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Student case study team triumphs at international competition

2019 International Food and Agribusiness Management Association’s student case team champs
South Dakota State University’s student case study team won the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association’s competition in June in Hangzhou, China. Making up the team were, from left: Derek Nehring, a senior from Parker; Richard Mulder, a graduate student from Lake Benton, Minnesota; Nikita Medvedev, a graduate student from Tallin, Estonia; and Austin Broin, a May 2019 graduate from Dell Rapids.

South Dakota State University’s student case study team wanted to better last year’s performance at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association’s competition—and it did.

Four students from the Ness School of Management and Economics, including two who competed in 2018, comprised the first SDSU team to win the competition at June’s IFAMA World Conference in Hangzhou, China. The feat is underscored given none of the previous four SDSU teams advanced to the final round.

“I was part of the team that participated last year, and, unfortunately, we didn’t win. This year we had to go back and win this thing,” economics graduate student Nikita Medvedev said through a grin. “Last year, we understood right away what went wrong. We took that experience and used it to help us improve and studied off it. The judges last year told us to work really hard on finance, so this year we did the most in-depth financial analysis they’ve probably ever seen.”

SDSU faced five other universities in the mixed graduate and undergraduate division, defeating a team from New Zealand in the finals. Across all four divisions, 20 teams from 13 universities representing nine countries entered the competition.

In the preliminary round, students are presented with a scenario and have four hours to identify the problem, develop a solution, present to a panel of judges and go through a question-and-answer session. Teams that qualify for the finals are given additional information about the case and have four more hours to re-evaluate solutions and prepare another presentation before facing the judges again.

“The competition was an exciting and challenging experience,” said economics graduate student Richard Mulder, who also competed last year. “I really enjoyed what the competition tries to accomplish, which is to help train young people in agricultural business solve real-world problems faced by professionals.”

The case study for the IFAMA competition centered around an agribusiness company trying an initial public offering. The firm had a share price identified and the student teams had to determine if the price was appropriate based on a number of financial factors.

“The competition is a culmination of everything the students have learned over the past, in some cases, six years,” said Nicole Klein, professor and associate director of the Ness School of Management and Economics. “The students spend a lot of hours preparing for the competition, but really the preparation came from coursework and other learning experiences in their time here. The training that the students received in the First Dakota National Bank e-Trading lab and their finance classes really gave them an edge this year.”

Medvedev also noted a relative lack of preparation for the competition’s format did not hinder the SDSU team’s performance and pointed to the classroom and other extracurricular experiences as the reason.

“We didn’t spend nearly as much time preparing as all the other students did,” he said. “I talked to other students who had classes set up for an entire year leading up to this competition to practice and prepare. In our case, the coursework and foundation are very strong, so it only required four four-hour practice rounds to get ready.”

In addition to Klein, the team was coached by Ness School faculty Zhiguang Wang and Andrea Leschewski. Other student team members were Austin Broin and Derek Nehring.

The trip to China was not solely for the competition, though the IFAMA conference was the focus. To add to the cultural experience, the students also traveled to metropolitan areas, rural communities, the Daktronics location in Shanghai and agribusinesses. They visited with students and faculty in accounting and finance from Wuhan Polytechnic University and toured its e-trading lab and other facilities. The cost of travel was supplemented by the Ness Endowment in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences with additional support from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

“It’s a great overall experience,” Medvedev said. “You get to travel abroad to all these cool locations and attend the conference, which has insightful speakers, networking opportunities and the competition for those who are into that. But you also get to see other places. We never do this just because of the conference like a lot of the schools do—it’s a true study abroad experience.”

Next year’s IFAMA conference will be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands.