by Sam Gentry

A team of students from the University of West Georgia recently received several accolades for excellence at an international business competition held in India.  

(L-R) Ashley Mallari, Joseph Dean and Connor Dempsey from UWG’s Richards College of Business recently returned stateside after winning several prestigious awards at the 27th annual International Economic Convention in Mumbai, India.
(L-R) Ashley Mallari, Joseph Dean and Connor Dempsey from UWG’s Richards College of Business recently returned stateside after winning several prestigious awards at the 27th annual International Economic Convention in Mumbai, India.

Three students from UWG’s Richards College of Business journeyed to Mumbai, India, for the 27th annual International Economic Convention. The team placed first in Most Innovative Solution, second in Presentation and were awarded third Overall. The team’s third-place win marks the seventh top-three finish in the past eight years for a UWG team.

The team – consisting of Ashley Mallari, Joseph Dean and Connor Dempsey – had been training for the competition, which took place in December, since the beginning of last summer.

Besides the honors earned by the team as a whole, Mallari won an individual award for Best Team Contributor, while Dean won for Best Team Speaker.

Mallari, a senior majoring in management information systems, said the opportunity was an invaluable experience.

“Being on Team India was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “All the students we met and competed against were so welcoming and inviting. I experienced a new culture, ate a lot of delicious food and made new friends. All the hard work put into our research was worth the lifetime of memories.”

The three students were assisted by UWG faculty members Dr. John Upson, Dr. Kimberly Green, Dr. Beheruz Sethna, Dr. Salil Talpade and Dr. Susana Velez-Castrillon. Upson, Talpade and Sethna accompanied the students on this year’s trip. 

Upson, a professor of management for the Richards College of Business, has been the faculty coordinator since the team began in 2011. He said their strategy for winning is multifaceted but relies heavily on the students becoming authorities on the topic.

“For the team, we direct this much like a true research project,” Upson said. “We challenge them to become experts on the topic. The faculty are there as a sounding board and to give guidance on the path to follow. The students research the topic, get all the information, figure out where they want to go with it and make sure it’s a good direction along with the faculty.”

Sethna, who was instrumental in making UWG’s initial participation in the annual event possible, highlighted the importance of presentation delivery.

“You have to be familiar with your stuff to be able to present it while enjoying it,” he said. “If you are not enjoying it, the audience is not going to either. I encourage the students to be enthusiastic, to move around a lot, to make it understandable to others and to be proud of their work.”  

More than a decade ago, during his time as president of the university, Sethna invited the winning Indian team from that year’s competition to present their research at UWG’s Big Night, an event at which university students from various disciplines presented top-notch research presentations. In turn, the UWG team was invited to compete in India the following December.

“I was very intrigued by that, because I thought it would be a marvelous learning experience for our students,” Sethna said. “This was the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that we took our students to a non-western country. It was a smashing success because, not only did the students win, but the Indian students sort of adopted our students, and it was a very positive learning experience for them.”

For the competition – along with the presentation – students were judged on a variety of criteria, including research, content and a question-and-answer session.

Dean, a senior economics major,  said the adventure made him see the world in a new light.

“I enjoyed my time in India learning about the culture and history of the subcontinent,” he said. “I earned valuable public speaking and research skills from participating in the competition. I would recommend this opportunity to all students, especially those who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things.”

The students are chosen through a process that includes tryouts that take place immediately following spring final exams. Students are given a broad topic to choose from and have one week to conduct research and put together a five-minute presentation on the subject. Team members are then chosen by Richards of College of Business faculty.

Dempsey, a senior economics major with a minor in finance, said the experience was magnificent on a number of levels.

“Being able to do research and compete against international teams with a group of hardworking individuals who get along is quite an amazing experience,” he said. “It has greatly humbled me as a person and as a future professional. The awards we received made me feel like our hard work paid off in the end.”

Posted on Jan. 24, 2020