Release Date: November 22, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A diverse team of University at Buffalo School of Management undergraduates—representing three majors and four countries—took first place in the 16th annual PwC Challenge, which tests students’ critical-thinking, teamwork and presentation skills.
The winning team, named “GOAT,” was made up of accounting students Connie Cui of New York City and Rohit Khemlani of Sapporo, Japan; business administration student Sooseok Kim of Seongnam-si, South Korea; and Archana Mohan of Kerala, India, who is double majoring in business administration and mathematics. Each team member collected a $200 prize.
PwC sponsors the Challenge at about 100 campuses nationwide. Locally, 41 students entered the competition, which was held Nov. 15 on UB’s North Campus.
This year, students examined a consumer product brand that’s considering expanding its portfolio of household appliances into multifunctional, smart technologies by leveraging the “internet of things.” Each team analyzed the company, the global appliance marketplace and consumer trends to develop strategic recommendations for the company’s expansion.
Teams then presented their analyses and fielded questions from a panel of PwC judges: Keith Belote, BS/MBA ’93, assurance partner and managing partner for PwC’s Buffalo office; Brian Sabedra, tax partner; and Samantha Kuberka, assurance manager.
“Through the PwC Challenge, we learned how to work properly as a team, trust each other and communicate clearly,” says Khemlani, a junior on the winning team. “Especially since three of out four of us were international students, we as a team particularly valued communication skills, which allowed us to build an effective presentation and succeed.”
Each team benefited from the experience and insights of their faculty and PwC mentors. Michael Dambra, assistant professor of accounting and law in the UB School of Management, and Marco Gangarossa, BS ’18, MS ’19, assurance associate at PwC, served as the winning team’s mentors.
Taking second place was a team of accounting undergraduates, named “Account on Us”: Christopher Amico of Irondequoit, Jay Lethin of Vestal, Sydney Merritt of Greece and Tien Nguyen of West Seneca.
Team “Strongest” came in third. Made up of four accounting juniors, the team included Mingyang He of Missouri City, Texas; Jiamei Li of Brooklyn; Austin Sternhell of Valley Stream and Michael Weng of Lancaster.
Before the winners were announced at a ceremony in UB’s Center for the Arts, PwC hosted a series of activities to reinforce what students learned during the Challenge—and have a little fun.
“There are not a lot of times when an undergraduate student has the opportunity to network with partners at a Big Four firm,” Khemlani says. “Giving our presentation to the PwC partners was nerve-wracking, but it was definitely worth the experience. In our professional careers, we will have to work in teams and give presentations to our bosses and clients.”
School of Management volunteers—who helped run the event and offered teams preliminary feedback on their presentations—included Keith Stolzenburg, executive in residence for accounting; Mary Ann Rogers, clinical associate professor of organization and human resources; and students Carly Gugino, Nathan Marino and Anita Lin.