A team of Cal Poly Pomona business students will head to a national competition after recently finishing first in a division contest.
Two teams from the university finished in the top four on Feb. 20-21 at the APICS West Coast Region Ninth Annual Student Case Competition hosted by the Inland Empire Chapter in Claremont.
The teams competed against undergraduate and graduate students from 14 colleges and universities, including USC, UC Berkeley and Cal State Fullerton, with one of Cal Poly Pomona’s squads finishing first to earn the top prize.
The winning team included technology and operations management students Kirk Baghdassarian, James Saga, Erik Jorgensen and Tiffany Kao. They will head to the national APICS Conference in Las Vegas in October to vie against top teams from other districts.
Kao, a first-year student, said that she and her teammates were shocked by the win.
“We couldn’t believe it, actually,” she says. “We went in to learn. We didn’t expect to win or anything.”
The competing teams were required to use an online simulation to boost a failing company’s return on investment and present their strategies for the turnaround to a panel of professionals.
The team worked together and used logic to help them win, Kao says.
Saga, who is graduating this year and is working part-time at UTC Aerospace, says he also competed last year at the conference. He says he enjoys problem-solving, so digging through data for the contest suited him.
The teams went through four rounds to determine the winner.
“We kept coming out on top each round,” he says. “We kept saying, ‘Hey, we know what we’re doing.’ It was exciting.”
Saga says when you’re in class taking in the material, it’s hard to know if lessons are sinking in.
“As a student, you don’t always know what you’re learning,” he says. “In competitions like this, you see that you are really learning a lot.”
A second Cal Poly Pomona team also did well, finishing in fourth place in the undergraduate division. That team included technology and operations management students Alonso Franco, Aaron Gomez, Yadira Perez and Gilbert Pineda.
Professor Hassan Halati says that the success of the students demonstrates the quality of education they get at Cal Poly Pomona.
“I tell students, ‘What you learn here is no different, if not better, than what students learn at well- recognized universities such as UC Berkeley or USC,’” Halati says. “It’s really up to you how you utilize the knowledge you get here. If you do, you will be successful.”