2017 Case Competition Winners

Student Case Competition - BrusselsStudent Case Competition Winners Share Insights From ILA Brussels

By Jill Schreider 

Jill Schreider PhotoJill Schreider is a marketing and communications intern at the International Leadership Association. She is a senior communications major at the University of Maryland College Park and looks forward to a future working in human resources and talent development. 

Each year at the ILA global conference, students from universities around the world participate in the Student Case Competition. Most recently at the October 2017 conference in Brussels, teams from Kansas State University and Northern Kentucky University were victorious. The graduate students from NKU and the undergraduate team from KSU dedicated a lot of time to this competition and their hard work paid off.

Organized by ILA’s Leadership Education Member Interest Group (LEMIG), the purpose of the annual Student Case Competition is to provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to compete and showcase their knowledge about leadership through the analysis of a contemporary socio-political-economic problem of their choice on the global or national level. Each member of the winning undergraduate and graduate teams receives a complimentary 1-year membership in ILA and each team receives a $1,000 cash prize to divide among the members. Winning teams are recognized at the closing plenary of the conference in front of all of the attendees. The 2017 Student Case Competition was sponsored by the University of the Rockies.

Student Case Competition - Brussels Student Case Competition - Brussels Student Case Competition - Brussels

2017 Winning Undergraduate Topic – The Militarization of the Police in the U.S.

Student Case Competition - Brussels

The undergraduate team was comprised of students Suvana Badgett, Lauren Mertz, Emily Polston, and Bailey Porter, with advisor Marica Hornung. They focused on the issue of polarization in the United States and how it manifests into the militarization of the police as a tool of division. According to team member Bailey Porter, the group “examined our issue using the ideas of adaptive leadership and civic leadership with our solution using the idea of a public narrative. Our solution involved shifting the public narrative to include the values and voices of everyone in a community, rather than just one side that holds power.” Polston added, “We suggest that if a community is able to come together to recognize that they have similar espoused values, rather than lived values, that they can mobilize as a united front.”

2017 Winning Graduate Topic – Global Infant Mortality

Student Case Competition - BrusselsThe graduate team included students Terri Enslein, Linnea Fletcher, and Karen Ramos, with advisor James Votruba. Their case was titled, “Infant Mortality on a Global Scale: The Case for Saving Babies.” They chose this topic because Cincinnati, the city they are from, has an infant mortality rate much higher than the U.S. as a whole. As team member Karen Ramos explains, “several factors impact infant mortality rates: access to medical care, high rates of preterm birth, poverty, poor sleep habits, lack of immunization, poor perinatal education, etc. The far reach of these issues speaks to the need for both local and global strategies to prevent unnecessary deaths and to preserve human health and life.” The group used an adaptive leadership approach combined with two community change theories to come up with a plan to address this huge problem. Terri Enslein noted, “The key to making any headway with infant mortality is to maintain engagement from every applicable member of every society affected. If we can get this momentum and cohesion of action to occur then we can absolutely make a difference.”

Teamwork and Bonding

A great poster and presentation are not the only keys to success in this competition. Many participants describe the importance of teamwork and preparation for effective group unity. The undergraduate students felt that developing strong connections among team members was crucial for success in working together. “By making these bonds, you learn more about who the person is, how they think, what drives them, and more importantly, you begin to trust each other more,” Porter declared. “As we began to mold our thoughts on the issue we chose, we began to understand that our diverse backgrounds gave us different strengths that we brought to the table, and by leveraging those strengths, we were able to succeed as a team.” Porter’s teammate, Lauren Mertz agreed: “Before we could even start writing our brief, it was very important that we first trusted each other and knew where each team member came from so we could better understand who they are in that space.”

The graduate team felt that creatively thinking as a team helped them to foster the best ideas. Enslein explains that, “even when there were conflicting ideas, the merger of these opposing thoughts were far more insightful than each of them individuals.” And, according to Ramos, “Working on this case competition required open lines of communication, trust and the ability to think creatively and search for an angle that would bring new ideas to light.”

There is no doubt that both these teams were successful in coming together and experiencing effective collaboration and communication. Their unique perspectives and passion for each topic allowed them to connect with one another, fill in each other’s gaps, and work toward a solution for an important issue.

Learning From Others

While in Brussels, these students had the chance to attend wonderful plenary sessions with world-renowned keynotes, engage in concurrent sessions, and take advantage of incredible networking opportunities. Many of the students mentioned that the keynote addresses would have a lasting impact on their thoughts about leadership. Both Enlsein and Ramos, for example, described their experience listening to Ret. General David Petraeus, noting his impressive military and academic leadership achievements. They agreed it was an honor to hear him speak, especially due to his charismatic, engaged, and competent style of speaking about leadership.

In addition to the keynotes, many of the winners enjoyed seeing what the other teams had worked on and being able to connect and learn with them. Polston expressed enjoyment in “learning about what others are working on. I found reassurance in the fact that folks from different countries are working toward similar ends that we are. There is solidarity in the struggle towards equity that I haven’t noticed before.”

