Case Competitions: UNLV's Formula for a Winning Team (2024)

A big stage. Lack of knowledge. Fear of public speaking. These can be the kryptonite that keeps students from embracing the world of collegiate business case competitions.

Case Competitions: UNLV's Formula for a Winning Team (1)

However, if these excuses are what’s holding back aspiring business minds, then Danny Siciliano, a senior lecturerand esteemed Deloitte Faculty Fellow,is the alchemist with the antidote.

What’s a case competition?

At a collegiate business case competition, teams of undergraduate and graduate students dissect and untangle real-world business problems presented in the form of a case study. These cases, often extracted from actual corporate challenges, serve as the canvas upon which the competitors paint their strategic solutions. The experience immerses students in business strategy, analytical thinking, collaborative synergy, and the art of persuasive presentation.

During the 2023-24 academic year, Lee Business School students participated in at least 10 case competitions. Some competitions were hosted by sponsors on campus with teams of UNLV business students competing against each other. Others were hosted by organizations outside of the university and UNLV teams competed against other universities, both nationally and internationally. Beyond cash prizes and scholarship money, these competitions bring a profound sense of accomplishment and, occasionally, an opportunity to gain experience through internships or job offers.

A History of Winning

Siciliano experienced his first victory as a faculty advisor for the UNLV team that competed against 140 other universities in the 2014 AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) Competition and brought home the grand prize of $10,000.

He has since advised seven teams who have won the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) student case competition over the last eight years. Each team demonstrated UNLV’s excellence in accounting education and brought UNLV to national prominence among the top schools at the annual IMA conference. As of June 9, 2024, UNLV accounting teams have four wins in a row at the IMA student case competition.

The Winning Formula

Siciliano, '90 BS Business Administration and '92 MBA,draws upon his experience in both higher education and the accounting industry to bring a fresh perspective to the teams he coaches. After graduating with his master’s degree in accounting, Siciliano worked at Deloitte, the largest accounting firm in the world for seven years. Then, he worked at IGT for 11 years as the chief accounting officer and treasurer and senior vice president of finance before coming to UNLV to teach in the Department of Accountingin 2012.

When it comes to guiding case competitions to consistent victory, this isSiciliano'swinning formula:

  1. Start with Strong Relationships
    Siciliano believes that his role as an advisor is to understand students and develop a relationship with them before counseling them during competition. He encourages students to push themselves, but notes that students must voluntarily decide to get involved. “You want to have a good trusting relationship, and then you get out of their way and let them do what they do,” Siciliano said.
  2. Play to their Strengths
    Placing people in the right roles is an important part of building a strong team. The teams determine their individual strengths and encourage them.
  3. Practice, Preparation and Leadership
    A strong teamrequires a greatteam captain. “If we're talking about the finals — getting the teams ready, practicing,and preparation are big parts of their success — but really the leader of the team is the captain," Siciliano said, reinforcing that his role is to provide structure andaccountability.“I've really selected some great captains over the years who are just very motivated to do a great job.”

Variety of Competition Opportunities

Hundreds of UNLV students compete each year in similar competitions. “For Lee Business School, we now have a culture of competing inside UNLV,” Siciliano said. “All of these competitions complement each other and each help build hard and soft skills for the participants. The quality of our students is on display to the community and our relationship with the community is enhanced,” Siciliano explained.

Other UNLV business case competitions include:

  • President’s Innovation Challenge
  • Cox Contender Challenge
  • Nevada Gold Mines Case Competition
  • Geocomply Diversity Case
  • Breaking Bankruptcy

Students also participate in competitions through the American Marketing Association, Institute of Management Accountants, Digital Marketing Competition, and FanTAXtic, as well as the IU Kelley Diversity Case Competition.

Along with a trophy and bragging rights, the competitions can also come with thousands of dollars in prize money.

Resume-Building Skills Through Case Competitions

Student case competitions build both skill sets and confidence in students, Siciliano said. “Public speaking is the obvious skill that is improved, but also project management, team dynamics, technical accounting skills, and data presentation. I have observed that the students who participate in these competitions have done better in their accounting careers when they have left UNLV and are able to juggle multiple commitments better.”

The IMA Case Competition, he notes, required students to present to and answer questions from four judges and hundreds of corporate executives in the audience. “If you can get comfortable in that environment — and many of the winning teams have — there is very little a future employer can assign you in the public speaking realm that will scare you or make you uncomfortable,” Siciliano said. “My students come away from these competitions with increased confidence levels.”

Jalen Valdecantos, a rising senior accounting student, represented UNLV at the national competitions in Minneapolis and San Antonio.“If you’re a student on the fence of getting involved with case competitions, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot," he said. "Participating in this case competition gave me the opportunity to network with professionals in my field, apply concepts learned in class, and create amazing memories with my teammates that we’ll look back on for years to come.”

For more information on the IMA Case Competition,email Danny Sicilianoor visit the IMA website.

To learn more about other academic and pre-professional organizations, visit the UNLV Involvement Center site.

Lee Business School's Allister Dias, Kim Nehls, and Megan Neri contributed to this story. Neri is now director of communications for UNLV's School of Public Health.

Case Competitions: UNLV's Formula for a Winning Team (2024)
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