Emory University has partnered with Cornell (NY), Howard (DC), Rice (Texas) and Yale (Conn.) Business schools for the second annual John R. Lewis Case (JLCC) competition. the competition invites teams of undergraduate and graduate students from all academic fields and matches them with companies to determine how Businesses can use their resources to fight racial injustices in one or more of three areas, including wealth and income disparities, health disparities, and education and skills gaps.
The competition, which is an brainchild of senior Deloitte consultant Willie Sullivan (21B), is a student-led response to the reality of racial disparities in the United States that has gained attention during Black Lives Matter. protests in 2020.
Sullivan said he was determined to merge statements of corporate support and ardent student advocacy, and wanted to honor and build on the legacy of civil rights icon and Georgia representative John Lewis, who is dead July 18, 2020.
Sullivan contacted Lynne Segall, Associate Dean of Management Practices Initiatives at Goizueta in the summer of 2020, who said “that was a ‘Yeah, let’s see that.”
The competition’s description stated that it “aims for lasting change” by providing participants with the opportunity to “deliver bold, innovative and actionable recommendations to companies that actively seek to address racial inequality issues,” according to the website. Unlike other case competitions, which focus on an artificial prompt, JLCC directs the attention of competitors to a real-world problem that affects millions of people today.
In its first year, more than 500 students from 52 different universities participated. The semi-finalists worked with companies including Walmart, Salesforce, HP and Truist, with the winning team creating a plan for Johnson & Johnson that would inspire a million black girls to study STEM using products and incentives.
Unlike last year, Emory partnered with other business schools to host this year’s competition. Every finalist team member who worked with HP was offered an internship by the big tech company, and one of its members got a job.
In the eyes of the Executive Director of the Case Competition, Jasmine Burton (22B), JLCC offers those who participate a multitude of opportunities.
âThere is an opportunity to make an impact through the private sector approach, an opportunity to support local nonprofit public sector organizations, as well as an opportunity to pursue your own professional development as a person. interested in working at intersections and being part of the future of [Diversity and Inclusion]”said Burton.
Burton also mentioned that the research aspect of the competition presents applicants with experiential learning opportunities. The contest stays true to its namesake, said Burton, honoring the late congressman’s famous guiding mantra: “Get in big trouble.”
âWhen you line up with a company that has a challenge, the semi-finalists are given a budget and resources to do market researchâ¦ you might discover things that are hard to swallow,â said Burton. âIt might not be easy for the company to hear, which I think is a problem, right? These are things that are not necessarily advertised or supported in many spaces, but these are the things that need to be known to improve them. “
In addition to its potential impact on businesses and, through it, society, Burton and Segall noted the implications of the competition for change agents at Emory.
âWhat Willie’s experience shows is that if you have an idea and the courage to make it happen, this institution will support you,â Segall said.
Like Segall, Burton sees the case competition as a prime example of Emory’s dedication to helping students bring their ideas to life.
âThis reflects very positively on the management of the business school and on Emory in general that we support our students,â said Burton. âIf a student brings a good idea, we will support it and support it on an individual level.