Advice for ILA 2018 West Palm Beach Participants

Are you ready for our 20th Anniversary Global Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida? Here is some advice from the 2017 winners as you prepare for next year’s case competition!

Bailey Porter“Have fun with it! At ILA, you are surrounded by so many knowledgeable people who might have similar interests and passions as you, so taking the time to get to know people and maximizing the opportunity is something I would highly encourage people to do!” –Bailey Porter

“Definitely prepare, prepare, prepare! You have to be able and ready to respond to any criticism or concern with your argument. Playing the devils advocate and preparing yourself for the question-and-answer session are absolutely essential.” – Terri Enslein

“Prepare, plan, rehearse, and know your theory well. Consider alternative theories and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each theory considered. Know that you will encounter some challenging questions from the judges but remember to smile and speak intelligently about your chosen topic.” – Karen Ramos

“Soak in the whole experience. It absolutely flies by, but it has been one of the most impactful experiences of my collegiate career.” – Lauren Mertz

“Take everything in! It is an incredible space to learn about the positions of others, but also don't be afraid to be critical and ask questions. It may feel like you are in the space of elite academics, but you belong there too.” – Emily Polston

Advisor, James Votruba has some additional words of wisdom for West Palm Beach participants:

  • Select a challenge that you are passionate about addressing.
  • Establish a division of labor.
  • Make sure that the problem has both global and local significance.
  • A strong performance incorporates problem analysis with a strategy for addressing it.
  • Consult with a coach and/or students who have been through the process.
  • Finally, speak to the heart as well as the intellect.

Sign up for the 2018 Student Case Competition

Begin gathering your team and planning your trip to West Palm Beach, Florida this October. The online sign up will be available shortly via ILA’s conference awards page. Stay tuned!

Interested in sponsoring this event? Contact ILA Director of Conferences, Bridget Chisholm at 1.202.470.4818 x103 or bchisholm@ila-net.org.


The success of the annual Student Case Competition depends on ILA member volunteers, donors, sponsors, and participants.


Thank you to the University of the Rockies for sponsoring the 2017 Student Case Competition!

Thank you to the Leadership Education Member Interest Group for organizing!


Thank you to the volunteer judges!

Thank you to the editors of Breaking the Zero Sum Game, Aldo Boitano, Raúl Lagomarsino, and H. Eric Schockman for donating copies of their book (a volume in ILA's BLB series) to all of the 2017 student participants. 


Thank you to all of the student teams and advisers for participating and their universities for supporting their participation!


Thank you to the more than 100 ILA members whose monetary donations supported this program in 2017: 

Olajide Frederick Ajiga, Alfred Akakpo, Abdulmonem Alhayani, O. Ray Angle, Denise Bell, Denise Berger, Ann Berghout Austin, Mario Berlingieri, Kathy Bishop, Marie-Laure Blanc, H.E. Blatchford, Josiane Bonte Apollon, Sheree Bryant Sekou, Amanda Buschi, Maria Caban Alizondo, Isabell Camillo, Alan Carter, Sr, Marguerite Chabau, Chu-Chin Chen, Michael Chirichello, Kisuk Cho, Chang Won Choi, Eric Coggins, Michael Cohen, Robert Colvin, Emily Conner, Lynne Devnew, Deirdre Dixon, Corbette Doyle, Cindy-Lou Drummond, Lunthita Duthely, Hannah Francis, Myriam Ines Giangiacomo, Donnica Gordon, Cheryl Graeve, Renee' Green, Andrew Muiruri Guuru, Paul Haaga, Jr., Sayuri Hanna, Mikinari Higano, Brett Hinds, Marianne Iksic, Emilio Iodice, Dimitra Iordanoglou, Kelly Jamieson, Dawn Jeffries, David Jensen, Barry Johnson, Gail Johnson Morris, James Ronnie Kanagwa, Jayshan Keejoo, Max Klau, Katherine Lampley, Larry Latham, Bernice Ledbetter, Pamela Chandler Lee, Marie-Pier Levesque, Jill Lindsey, Isabel Lopez, Petros Malakyan, Dina Mansour-Cole, Liron Marks, Robert McGurty, Deborah Meyers, Bethany Mickahail, 
Martha Miser, Mark Moir, Baltazar Caravedo Molinari, Kimberly Mungaray, Kenneth Nance, Ottar Ness, Iris Newalu, Naomi Nightingale, II, M. von Nkosi, Thomas Nowlin, Nassim Nozartash, Greg Nugroho, Lynn Olsen, Albert Onuegbu, Sonia Ospina, Jennifer Parmelee, Adriano Pianesi, Nancy Pratt, Matthew Rich-Tolsma, Cynthia Roberts, Tomaz Schara, John Schmidt, Arthur Schwartz, Valerie Sessa, Sonya Sharififard, Julie Silbar, Peter Stark, Carolyn Stefanco, Jeannie Stone, Eileen Taylor, Gabriella Van Breda, Mark Vroman, Alvin Walker, Susan Weeks, Jon Wergin, Darrin Williams, Suze Wilson, Barbara Zucal