UT Haslam Wins 2023 CUIBE International Case Competition

Haslam students Michaela Bianco, Nathan Dziwulski, Sean Fritts and Haley Shimer made up the winning team in the competition at San Diego State University.

November 21, 2023

A team of students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business recently placed first in the CUIBE International Business Case Competition at San Diego State University. Haslam students Michaela Bianco, junior in marketing, Nathan Dziwulski, senior in supply chain management, Sean Fritts, senior in accounting and finance, and Haley Shimer, senior in finance and business analytics, made up the winning team. Teams from the Texas Christian University and the University of San Diego placed second and third, respectively.

CUIBE Case Competitions Build Globally Applicable Business Skills

CUIBE (Consortium of Undergraduate International Business Education) is a collaborative group of undergraduate business colleges committed to elevating international business education. The CUIBE case competitions challenge students to showcase international business knowledge and hone analytical problem-solving, critical thinking and presentation skills. The competitions also enable students to apply lessons from the classroom in a competitive setting while also offering the chance to network with students and coaches from other top business schools.

The challenge case in this competition focused on Forest Essentials, an all-natural skincare products company. The India-based enterprise is examining how to decrease costs and increase productivity while also considering market expansion. The Haslam team presented to two separate panels of judges from industry a three-pronged recommendation for Forest Essentials, which team coach Eddie Armbrister called an “amazingly detailed and very feasible implementation plan.”

Armbrister, assistant department head and lecturer in Haslam’s Department of Marketing, praised the team’s presentation and how well they represented the college. He added that, while each member shines as a presenter, they showed their true strength in the question-and-answer portion of the competition.

“I tell them the time that matters most is the question-and-answer period,” Armbrister said. “They received each question with humility and delivered a confident response that clarified, explained or justified why they made the recommendation they did. Judges appreciate our performance in those periods because it shows that the team didn’t just come up with a big idea and throw it together. Taking everything into consideration — from resource constraints and competition to customer preferences and possible channel partnerships — our team made their recommendations seem realistic and feasible. They demonstrate that they thought it through.”

School Spirit, Skills Enhancement and Career Preparation

Bianco, Shimer, Fritts and Dziwulski spoke highly of the competition experience, each addressing a different facet. Dziwulski relished the chance to compete for Haslam.

“This win means a lot,” he said. “I am appreciative of the deans, alumni and coach Eddie for the chance to represent Haslam in San Diego. Ever since my transfer, I have been eagerly seeking avenues to enhance my consulting knowledge and experiences, and this competition has been a perfect platform for that. It offered an excellent opportunity for both me and my teammates to tackle real-world, complex business challenges and develop practical solutions, contributing to our professional growth.”

Fritts, a veteran Haslam case competitor, views the team’s performance in San Diego as a potential steppingstone.

“This was our team’s first competition of the year, and it would be great to see continued success at our competitions in Boston and St. Louis next semester,” he said. “It’s also been a goal for our team to compete at an international competition for a long time, and hopefully this win helps us take a step to that next level.”

Shimer, who is focusing on international finance, said her coursework helped her prepare for the competition.

“It gave me a broader understanding of business, and it helped me understand the global market more, especially when we were doing exchange rates,” she said. “Haslam does a good job of preparing us for international business, but it’s also on the student, getting with your advisor and finding those classes that will prepare you to go into an international career.”

Bianco sees the competitions as readying her to enter the job market, noting that as a beginner case competitor, she was initially ill at ease while finding her footing.

“But I think if you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing,” she said. “I’ve learned to adapt more than I ever had to before. So, doing these competitions absolutely helps prepare you to go into a career. Consulting wasn’t even a career I had considered before this semester, but doing casing put in on my radar. Casing also prepares you in general, improving overall confidence and presentability.”

Sara Easler, assistant dean for International Programs and Partnerships, called the team’s success a sign that their students are responding well to their academic lessons and absorbing their case coaches’ instruction.

“Eddie and the case competition alumni are doing a tremendous job readying teams for competition— the team’s first place showing in San Diego reflects that,” Easler explained. “These students are preparing themselves for careers in international business while competing against challengers of the highest caliber in these competitions. We applaud them for their hard work and for how well they are representing Haslam.”

About Haslam’s International Business Program

Haslam’s International Business Program prepares students to guide organizations as they deal with complex, cross-border political, legal, economic, social and financial issues. Through course work, international programs, study abroad and hands-on experiences, students in the program will develop the knowledge and specialized skills to offer companies a worldwide perspective that allows them to succeed in the current and developing global business environment.


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, rmcnutt4@utk.edu