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Big 10 Case Competition: Madness in March

By Bethany Noltner

May 6, 2021

The Big 10 Case Competition was hosted by Ohio State in partnership with Nationwide. While details of the case are confidential, the incredible experience I had is not! Each year, four students are chosen to form a team to represent UW-Madison, and this year I was selected to be on that team.

portrait of Bethany Noltner
Bethany Noltner

In order to prepare for the competition, our team prepared and practiced a presentation, then worked with a communication coach to understand where we could improve for the actual competition. The Big 10 Case Competition did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic, so it was new for all of us!

The first day of the competition started out with a presentation from Ohio State and Nationwide about competition rules and the details of the case. Teams were then able to ask clarifying questions to understand the situation in more depth. After a brief Q&A, teams were released to develop recommendations, create a presentation, and deliver their slide decks within 22 hours. Teams could not communicate with Nationwide during this time or contact a member of the organization.

Our team worked on identifying the underlying problem within the case for the first part of the day, followed by research and analysis, then concluded with brainstorming recommendations. After we had discussed options, we had a conversation about which recommendations addressed the underlying issue facing Nationwide. Once we had our outline, we put everything into a presentation and practiced before calling it a night and getting a few hours of sleep.

The next morning brought a mix of excitement and nerves. The day unfolded as a preliminary round broken into two groups. The preliminary judges consisted of six Nationwide employees from a department closely related to the case. They listened to our presentation and asked insightful questions to probe at how robust our analysis and recommendations were. From our preliminary group, we won Best Overall Team which allowed us to advance onto the final round; my teammate Connie Cannizzaro won Best Q&A, and I was awarded Best Presenter. The preliminary round judges offered no feedback outside of the questions they asked, and we had only a few minutes to prepare for the final round.

The final round presentation was given to a group of four Nationwide executives, ranging from Marketing to Risk Mitigation, and captured an extensive audience of those impacted by the case at hand. We had a blast presenting and giving it our best shot while representing a wide variety of specializations from UW Madison’s MBA program. When all was said and done, we ended up winning the Big 10 title, and Connie took home Best Q&A for a second time while I tied for Best Presenter!

The MBA program prepared us well with classes covering content including strategy, ethics, working in teams, and corporate responsibility that gave us a holistic view of how organizations operate from the top down. These classes are critical for case competitions where you get the opportunity to talk with executives. Being able to see issues from a high level while still being able to talk about a plan at an execution level is key. I took away so many great skills from working through a real problem in a short amount of time, as well as formed great relationships with my team and others from competing schools. I look forward to passing the torch off to next year’s amazing individuals!