back to news March 19, 2021

Students solve professional diversity issues in case competition

The Center for Career and Professional Success (Career Success) recently hosted a virtual mini case study competition focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, pairing students together to address a diversity-oriented organizational problem.

Wendy Smooth, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and associate professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies, provided opening remarks for the event, highlighting the importance of an arts and sciences education in handling diversity issues in the workplace. 

Student teams were given one week to review a case study provided by Dublin-based Level D&I Solutions and develop innovative resolutions and responses before presenting their ideas to a set of judges. Students did not necessarily know one another in advance, providing them an opportunity to bridge differences and practice teamwork, leadership and communication, while applying logic and cultural understanding to address the challenge. 

Presentations were analyzed and evaluated on the overall quality, effectiveness and feasibility of the proposed solutions, with the strongest responses moving forward. Judges included industry professionals Annette King, a retail recruiter, and Nicole Smith, senior recruiter for Grange Insurance.

“I was honestly amazed by the level of drive and innovation the students had taking on this competition, especially after learning they volunteered their time to do this outside of class,” King said. “I really enjoyed how they integrated frameworks, data, current business practices, as well as their own personal experiences and ideas to create their presentations and solutions.”

After the initial round of presentations, the judges provided feedback outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the two strongest teams’ solutions and presentations. The student teams then had two hours to improve their presentations before sharing them again.

Anais Fernandez and Anisha Kalidindi


From left: Anais Fernandez and Anisha Kalidindi.

The winning team consisted of Anisha Kalidindi, a fifth-year molecular cellular development biology/neuroscience PhD candidate, and Anais Fernandez, a first-year student majoring in Spanish and philosophy, politics, and economics.

“Through this competition, I was able to interact with students across many majors,” Kalidindi said. “My biggest takeaway was learning how to balance and even help my teammate figure out their strengths so both of our thought processes were highlighted yet integrated into one vision in our presentation. I really enjoyed listening to the other presentations and seeing the wide variety of ideas presented. It is inspiring to be at an institution where there are so many students willing to go beyond just learning about DEI and actually start generating ideas regarding how we can make actionable change.”

The case detailed an office group subjected to scrutinization and harassment amid the protests against systemic racism that spread across the nation in 2020. The case included three specific incidents: overhearing derogatory dialogue, employee response to their employer rescinding an earlier statement condemning police brutality, and the employer thinking of the situation as a public relations problem rather than a failure to support diversity and inclusion. 

Case competitions centered around diversity, equity and inclusion issues benefit not only the students, but also the judges.

“Participating as a judge helped reinforce what I already know, which is our next generation is open-minded, curious, aware, and most importantly, ready to make impactful change,” King said. “It’s now just on us as employers to provide them right opportunities such as internships and supporting events like this to continue their education and exposure.”

Added Kalidindi, “As students at Ohio State, we are surrounded by people coming from multiple perspectives, allowing us to build empathy and understanding. And through efforts such as this case competition, we are provided venues in which we can develop ideas around how we can make a difference in our community and beyond.” 

Doanise Thompson, leader of the team from Career Success that planned this competition, looks forward to future events.

“We were so impressed with the student presentations and look forward to partnering with employers and students to tackle a new, diversity-focused case next year,” she said. “Case competitions are great opportunities for Arts and Sciences students to utilize their liberal arts background and competencies to address challenges in our society that have real implications in the workplace and in our world. After a successful inaugural year for the Diversity Case Competition, we are excited to host the event again.”