Before the fall semester came to an end, Illinois State business students received the opportunity to sharpen their presentation and teamwork skills at the Corporate Social Responsibility Case Competition.

The Corporate Social Responsibility Case Competition, hosted by the College of Business, took place in November as a precursor to Business Week. The competition was held inside the State Farm Hall of Business’ Caterpillar Auditorium and was sponsored by COUNTRY Financial.

Although Business Week officially begins February 24, the Corporate Social Responsibility Case Competition gave students an early chance to network and collaborate in a professional environment.

“The competition teaches students how to comprise their insightful ideas and knowledge acquired through their studies and experiences into a pitch to solve a current problem that a real corporation is facing,” said Shannon Donaldson, a junior marketing and communication studies major from Crystal Lake. “The event is a wonderful way to improve public speaking, teamwork, and critical-thinking skills.”

Donaldson worked alongside fellow business majors Adrian Kuzbik and Estevan Mora to lead and organize the event. As a coordinator, Donaldson reached out to potential sponsors and facilitated the communication between the multiple parties involved in the competition. Kuzbik took control of the event’s logistics, keeping track of the contestants and judges in attendance as well as reorganizing the teams in the case of absences.

Twelve teams of two to five student contestants competed at the event. The students had to present ways to increase Apple’s social responsibility after the company faced criticism for failing to uphold ethical and moral standards over the years.

“The teams had to create their own solutions as well as pose some sort of way to resolve issues in the future,” said Donaldson.

The competition was overseen by eight judges who scored the teams based on their presentation’s stance, specifics, rationale, and opening and closing remarks as well as each student’s professional dress and presentation skills. 

To incentivize the students, COUNTRY Financial donated prize money for the competition. The first-place team received $1,000, the second-place team received $650, and the third-place team received $350. The first-place prize was won by a team from the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity.

“Having a monetary prize was very motivating,” said Kuzbik, a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Franklin Park. “It really brought a lot out of the students and pushed them to challenge their critical- thinking skills.”

As collaboration is an integral part of being a professional, Donaldson and Kuzbik are grateful for the opportunity to sharpen their teamwork skills.

“The number one thing is the experience of working with a team,” said Kuzbik. “It’s all pieces of a puzzle that wouldn’t be put together without a strong team.”

After taking initiative as student leaders, Donaldson and Kuzbik feel that they gained valuable experience through the competition as well as the other Business Week opportunities.

“The experience that I’ve had with Business Week has provided me with the confidence and excitement to carry on as a business professional post-graduation,” said Donaldson. “Business Week provides the leverage that any student may desire in terms of being as prepared as possible when entering the real world.”

The 2020 Business Week will be held February 24–27 and include a trivia night, transition seminar, a professional development dinner, and keynote address. The events offer students the opportunity to develop their marketable skills as well as interact with alumni and employers.