Friday, April 19, 2013

Senior Erick Ferrer on creating Midwest Diversity Case Comp

Students network at the inaugural Midwest Diversity Case Competition in 2012.

We're very proud of Kelley senior Erick Ferrer, winner of IU's P.J. and Hilda Hill Senior Recognition Award for 2013. The honor goes to an outstanding senior on the Bloomington campus who has done the most to improve race relationships as an undergraduate. Among other things, Erick helped create Kelley's Midwest Diversity Case Competition. We asked him recently to talk about how the competition came to be.

Erick Ferrer

The idea for the Midwest Diversity Case Competition began in July 2011, not even two years ago. We had a simple mission: make a forum where students from diverse and unique backgrounds could showcase their talents to the best companies in the world.  While the mission was simple, the journey there was anything but. As Kelley Student Diversity Council president, I approached fellow Kelley student Jon Sobilo with a request: “Draw me up the biggest case competition you can possibly imagine, and then make it even bigger.” 

And Jon did. At a projected cost of $26,400, we were well past the borders of absurdity.  In order to pull off something even half our projected size, a team of two would not do.  Jon recruited student Conor Schmitt to help share the workload as well as to capture a more creative direction. MDCC had a precursor, a diversity case competition centered exclusively around Kelley students. It was sponsored by General Mills and KPMG, so that's where we started. The three of us made five presentations in September 2011 and gained five sponsors, including a $15,000 grant from Target. A few months later, we added Xerox as a sponsor.

In January 2012, planning the actual event became top priority. Under the astute leadership of Dr. Martin McCrory, the event, which some staff members declared to be doomed for failure, was a tremendous success. To accomplish this, the team of students and faculty under Dr. McCrory spent 3-5 hours per day, every day, for the two months preceding the event. For such tremendous dedication and leadership, and for saving the event from our own limitations, we owe Dr. McCrory a huge debt. In addition to his efforts, this initiative could have never gotten a chance without Pam Warden, a Director in Kelley’s Alumni Relations Department, and her assistant Betsy Feeney. 

The first MDCC had teams from 10 universities, six sponsors donating $30,000 and three very happy and proud founders. Anup Segu, Elizabeth Whitis and Paul Saliterman all provided invaluable support throughout MDCC 2012 and graciously took over as Directors for MDCC 2013.  The work they have done has been nothing short of amazing and under the leadership of Dr. Tom Lenz, this event has grown to be the largest such competition in our country.  

After surveying the competitors and corporate sponsors from our inaugural year, we made some improvements to the competition for this year. Corporate sponsors told us they were interested in meeting more students who were actively looking for internships. As the competition was for upperclassmen, most of the competitors already had internships/full-time jobs. So we opened the competition to all years. This also fit our goals of encouraging and mentoring underclassmen to prepare them for rigorous case competitions and give them exposure to great corporations. 

We thought we were crazy to dream toward $26,400. This year we reached $49,500 in total funding, 14 participating universities, 10 corporate sponsors and hundreds of lives touched.  This is a tradition that Kelley has promised to continue well beyond our years as students. We wish you all the best of luck in the competition and ask that you look to compete in good faith.  This is a celebration of you and your talents. Spread the word of the power of inclusion and the power of aspirations. 

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