Reflections from the 2018 Aspen Case Competition

The 2018 Aspen Institute Case Competition kicked off with an 80 page case regarding sustainability issues facing Marina Bay Sands, a large hotel and casino in Singapore. Over the 72 hours we had allotted to study the case, four teams would attempt to figure out solutions regarding; food waste management and local sourcing, energy reduction, and other issues involving sustainable operations at Marina Bay Sands. Our teams would use the skills and techniques developed over the last year in a collaborative effort to write a 6 page paper that would hopefully send one of our teams to New York City to compete against some of the most prestigious business schools in the world. In additional to a well written and developed paper, our teams would be judged upon presentation skills and delivery, with the victors moving forward.

From the initial kickoff, one week later we received word that the team chosen was, Patricia Nicholson, Kelsey Aerni, Joey Winkler, and Michael Findley to represent that Palumbo-Donahue School of Business. They were also chosen as one of the 5 finalists in the country and would have the privilege of presenting at BNY Mellon headquarters in New York City. They would be presenting to a panel of judges from the Aspen Institute, BNY Mellon, and Marina Bay Sands. The selection to the final round, meant that the chosen team would have only one week to fine tune their original presentation and another weekend of work in the business school’s Carfang Commons to prep. Several preliminary rounds of pre-presentations to faculty and fellow classmates, the team was ready for NYC.

The trip to New York began early as the team left Pittsburgh early on a Thursday morning and arrived in New York City only several hours prior to the presentation time. After arriving at the hotel in the financial district of Manhattan, and a quick meal at “Eataly”, the team had time for one more rehearsal, and then it was off to meet the fellow competition and walk over to BNY headquarters. Following the final presentation, the evening ended with a reception and dinner at a local pub, followed by several rounds of social drinks with fellow students from New York University, George Washington University, the University of Denver, and Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada.

Early the next morning the teams reconvened at the Yale Club in Mid-Town for breakfast and to find for the announcement of the winning presentation and team. Duquesne’s team placed 3rd overall. In the end, the entire event, from day one of receiving the case, all the way through breakfast at the Yale Club, it was not only a great experience, but an inspirational exercise in collaboration and teamwork.