BYU’s Chinese Business Case Team Victorious Four Years Running

Chinese students Isaac Stevens, Seth Ferguson and Kindall Palmer prepared a simulation Chinese business case and won the Marriot School’s Business Language Case Competition.

PROVO, Utah (January 14, 2015)— BYU’s Chinese team took home the first-place prize at the Business Language Case Competition hosted by the Marriot School of Management on November 7, 2014. Chinese students Isaac Stevens, Seth Ferguson and Kindall Palmer were chosen as BYU’s Chinese team representatives.

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BYU’s Chinese team has now won four years in a row.

Teams representing four universities from coast to coast prepared cases and presentations to deliver at the Marriot School’s annual competition. The competition hosted students of Chinese and Spanish.

The competition simulates an actual meeting occurring in China, in which businesspeople pitch their presentations to CEOs. “It was my first time presenting a solution to a problem in front of a panel of judges – . . . a panel of decision makers,” said Palmer, who grew up in Hong Kong and plans on pursuing business in China as a career. “We looked at them as the bank management. For me, it was a great experience to display confidence and to articulate. We had to know our stuff and be confident and convincing, otherwise they wouldn’t think that we were really solid on our proposal.”

The competition score is based two-thirds on the content and delivery of the case presentation. Language and grammar accounts for the remaining third of the team’s score. Each team gives their presentation three times to a different panel of judges, and three teams advance to a final round where they give their presentation a fourth and final time. Each round is fifteen minutes long, followed by a ten-minute question-and-answer session with the judge panel.

Each student team is comprised of three currently enrolled students working on their first university degree. Two weeks before the competition the teams are given a business case for which they prepare presentations. “It’s not a real case, but it’s very similar to a real-world case,” said Shu Pei Wang, a professor of Chinese at BYU. “They have to use Chinese to analyze, to debate, to argue and to present.”

During the preparatory weeks, team members are not allowed to consult with non-team members, including faculty, advisors, staff and fellow students. However, reference sources in the public domain, such as books, the university business library and the Internet are permitted. “Most of the preparation that helps you do well in the case competition comes from prior knowledge and experience,” said Ferguson. He said what helped him the most was the background provided by many Chinese classes, business classes and economics classes.

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This year’s case dealt with a bank trying to find the best strategy to promote their credit-card use in Romania. “The case outlined other areas with similar economies to Romania and how credit cards have flourished in those areas,” said Palmer. “It also outlined several difficult things that the Romanian market has, mainly that they have a very small upper class and large lower class, and obviously if you introduce credit cards, you don’t want the economy to tank.”

Wang sees the competition as beneficial due to its hands-on nature. “In class they learn a lot of advanced level Chinese, but this kind of competition helps them see how they can apply the Chinese they’ve learned in a real case, in a real-world situation,” she said.

Stevens said that the particularly beneficial part for him was learning Chinese vocabulary particular to the business world. “We knew a lot of the words we were using, but to use them in the business sense was a great opportunity,” he said. “We were able to apply a lot of the words we’d learned in this setting.”

The competition was a particularly meaningful preparation for students like Stevens, Ferguson and Palmer who are participating in the Chinese Flagship Program, which includes six months of direct enrollment in a Chinese university and six months of internship.

Ferguson, who started learning Chinese in high school and served a Chinese-speaking mission, said he was interested in the competition because his career interests are to do business with China. “China is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. For business it’s very attractive, and I like the language and the culture.” Regarding the competition, he said: “It’s a really unique experience that I can put on a résumé—but honestly, I didn’t do it for a résumé. I did it for the experience.”

For more information on the Business Language Competition, visit the Marriott School’s website. Learn more about the Chinese Flagship Program website and the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages website.

—Danielle Chelom Leavitt (B.A. Russian/Women Studies ’15)