The UTC Sustainability Case Competition

By: Emily Udal

So what if you take a problem on campus, relate it to a new trend and make it a competition? That was exactly my thought process when deciding to create the first sustainability case competition. Popular with business schools across the country, the purpose of a case competition is to take a given problem and to try to find a solution for it. There is no or right or wrong answer, however a good amount of thought and creativity are key.

Once I determined the goal of the case competition, I tried to find a way to appeal to a mass number of students to help them solve a campus-related problem, while gaining professional experience with a blue-chip company. The objective of organizing this case competition was for students from all majors and graduation dates to get hands-on experience to put on their resume for a future internship or job. The concept originated from trying to bridge environmental stewardship and business at UConn through a creative concept that is both feasible and respectful to a $10,000 budget constraint.

With over 100 students signing up, the case competition had garnered significant interest by the campus community.  In today’s competitive job market, landing the perfect internship is crucial to early career success. With the case competition open to freshman and sophomores to participate, it allowed students to gain professional experience early, which is often difficult considering most career-related opportunities are open to upperclassman.

UTC Case Competition Participants
UTC Case Competition Participants

The finalists included teams that proposed more efficient bus routes, an internship program for a biogas facility, retrofitting exercise equipment to produce its own electricity, and a Daily Campus smartphone app to reduce newspaper usage.

The winners of the competition introduced the concept of Ethos Based Recycling. The winning team members included key members from the EcoHusky Student Group. Their concept was based on increasing the amount that students at the University of Connecticut recycle through a fresh perspective on recycling.

The program would involve an overhaul of the current recycling receptacles on campus to provide an emotionally rewarding and educational experience to students as they recycle. Some of the new features that would be included on the recycling bins would be: information on recycling on the bins to intervene in the issue of improper disposal; motion sensors bins that will respond with applause and list the number of items that have been recycled on a given day; painted scenes of nature on the recycling bins to inspire students to protect their environment through the simple act of recycling.

The event was the first to bring environmental stewardship, business and friendly competition to find a student solution to a real problem faced at UConn. The winning proposal has been considered at major environmental workgroups, such as the University’s Environmental Policy Advisory Council, to try to implement such a program on campus. The overall goal of giving hands on experience was achieved, but more importantly, the event has brought a fresh student perspective to some of the current environmental initiatives at the University of Connecticut.