BYU came away with two first place awards last week when Spanish-speakers and Chinese-speakers from around the country gathered to compete in the yearly business case competition at the Marriott School of Management.
The business case competition, which was held Friday, Nov. 7, is a yearly competition sponsored by BYU’s Global Management Center. Students in teams of three had to analyze and present a Harvard business case to a panel of judges—all in a foreign language.
“The whole exchange is done in that language, the feedback is done in that language, you know it really forces the chance for them to be put in an environment that they’re going to be in if they go working in that language,” said Global Management Center director Jonathon Wood. “It’s a great chance for them to hone their skills (and) get some feedback from professionals.”
This year’s competition hosted five teams of college students from around the country for each language. BYU had a team for both Spanish and Chinese.
Wood said the program is made possible through a federal CIBER grant that is awarded to the Marriott School each year, with the purpose of furthering international education and outreaching to other communities.
“In Utah, we are surrounded by a lot of students who speak a lot of languages, but that’s not always the case in some other universities,” he said. “In fact, when I meet with other universities one of their statements is, ‘Oh, BYU, boy you guys sure have great languages there. A lot of language capabilities.'”
Unlike many BYU students, many students from other schools have not had the opportunity to study their language abroad through missions or international study programs. Zachary Arnold, a junior from the University of Rhode Island, and said his team’s main reason for coming to the competition was to see how their Chinese compared to other students’.
“It was really just to see how much our Chinese has improved, especially to schools that are notably successful in their bilingual programs, like BYU,” he said. He and his teammates started studying Chinese their freshman year of college.
The students went through two rounds of presentation, with three out of the five teams from each language performing in a final round. Wood said the judges were professional, native speakers usually unrelated to BYU, and included a Hispanic woman from Salt Lake’s Mexican Console and a Chinese man from Goldman Sachs.
“I felt like it was a great opportunity to improve my Chinese, make new connections and have new experiences,” said Kindall Palmer, a BYU sophomore studying Chinese and economics who competed with the winning Chinese team. “And also it’s a great outlet to get in front of a group of people to speak Chinese and talk about something that’s serious material and that everyone’s interested in.”
Palmer served an LDS mission in Taiwan and has spent several years in China doing business. He hopes to end up there after he graduates and start his own company.
But some of the competitors didn’t have any sort of business experience beforehand. Adam Long, a BYU student studying business strategy, said his two teammates were art history and Latin American studies majors.
“I think I’ve never learned more in a case situation,” he said. “Because throughout it you learn (so much) vocabulary, because to be honest what you have on the mission to talking about credit cards and financial statements in Spanish is a whole new animal. As well as being able to present business in Spanish is a crazy beast.”
The BYU Chinese team has a winning streak of five years since the competition began eight years ago, with the Spanish team taking first multiple times as well.
“(Winning) feels great,” Long said. “Honestly, we weren’t expecting it at all. …I’ve never been more proud of winning a case competition because the competition here was intense.”