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Intercollegiate Case Competition Featured Fake News, Other Vexing Issues at JobDiva

By Keith Morelli

Group photo of sponsors and competitors

TAMPA (March 1, 2017) -- The grueling 24-hour Florida Intercollegiate Case Competition, hosted this weekend by the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business, featured a study of a New York business vexed by fake news, retention of potential customers and pricing issues.

In the end, the graduate business students from the University of Florida took the coveted cup back to Gainesville, but it took quite an effort to take it away from the Muma College of Business master's degree students Estevan Serrano, Maham Khan, Stephanie Costolo, Pranali Panjwani and Farah Abid, all from the entrepreneurship program.

"We are very proud of our efforts and strong practical recommendations," said Muma College of Business Management Professor Michael Bowen. "Their solutions were aimed directly at the underlying systemic problems the case posed and we were most impressed with their deep understanding of the issues and ability to synthesize plans of action necessary to deal effectively with them."

The academic challenge, in its 15th year, brings teams of graduate business students from USF, the University of Florida, Florida State University and Florida International University together to solve a real business challenge in 24 hours. The University of Miami team had to withdraw at the last minute due to exam scheduling conflicts.

The competitors worked on a "live case," a situation facing JobDiva, a firm that helps to match qualified professionals to positions in Fortune 1,000 companies. The corporation boasts the largest résumé and job database in the world.

The company was founded and is run by CEO and President Diya Obeid, who was one of the judges in the competition.

Signing and maintaining a stable of professionals isn't easy and every day JobDiva executives are forced to deal with competitors that offer up false advertising.

As given in the case challenge: "Therefore, a huge, if not the greatest, hurdle to the promotion and selling of JobDiva is fake news and false advertising. Privately owned competitors wildly exaggerate the size of their user population, their growth rate, their market share and their global footprint."

Two other challenges included how to find ways to keep potential customers engaged on JobDiva's new Olyvr website long enough to submit résumé or to register and how to revamp pricing models without alienating current customers.

Solutions offered to the three case issues varied widely. For example, on the fake data/news issue recommendations ranged from "doing nothing," to the long-term solution offered by USF students suggesting the creation of an independent industry board to monitor the accuracy of advertising claims.

Besides Obeid, other judges were: Yana Nigen, chief marketing officer of JobDiva; Yue Gao, project manager on the Olyvr development team at JobDiva; Robert Fisher, CEO of Grow Financial; M. Lisa Shasteen, president of Shasteen Law; John Schoeppner, a retired U.S. Air Force general and former Lockheed senior executive; and Monica Wooden, CEO and founder of MercuryGate International.

Organized by Bowen and business instructors Doreen MacAulay and Rick Kelso, USF stages four business case competitions each year, two for senior USF undergraduates (fall and spring semesters), one for USF graduate business students (fall semester) and the Florida Intercollegiate Case Competition in February. The winning team from the Muma College of Business graduate case competition represents USF in the intercollegiate competition.

For students, the case competitions offer a unique professional opportunity to take on a serious business challenge in a stressful setting. The benefits include a real-world challenge and an insightful learning experience, an excellent networking opportunity, a separate-you-from-the-crowd résumé entry and a financial award for each member of the winning team.