Mendoza School of Business

Making the case for diversity

Mendoza students take on case competition to advance diversity, equity and inclusion statewide

Published: January 21, 2022 / Author: Carol Elliott

campus scenic

Diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental to establishing workplaces and communities that flourish. Yet “DE&I” as a topic is broad, complex and multifaceted, encompassing issues such as pay equity, discrimination, a spirit of belonging, representation in leadership, individual biases and systemic inequities. One thing is clear — business plays one of the most critical roles in working toward meaningful progress.

On February 4, the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business will launch a new case competition aimed at finding innovative business solutions to advancing DE&I at work and in communities. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Grow the Good in Business Case Competition will challenge student participants to examine the disproportionate impact of socioeconomic challenges on communities across Indiana and to propose a business solution to the wealth gap.

The wealth gap refers to the income and wealth inequalities among different racial or ethnic groups, especially between Black households and white households. The net wealth of a typical Black family in America is estimated to be about one-tenth of that of a white family.



“The principles related to diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to our imperative at Mendoza to ‘Grow the Good in Business,’” said Kristen Collett-Schmitt, associate dean for Specialized Master’s Programs at Mendoza. “This competition encourages students to use the business acumen they’ve developed while in Mendoza in a thoughtful and meaningful way. This experience will instill in them the value of creating an inclusive environment that promotes mutual advancement.”

The competition kicks off during the first week of February, with the final awards ceremony on Friday, April 1. Competition sponsor, the State of Indiana, will present the case which will involve a real-life current challenge pertaining to the wealth gap in Indiana. About 30 teams made up of two to four students currently enrolled in Mendoza’s residential Specialized Master’s Programs will compete. The participating programs include the Master of Science in Accountancy, the Master of Science in Management, the Master of Science in Business Analytics, the Master of Finance and the Master of Nonprofit Administration.

The students will have the opportunity to participate in a series of educational and networking events held in partnership with corporate sponsors. In addition to the State of Indiana, sponsors include the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership, KPMG, the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership, 1st Source Bank and Gibson Insurance.

“Mendoza recognizes that DE&I involves meaningful steps toward implementing ideas for change, in partnership with stakeholders,” said Jessica McManus Warnell, associate teaching professor of Management & Organization and a competition organizer. “To that end, the community-based research the students generate through the competition will be made available to the State of Indiana for its possible use.”


Joan McClendon

“Sponsors will come away with actionable steps to advance their commitment to DE&I,” said organizer Joan McClendon, associate director for Specialized Master’s Programs. “Their investment will empower our future leaders to make an impact in their organizations, community and the world.”

The proposals will be judged by representatives from the sponsoring organizations as well as Mendoza and other Notre Dame faculty, with prize money awarded to the top three finalists in the amounts of $7,000, $4,000 and $2,000 respectively. Teams that finish in fourth through 10th place each will receive $1,000. The final awards ceremony will be open to members of the Notre Dame community and general public.

The case competition’s goals, said Collett-Schmitt, include providing the graduate students with an educational experience that reflects the broader society, as well as the challenges and expectations of real businesses and to equip students to enter the real world as leaders after graduation.

“Each of us, in our various roles, are being called to use our work of educating future business leaders to guarantee that diverse voices, experiences and backgrounds are valued, respected and nurtured,” said Collett-Schmitt. “Our hope is that the sponsors gain some insights from this experience and that our students come away inspired and better equipped to bring about solutions for an equitable world.”

“We recognize the opportunities and challenges in this space are complex and ongoing,” said McManus Warnell. “The DE&I Grow the Good in Business Case Competition is one of many ways that the Mendoza College of Business looks forward to engaging around many of the issues of equity and inclusion through our courses and programming in the future.”