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The First Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Global Case Writing Competition Produces Compelling Real-World Case Studies For Use in Business Schools


There’s a significant lack of business school teaching materials with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion — and recent events demonstrating systemic racial inequities have only made that gap clearer.

In partnership with WDI Publishing, the Ross School of Business and its Sanger Leadership Center called on university students and educators from around the globe to address the problem. Late last year, the groups launched the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Global Case Writing Competition — a challenge with the goal of eliciting and sharing case studies that encourage critical thinking around effective DEI measures in business. 

Winners, including members of the Michigan Ross community, were chosen from dozens of compelling real-world cases. Winning teams earned thousands of dollars in cash prizes.

“We had a great deal of interest and a large number of high-quality submissions from around the world,” said organizer David Wooten, associate dean of One-Year Masters Programs at Michigan Ross and University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor at the University of Michigan. “This is only the beginning of what I hope will be a long-running effort to address the industry-wide problem of the dearth of cases that cover issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

About the competition 

The DEI Global Case Writing Competition featured two tracks: one focused on traditional business case studies with accompanying teaching notes, and the other focused on the submission of a case designed for a real-time, role-playing event for action-based learning. The top three cases for track one have been published by WDI Publishing, part of the William Davidson Institute at the U-M, while the track two winners will be used by Sanger for its Leadership Crisis Challenge program. 

A group of academic leaders and business professionals with expertise in DEI and business education judged the competition. Judges of the track one finalists included Tamika Curry Smith, BBA '95, president of The TCS Group Inc., a firm that provides human resources and DEI solutions; Scott Page, the John Seely Brown Distinguished Professor of Complexity, Social Science and Management at Michigan Ross; and Courtney McCluney, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the ILR School at Cornell University. Track two finalists were judged by Susan Ashford, the Michael and Susan Jandernoa Professor of Management and Organizations; Mike Barger, assistant clinical professor of business administration and executive director of Ross Online; and Anuradha Nagarajan, faculty member in the corporate strategy and international business department – all at Michigan Ross.  

After working in the DEI field for two decades, Curry Smith recognizes the importance of developing the new case studies that can be used by global business schools.

“Competitions like these are important because they bring DEI to life, making the topic tangible and accessible for students from all backgrounds,” said Curry Smith. 

Highlighting a diverse set of protagonists in academic case studies and integrating DEI into business dilemmas strengthens the knowledge and skill set of today’s students and prepares them to become tomorrow’s global business leaders.

Tamika Curry Smith, BBA '95

Track one winners 

First place went to Michigan Ross Professor Christopher Rider, DEI expert Eileen Lopez Rider, and research associate Shonita Black, who wrote a timely case concerning the National Football League’s Rooney Rule, a guideline requiring a slate of diverse candidates during hiring processes. They worked closely with Civil Rights Attorney Cyrus Mehri to tell the story of how Mehri and others developed the rule to advocate for football coaches of color — and business leaders of color elsewhere. Using historical data, timelines of hiring trends, and data simulations, the case asks students to consider whether the Rooney Rule is still the industry’s most effective tool and what next steps would be appropriate in growing its impact.

Second place went to Marisa Weidner, MBA ’21, and Jane Xie, MBA ’21, with a case focusing on a women-owned athletic apparel company, Oiselle, that supports various socio-political causes. In their case study, students are asked to explore the fundamental question of the role of business in advancing DEI initiatives and different approaches to promoting these values. 

Third place went to Professor David A. Wernick and doctoral student Siddharth K. Upadhyay from Florida International University. This team’s case is about Lemon Tree Hotels, a leading Indian hotel company that employs people with disabilities and other socially marginalized groups, placing them in front-line positions. Students are challenged to consider the strategic, operational, and financial challenges of the hotel’s plans for U.S. expansion while maintaining its inclusion program.

Beyond having their case studies published by WDI Publishing, the first-place winners from track one received $10,000, second-place winners received $5,000, and third-place winners received $2,500.

Track two winners

Teams of Michigan Ross MBAs captured the top three places of track two. The MBAs’ winning cases will be used to support the Leadership Crisis Challenge, a simulated 24-hour challenge that pushes students to apply the case theories to real-life situations. All the cases developed for this track were based on fictional companies, and details are being kept secret until they are unraveled during future crisis challenges.

First-place winners were Stephanie Simpson, MBA/MSI ’21; Scott Schenkelberg, MBA ’22; Chris Schweiger, MBA ’22, and Brian Lui, MBA ;22. They received a $10,000 prize for their case about a fictional software-as-a-service company called Aethos. 

The second-place winner was Gyanesh Mishra, MBA ‘21. He received a $5,000 prize for his case about Trendz, an “affordable luxury” company based in India.

Third-place winners were ​​Devika Agarwal, MBA/MS ’22; Douglas Ely, MBA/MS ’22; and Nadia Ogene, MBA ’21. They received a $2,500 prize for their case about Inner Beauty, a cosmetic company.

A $500 honorable mention prize went to U-M students John Rhodes, MHSA ’21, and Kyra Freeman, MPH ’21. Their case was about Atlantis Health, a health system that serves urban and rural communities.

The winning cases were able to get students to think critically about how their actions contribute to building more just, tolerant, and diverse organizations. The authors created exciting and relevant learning experiences during our Crisis Challenge that will engage participants for years to come.

Lindy Greer, faculty director of the Sanger Leadership Center and associate professor of management at Michigan Ross

Growing interest in diversity and inclusion in the workplace

As a Michigan Ross professor, Christopher Rider has seen an increased appreciation for diversity and inclusion over the last few years, especially a growing value placed on equity. 

“A lot of our students, and a lot of business leaders, are concerned that there are disparities in our workforce, in our supply chains, and they’d like to address those disparities,” he said. “To do that, they need the right analytical tools to identify if there are disparities, and, if so, why, so they can design ways to actually close those gaps.” 

Rider sees tremendous value in using the winning cases in the classroom. He plans to use his first-place case about the Rooney Rule as a cornerstone of the new course he is launching on equity analysis at Michigan Ross. 

“Younger generations are relatively more attuned to these issues,” said Rider. “There’s a sense that our work should not just be profitable, but also meaningful. We want to not just have a job, not just have a career, but also do work we feel is important for an organization that aligns with our values.” 

“Having the right academic teaching tools, like these DEI case studies, can provide the space and skill for students to thoughtfully determine that path,” he said.

Learn more about diversity at Michigan Ross

Learn more about the Sanger Leadership Center

Learn more about the William Davidson Institute


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