By Sue Kern-Fleischer
The University of Calgary took the top prize at the University of Arizona Collegiate Ethics Case Competition, coordinated by the Eller College of Management’s Center for Leadership Ethics. Undergraduate students from 25 universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico converged upon Tucson for the 15th annual event Oct. 19-21, which tasked student teams with providing a detailed analysis and strategic recommendations for a case study involving a cyberattack on a U.S-based company and whether the company should decide to ‘hack back.’
The United States Naval Academy took second place, Stetson University took third place, Iowa State University took fourth place and the University of Iowa took fifth place. Regional runners up included Elon University, the University of Florida, Simon Fraser University, Universidad Panamericana and the University of Vermont. The University of Iowa also brought home the Stephanie Chance “Bright Line” Essay Award.
Dr. Paul Melendez, professor of practice and founder of the Center for Leadership Ethics at the Eller College, authored this year’s case as he has done in the past.
“All of the the winning teams demonstrated a keen understanding of corporate social responsibility, moral reasoning and leadership skills. Congratulations to the University of Calgary for an exceptional presentation that was backed by solid research, a clear strategic analysis and sound recommendations. As part of their prize, they will receive an all-expense paid trip to Ethisphere’s 10th Annual Global Ethics Summit in March in New York City,” Melendez said.
The two grand prize student winners, Janelle Price and Miranda Mantey, are seniors at the University of Calgary. Cameron Welsh, senior instructor of business technology management at the university’s Haskayne School of Business, serves as their faculty adviser and coach.
Welsh said collegiate ethics case competitions are important to students because they provide a valuable opportunity to integrate learning and build on skills that are necessary in the business world.
“The competition at Eller does a great job of this as it requires students to consider all aspects of the business from strategy to finances to brand image to ethics. This year’s case was a great example of needing to deal with these elements and it took my students from dealing with the crisis to laying out a long-term plan for becoming an ethical leader,” Welsh said.
Mantey and Price were not prepared for a case involving cybersecurity. “Janelle and I spent weeks trying to guess what Dr. Melendez would write the case about and this wasn’t a topic either of us had thought of,” Mantey said. “I think my risk management background helped a bit just with understanding the nature of cyber risk, but it was a challenging case because we knew that there isn’t a ‘perfect’ way to defend against cyberthreats.”
Watch the Winning Presentation
They approached the case with an excessive amount of research.
“I even went to the extent of reading a book to learn as much as I could, which ended up being worthwhile because we used a lot of the frameworks and charts in our final presentation,” Mantey, a risk management and insurance major, said.
After the first week, they realized that the hack back decision wasn’t actually an ethical decision, but a business decision.
“Instead, the ethics component fell into how the company could move forward from the incident and what type of other defenses could be used in the future. As soon as we had that epiphany, our recommendation and research started to come together,” Mantey said.
Price, a marketing major, said she and Mantey saw great opportunity to analyze and embed in their recommendation opportunities for the company to be an ethical leader.
“We recommended transparency with their clients and being open to collaborating with competitors and third parties to ensure the same data breach didn’t happen to other companies,” Price said. “We believe that this more long-term and comprehensive approach to such an immediate issue allowed us to stand out in the competition.”
Together, they were able to build a recommendation that did not include hacking back, but rather developing comprehensive and iterative cybersecurity frameworks in place that were also overseen by strong governance and auditing groups.
“Additionally, our recommendation focused on how the company could be an ethical leader moving forward by highlighting opportunities to collaborate with external centers of excellence to facilitate stronger and innovative collaborations on how all businesses can respond to cybersecurity moving forward,” Price said.
Both students said they were grateful for the chance to participate in the competition.
“Miranda and I have done many case competitions together and have never won, so the opportunity to place first at our final case competition of our undergraduate degrees together was truly special,” Price said.
Major sponsors of the event included Ethisphere, Walgreens, Merchants Information Solutions, Bank of America, Ernst & Young, GEICO and Hewlett Packard.