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By Liz Warren-Pederson

Bhargav Srinivasan and Kelley Rytlewski, students representing the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, took top honors at Eller’s ninth annual Collegiate Ethics Case Competition in October.

The annual competition challenges students from universities around the country to analyze a timely ethical case with real-world business relevance. The 2011 case, developed by EthicsPoint Distinguished Lecturer Paul Melendez and senior lecturer in management Suzanne Cummins, asked the students to assume the identity of a local bank risk mitigation team and respond to a family considering a strategic default on their mortgage.

“Since UT has sent representatives who have placed third for the past two years, I became interested in Eller as a sophomore,” said Srinivasan, a triple major in business honors, quantitative finance, and Plan II Honors. “As a senior, I finally received the opportunity to participate in the ideal competition for me: one that combines both cost-benefit analysis in the business sense and foci on ethical argumentation and innovative solutions.”

Bhargav Srinivasan and Kelly Rytlewski present at the Collegiate Ethics Case Competition.


“Bhargav and I have done many case competitions before, but never an ethics-based challenge,” said Rytlewski, a senior in finance and business honors. “Examining a case in this new light was intriguing because it was so novel to our usual approach. The addition of ethics added a layer of complexity that we’ve previously treated as an afterthought — and to me, that complexity added a very human dimension that brought the problem to life.” 

“In the visit to UA and Eller, I was thoroughly impressed with the friendliness of the people and the facilities,” Srinivasan said. “The case competition was very well-run and, most of all, I took a lot from the keynote speech delivered by Patrick Khuse on ethics in action and how poor choices are made and perhaps even rectified.”

Bhargav Srinivasan (left) and Kelly Rytlewski (right) with their UT Austin advisor.

Bhargav Srinivasan (left) and Kelly Rytlewski (right) with their UT Austin advisor.

“I was really inspired to see the way the Eller community approaches the world,” said Rytlewski. “Most business schools simplify away the inconvenient messiness around us — Eller embraces the complexity as part of a greater challenge.” 

Both Rytlewski and Srinivasan value participation in collegiate case competitions as part of their education. “I see it as an opportunity to engage in a conversation with other universities from across the nation,” Srinivasan said. “They allow me to develop and exercise my skills as a researcher, a problem-solver, and a presenter while having a blast and meeting new people.”

“Case competitions are a crash course in reality,” added Rytlewski. “They take classroom learning from theory to application and force us to become students of psychology and group dynamics along the way. I entered my first case competition as a freshman and our team was in way over our heads. Even now, with Eller as my 11th competition, I still walk away amazed at how much I could learn in two weeks about underwater real estate portfolios and strategic defaults.”

Regional runners-up at the Eller College Collegiate Ethics Case Competition included University of Idaho for the Midwest division, University of North Dakota for the Western division, Simon Fraser University for the Southern division, and Elon University for the Eastern division.

Students from Northern Illinois University won the Stephanie Chance “Bright Line” Award, which offers a forum for the students to dig deeper into the ethical issues of the case in essay form. The award is named in memory of an Eller College alumna who passed away serving in the Peace Corps in Africa.

The Collegiate Ethics Case Competition at the Eller College of Management is sponsored by Walgreens, EthicsPoint, Ernst & Young, Bank of America, Northwestern Mutual, Hewlett Packard, and Target.

Learn more about Eller College ethics initiatives led by the Center for Leadership Ethics.