Three College of Business students from the University of Rhode Island placed second in the 2018 Business Language case competition hosted by the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business in Utah.
In this competition, teams of three are introduced to a startup or a company that has a specific problem they want fixed. The teams then need to come up with a solution and a strategy to fix it while presenting it in a foreign language. These non-native speakers had to present their case in Mandarin Chinese. A total of seven universities competed for the top three spots.
“It was a shoe company called TAFT and they wanted to expand internationally so they asked us to come up with a logistics plan for how they could, cost-effectively as possible,” Verity Chelso, a double major in supply chain management and Chinese said. “We recommended they first enter into England. They currently produce their shoes in Spain so they could set up a distribution center in France which would make it easy to move the shoes to other European countries in the future. The idea was that if they could succeed in England, they would be able to extend into other European countries.”
This team of three was mentored by College of Business Professor Jerry Xia. Xia has been teaching at URI since 2016 and leads research into digital marketing and online commerce.
“It was great working closely with Professor Jerry over a week,” Chelso said. “I think he had the right amount of encouragement but also he knew when to be more relaxed. He could always tell when we didn’t understand business terms or concepts and he would explain it to make it easier.”
Xia was impressed by the students’ proficiency in Chinese. As a result, he was able to help them facilitate a secure solution fairly easily.
“Their language skills were already pretty good, so I just had to focus was on how to help them present and analyze the case better,” Xia said. “Our students are from different majors and they may have their own expertise. So they may focus on one aspect of the case. My job is to lead them to think about the quantitative analysis and the multiple aspects of the case, to come up with a solution that the judges want to see.”
The concepts used in the competition were directly inspired by the lessons taught in class. The students found the business strategy part of the competition much more challenging than presenting the case in Chinese.
“Working with Verity and Grant West was phenomenal,” Sarah Chambers, a double major in Global Business and Chinese, said. “It clicked for us because they are both strong leaders and team players. Meeting new people and making new connections was the best part, although balancing your regular school work and trying to prepare for this competition in a week was a little challenging.”