Case competitions: A boot camp that develops student leaders with grit, discipline, and purpose.

Students Joan Martinez, Stefani Sakamoto, Lydia Jun, and Kaylee Miki in Washington for case competition
Students Joan Martinez, Stefani Sakamoto, Lydia Jun, and Kaylee Miki in Washington for case competition

This story was originally posted on June 13 on UH News

Recent Shidler College of Business graduates Stefani Sakamoto, Lydia Jun, Joan Martinez, and Kaylee Miki thought they had experienced everything college has to offer. And then they joined the Manoa Consulting Case Competition (MCCC) team. 

The MCCC team is an informal group of students who have taken on the extra challenge to go through a rigorous program that prepares them to compete in business case competitions both nationally and globally. The program runs for a minimum of two months and is packed with training and workshops on how to be an effective management consultant, including how to be a critical problem solver and an effective public speaker. 

Under the direction of Shidler marketing instructor Constancio Paranal, the program was launched in 2016 and has since provided more than 50 Shidler students the opportunity to represent the college in competitions across the U.S.and the Asia-Pacific region. Since its inception, many students have secured wins in these competitions.

Beyond the awards and recognition, the experience is unique in that it provides additional experiences for students outside the classroom and internships. 

“The program is like a boot camp that trains and strengthens a student’s cognitive abilities and business acumen,” says Paranal. “Case competitions have shown to enhance the value of a business degree by providing innovative and hands-on application for students. Not only do case competitions challenge their thinking, but they also provide the opportunity to travel, an immersion experience where students are able to learn about different cultures and business realities.”

Additionally, competitions allow the opportunity to deliver impact, particularly since most cases involve actual companies that are seeking student input, ideas and solutions. More importantly, case competitions provide networking opportunities for students to learn from their peers from other schools and universities and expand their social network. 

The opportunity to grow as professionals and leaders

For Sakamoto, case competitions were unique and eye-opening experiences that she will never forget. She recalls how the practices, the actual competition and meeting and watching the other teams, have expanded her thinking and perspectives.

“With a changing workforce and labor environment, competition for jobs has become even more pressingly fierce,” Paranal continues. “Companies are looking for talent everywhere and industry expectations have become harder to meet. Participating in case competitions help prepare our students by elevating their skills, augmenting their weaknesses and strengthening their core competencies.”

Miki explains that her case competition experience helped her land her desired job after graduation. During her interview, she shared her experience being a part of the program and a copy of the work output that they delivered. She believes that employees value the ability to put knowledge and skills into practice and have a way to demonstrate that. 

“Participating in case competitions enabled us to strengthen our critical thinking, creativity and communication skills,” Miki said. “We applied various theories and models we learned through Shidler’s curriculum and internships to real-world cases. Driven by hard deadlines of either a week or 24 hours, we worked collaboratively to efficiently develop a robust analysis and compelling recommendation.”

The opportunity to promote diversity and representation

As an all-female team, the group was dedicated to sharing their collective strength and purpose. It was an opportunity for the students to hone their business acumen and showcase their skills, and in the process, be seen and heard as future business leaders, and to play a role in shaping what future global business leaders should look like.

“Engaging in these case competitions has given us a new-found confidence to take on opportunities and become business leaders who can powerfully inspire change in our communities,” Jun said.

“Having an all-women team was never the goal, it just so happened that female Shidler students took more interest and initiative in joining the program,” Paranal said: “Once the team was formed, it was important to acknowledge that fact and build on each other’s strengths. In most instances, it wasn’t about being an all-women team, but at times it was. They had to know who they represent, embody that, and bring that voice and power to the forefront.”

The opportunity to share Hawai’i with the world.

Paranal stresses the importance of case competitions as perfect avenues to not only showcase student talents, but to also spread the meaning of aloha. “I really appreciate the ladies for reaching out to the other teams, win or lose, and offering a small souvenir snack from Hawai‘i,” he said. “It makes me so proud of our students.”

For Martinez, the case competitions made her realize how many people are eager to know about Hawai‘i. “It was interesting to feel the warm welcome and excitement from the staff and other peers, when we tell them we are from Hawai‘i,” she said.“It makes us appreciate how special and lucky we are to be from Hawai‘i.”

What’s next?

As these students prepare to enter the workforce, the case competition experience has given them the extra boost of confidence to face challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. 

“Without this program, we would not have had the chance to experience and learn various skills that genuinely help us as future business professionals in the workforce,” Sakamoto said. “As a team and as individuals, we have grown tremendously through our participation and will be taking the skills and diligence we gained into our careers post- graduation. We appreciate the time and effort the Shidler community has taken to support us, and we hope that Shidler can support more students like us in the future.”

As Paranal reflects on the year and contemplates on what lies ahead, he remains optimistic. “Overall, we had a great year,” he said.” All of our teams performed well and there is a renewed sense of interest from our students to join case competitions. Thank you to the ladies for helping reignite that desire and I am looking forward to working with our next group of Manoa Consulting Case Competitors.”


The team represented the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Shidler College of Business at the 2023 Milgard Invitational Case Competition on Social Responsibility and 2023 Consortium of Undergraduate International Business Educators in Tacoma, Washington and Boston, Massachusetts respectively.