Students compete as vaccine testers

Kyle Harlow, junior in Business, rubs his eyes as he and his teammates relax after participating in the CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research) Undergraduate International Business Case Competition at Wohlers Hall on Saturday. Fel Josh Birnbaum

Kyle Harlow, junior in Business, rubs his eyes as he and his teammates relax after participating in the CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research) Undergraduate International Business Case Competition at Wohlers Hall on Saturday. Fel Josh Birnbaum

By Lane Song

Influenza, vaccines and millions of dollars were the focal point of a business competition that took place Saturday.

The event was held by the Center for International Business Education and Research, better known as CIBER. Teams of students presented their risk analyses in front of a panel of judges.

This year, the competition let students act as an influenza vaccine-testing firm, which received a contract worth more than $1 million to provide vaccination test kits. The students had to decide which of three locations – Champaign, Biloxi, Miss., or a location in China – would be the best place for production of the test kits.

“This competition represents what real world consulting and risk analysis is like,” said Lynnea Johnson, associate director of the center. “The case is really relevant to what’s going on right now in the world.”

The teams analyzed each location based on its strengths and weaknesses, and made a report to the judges detailing which location they had picked and why. The judges would then evaluate each team based on their presentation, depth of research and analysis.

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“It’s interesting to see what everybody else came up with,” said Jake Fleming, junior in Business and part of the smart global solutions team. “It’s all about best supporting your own answer.”

Smart global solutions came fourth in the competition, behind the asterisks, dream team and LTMS teams. More than $2,000 was handed out to the four finalists as prizes.

“I’m going to use the money to pay bills,” said Tonia Shen, senior in Engineering from team LTMS.

Similar sentiments were echoed by other teams who planned to use the cash to reduce their credit card debt.

Besides financial gain, students found the competition to be a helpful learning experience.

“We definitely gained some great research and presentation skills,” said Kyle Harlow, a junior in Business from smart global solutions. “When you do job interviews, this will be a great story to tell.”

The winning team, the asterisks, felt they learned a lot from the multidisciplinary approach they took on the case.

“We’ve learned how to work as a team and listen to each other,” said Michael Wiggers, junior in LAS. “We really got involved with a lot of different departments, and we’re glad we invested the effort”

One of the judges, Joseph Finnerty, professor in finance, believed the students would take a lot from the competition.

“The students use both practice and theory in their presentations,” he said. “We lead students to realize that team interaction is equally important as individual ability.”