‘What kind of solutions have you provided?’ This a real solution in a real situation that we have provided. If Subway chooses to adopt our ideas, it will really make employers realize, that even though we are entry level, we still can compete,” she said.
Harling, a senior business marketing major who is focusing on obtaining his financial advisor and real estate licenses, said the process required steady collaboration among team members with motivation from their coach, Ellen Ricoma, a former business professor.
“The solution came from everybody’s ideas, and we took the things we knew best from what we see every day and things we see when we go different places,” Harling said. “It taught me to be open to new ideas – not just get stuck in a box or the norm. You have to branch out and try to do more.”
In the end, the students recommended that Subway advertise on the popular video sharing platform TikTok and add grills to restaurants.
“They should be able to cook the food hot and fresh for customers because a lot of customers prefer that,” Harling said. “We saw that in the surveys that we did. Customers like fresh hot food as opposed to just toasted or microwaved food.”
Major, the team’s captain, said developing the solution and the presentation for the competition took “patience, communication and grace.”
“We all have busy schedules. We are all seniors. We have heavy course loads,” Major said. “It took a lot of flexibility so we could all find time to meet. We had to establish set deliverables, which is what really brought this all together.”
SC State students also won the competition in 2018. Since first entering the Undergraduate Case Competition in 2016, SC State has placed in the top four all but one year. This was Major’s third year as part of the team.
“I think the things I have learned here at South Carolina State really have molded me to take on anything,” she said. “This was my first real leadership position. This was my third Case competition, but being a leader was really different.
“In the future, I can take this and apply it to my career,” Major said.
For the SC State College of Business, the NBMBAA Undergraduate Business Case Competition demonstrates the practical and analytical skills the faculty impresses on students.
“We think that some of the solutions we have presented in previous competitions have actually been implemented by those companies,” Adams said. “Our students come out of undergraduate school with a lot of analytical skills that can benefit companies and not just on the entry level.
“We try to instill in students that they can analyze a situation,” said. “Sometimes they may not really get it, but when we push it and use it in our classrooms, they build on that.”
Along with the overall championship, SC State’s students also received individual honors. Riggins won the award for the best presenter, and Major won the award for the best response to questions.