In grade 2, big changes to Emory Goizueta’s John Lewis case competition


Last year, the Goizueta Business School at Emory University created the world’s first major racial justice case competition. Now, the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition is back for a second round, with major changes to the format.

“We are partnering with four other universities who will be holding preliminary rounds, each focused on an industry,†said Kegan Baird, second-year Emory Goizueta MBA student and general manager of the competition this year. Emory will then host the final round.

Cornell University, Yale University, Rice University and Howard University are teaming up with Emory, joined by sponsors Moderna, IBM, Taco Bell and others.


Willie Sullivan, founder of the John Lewis Case Competition. Courtesy photo

When the world witnessed the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others in 2020, there was a lot of momentum in the corporate sector, Baird says. While we were talking about donations and a need for change, there was not enough action.

The students, on the other hand, were eager to help, he says.

“It was a natural pairing to combine the two and create a competition of cases where students work directly with companies to solve their specific racial injustice issues, all done by Willie Sullivan,†Baird said. Sullivan, who created the competition in honor of the late Georgian congressman and civil rights icon, was previously the managing director; he has since graduated. “This year we’re doing it again, but trying to grow and follow in his footsteps,†Baird said.

Last year, more than 500 students from 52 universities participated virtually and generated 24 corporate action plans for racial justice. Walmart, Salesforce, HP and Truist were among the event’s sponsors. The winning team from the University of Southern California created a plan for Johnson & Johnson to use products and incentives to inspire a million black girls to study STEM.


The John R. Lewis Racial Justice Contest is one of the only contests to donate half of the total winnings, in this case to a nonprofit chosen by the winners. It’s a difference that Lynne Segall, Associate Dean of Emory Goizueta for Management Practices Initiatives and Educational Advisor for the student-run competition, considers innovative.

Last year’s contest raised $ 32,500 for organizations working for racial equality and justice, such as Circles and Ciphers, Surge Employment Solutions, Step Up and the Black Girls Code.

“We actually heard from students who applied last year, and part of the reason they wanted to compete was because it was a way to direct their talents for good, not just for the sponsoring organization. , but because part of their prize money was going to go into an organization they identified in their application, â€says Segall.

Yet this year-old competition still has a long way to go.

“If you think about the first year, it was a start-up and we were disjointed,†she says. “This year is all about expanding with these university partners and streamlining processes and procedures so that we can scale even more.”

Much of this is efforts to increase participation by expanding the network of participants, Baird says. “90% of our applicants last year were MBA students,†Baird explains. “But we were using a lot of our network, which just happens to be other MBA students. So this year we are focusing on improving the BBA app.


Congressman John R. Lewis speaking at Emory University. Lewis died in July 2020. Photo of Emory

Kegan Baird’s team is also keen to reach out to interested students and guide them through what constitutes a strong application.

“Last year we didn’t know what was in high demand until we accepted them,†says Segall.

In the app, which is due on November 19, students must create a seven-slide presentation that acts as an expression of interest based on a specific industry, such as healthcare or fast food.

The presentation should answer four key questions, says Baird: Where do you see the issues of racial injustice in the chosen industry? What are the preliminary recommendations to resolve these issues? How would your team work together? And finally, how would your team use the prize money?

The semi-finalists, who will be notified on December 6, will be matched with a sponsor and a university. They will have six weeks to connect with sponsors, create a budget and allocate a portion of it to primary and secondary research, and, finally, develop recommendations. Presentations should be 20 minutes long with 10 minutes allowed for questions.

“For the preliminaries and the semi-finals, our group of judges was much more regional, based on the elders. But having a certain geographic diversity among our partner schools and also a diversity of networks will mean that our overall panel of judges will be more national and more diverse, â€she said.


They have also adjusted the student assessment rubric and will prepare the judges for consistent results.

“We see it as the beginning, not the destination. We see the competition as a flagship of a constellation of initiatives. There are all kinds of educational opportunities in and around the competition, and we are looking to explore leadership development, â€said Segall.

“There are opportunities to… connect and build communities across the industries of leaders and drive more systematic positive change,†she adds.

The family of the late John Lewis supported this initiative. “I think it’s been a really special part of this competition that we can relate to Congressman Lewis’s vision and his mantra of encouraging us to get ourselves into good trouble,†Segall said. “It is the light that guides us. “

Learn more about the John Lewis Case Competition here.


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