Emory University’s Goizueta Business School has announced this year’s winners of its celebrated case competition that focuses on the intersection of business and racial inequality.
For a pitch on diversifying suppliers to Taco Bell, students from Indiana’s Kelley School of Business attracted the top award. Awards were presented last week by the nephew of the civil rights icon the competition bears the name of.
The John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition, a student-run event that’s hailed as the first of its kind, is named after the late congressman and civil rights leader John R. Lewis. In its third year, more than 30 student teams from 20 universities participated in the competition that was co-founded in 2020 by Emory Goizueta alumnus Willie Sullivan.
CASE COMPETITION FIRST PRIZE: $20K
The team from Kelley won first place for presenting “Ringing the Bell,” a three-pronged strategy for Taco Bell that included a goal to reach a 10 percent disadvantaged business enterprise spend. The winning prize of $20,000 will be split down the middle, with half going to the team and half going to a food cycle charity called Urban Canopy, serving the South Side of Chicago.
A team from the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business was chosen as runner-up for its four-tiered plan on the same prompt of securing diverse suppliers. The team’s $10,000 prize was split with their chosen charity GirlTrek, a promoter of healing and health justice for Black women.
Four of 12 student teams were picked as finalists and invited to the competition’s inaugural Making the Case weekend from February 16-19, which included one-on-one engagement from sponsoring partners Delta Air Lines and Taco Bell and a full slate of speakers and panels.
The keynote guest speaker was Congresswoman Nikema Williams of Georgia’s 5th District. Jerrick Lewis, John Lewis’ nephew and the executive director of the John R. Lewis Legacy Institute, presented the competition awards.
The two other teams included students from Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering and Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business. Posed by Delta, their question was: How can Delta help marginalized communities get “unstuck” in the pursuit of employment?
COMPETITION FOUNDED IN WAKE OF HIGH-PROFILE POLICE KILLINGS
The competition’s managing director Brandan Gillespie says it is the main reason he’s getting his MBA at Goizueta. “It was really important for me to see that there was a space for individuals like me who were inclined to social justice and racial equity,” Gillespie says in a new release.
In 2020, JLCC founder Willie Sullivan created the competition in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others at the hands of police officers. Around the same time, Harvard Business School released a case study documenting unequal toward Black men and woman in America. In a 2020 interview with P&Q, Sullivan said those two things served as the basis for his initial idea, which was creating a prompt for students to think about issues around race in the classroom.
Past years have seen sponsorships from companies and major brands like Walmart, Salesforce, HP, Truist Bank, and Johnson & Johnson. Last year the audience tallied nearly 4,000 people. A group of Yale SOM students placed first for their recommendation of creating a physical tech hub tabbed the Racial Justice Hub. Half of their prize money went to Black Women Tech Talk, a conference for Black woman entrepreneurs and technologists.
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