The 2021 Katz Invitational Case Competition (KICC), hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, brought together teams of graduate students from around the country to focus on change and transformation that advances equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace.
In the ninth year of the competition, Katz partnered with Vibrant Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization whose mission is to build a thriving and inclusive Pittsburgh region by attracting, retaining, and elevating a diversity of talent. Their Vibrant Index Initiative, which encourages companies to reflect on best practices while investigating opportunities to increase the impact of their EDI efforts, was central to the case. Eleven teams of four graduate business students were invited to critically analyze a scenario and formulate creative and feasible recommendations centered around fostering a diverse inclusive business environment.
The virtual event on November 6, 2021, provided these future business leaders the opportunity to address similar challenges and decisions that workplace leaders face today related to EDI. As Lora McKnight, Vibrant Pittsburgh’s COO and VP of Programs and Services, mentioned in her closing statement, “creating welcoming organizational cultures is not just an opportunity, but it is an imperative.” She continued by applauding the student participants for thinking critically and creatively about the ways organizational commitments to EDI can improve business outcomes and the Pittsburgh region as a whole.”
Top Three Teams
All teams presented their recommendations to professionals with a wide range of knowledge and experience relating to the challenges presented in the case, including leaders in corporate diversity recruitment and employee business resource groups.
In the end, three teams placed on the virtual podium.
The Katz team won first place. Members included MBA students Marlon Brown, Leandra Gardner, Ammar Kinkhabwala, and Tasmia Afroze.
The Michigan State University team (Marques Moore, Elva Bardhi, Carly Maleki, and Kimberly Rodriguez) won second place.
The Bowling Green State University team (Michael Johnston, Zaresha Neal, Deja Peterson, and Busang Magosi) won third place.
Individual Award Winners
Besides the team competition, Katz announced the individual Akshaya Murthy Awards, in honor of the KICC founder, a 2013 Katz graduate, and now an Internal Audit Manager with Oracle:
- Award for Excellence in Presentation: Marlon Brown of Katz
- Award for Excellence in Response: Michael Johnston of Bowling Green State University and Marques Moore of Michigan State University
All teams provided great insights and recommendations that impressed the judges.
“What a fantastic group of individuals thinking inclusively and acting collaboratively,” said Gina Winstead, Vibrant Pittsburgh’s Assistant Vice President of Membership Development and External Relations. “I’m so proud to be a part of this leadership journey for the students.”
As for Katz, the school continues to strive to be a catalyst for change. “As a school, we are focused on moving toward a more equitable and just community,” said Arjang A. Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean. “We are educating our faculty and staff to keep pace with what our students need to know about the injustices in the world today and this year’s competition focus is another way to deepen our commitment to inclusion and equity.”
The Katz Invitational was made possible, in part, thanks to funding from Kenneth R. Woodcock.
Congratulations to all the graduate business schools that participated in this competition – University of Alabama, Auburn University, Bowling Green State University, University of Florida, Lehigh University, Michigan State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rochester, Rutgers University Newark, Texas A&M University, and Texas Christian University.
Additional thanks need to be shared to the competition judges including Brian Burley (General Mills), Cheryl Kleppner (TE Connectivity), Juanita Lomax (Highmark), Rosalie Myers (PNC), Annika Samuels (National Fuel), Dr. Audrey Murrell (University of Pittsburgh), Jennifer Petrie-Wyman (University of Pittsburgh), and a number of members from Vibrant Pittsburgh and their Board including Justice Cynthia Baldwin, Allegra Elson, Lora McKnight, Gina Winstead, and Irving Torres.