Five students in the College of Business Administration put Cal Poly Pomona back in the winner’s circle of a prestigious Case competition for the first time since 2011.
The Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) sent Alyssa Hall, Kevin Frost, Rocio Luyo, Joanne Phung and Rudy Hinojo to Salt Lake City, where the team squared off against 12 other schools in the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) West Region showdown.
“Because of the influence of SHRM, our name will be recognized in both the business and academic worlds,” says Professor Xuguang (Steve) Guo, PIHRA’s faculty advisor. “This is truly a great honor. I am so proud of them.”
“What makes this event even sweeter is the fact we were put in the graduate division, and we’re only undergrads,” Hall says. “It just speaks volumes about Cal Poly Pomona, especially the MHR department, how well they prepare their students for the business world.”
Because of a rule change, teams with any member 26 or older are automatically placed in the graduate division competition. That meant the students faced graduate-level competitors from campuses such as San Diego State and Boise State University.
For the competition, teams are provided a case study based on a fictitious company facing HR-related issues such as harassment and discrimination. The student teams act as neutral third-party consultants brought in to address the organizational issues.
During the initial presentation, the team identified problems and proposed three potential solutions. The team then chose what it felt was the best solution and explained their reasoning to the judges.
Hall and Frost are the veterans of the team, whose members are all human resources students.. Hall has been on the team for the last three years, and Frost was a squad member last year following a pair of lackluster finishes, Hall made changes as captain of this year’s team.
“I brought a video camera to practice [sessions] to record our presentations so people on the team could see their body language and how the audience perceives them,” Hall says. “One member in particular – it’s amazed me how much she’s grown. When I was watching her present in front of the judges, I couldn’t help but smile.”
To prepare for the competition, Guo would send the team a different case each Thursday, and they would meet Fridays to discuss a strategy. The group would provide Guo with an executive summary and PowerPoint presentation, and critiques would follow during Tuesday classes.
“Students can get four units of academic credit out of the practices, but their workload is way beyond a regular class,” Guo says. “They have to be fully committed and work hard.”
With the win, the team earned paid registration to SHRM’s four-day national conference in June in Washington, D.C., where they will be recognized in front of thousands of human resources professionals.
“The biggest thing with Cal Poly Pomona is that they always push learn-by-doing,’” Hall says. “I learned so much applying what I learned in class to my internships and this competition.”