In the Fall of 2019, the Center for Career Development, in partnership with a corporate sponsor, launched a case competition designed specifically for College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) students. The competition was such a success that we decided to host another competition during the Spring 2020 semester! Unlike the fall semester, the spring CLAS Case Competition was conducted virtually due to the unprecedented circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, the Center for Career Development collaborated with long-time campus recruiting partner and competition sponsor TJX (an off-price retailer delivering great value to its customers through the “treasure hunt” shopping experience) to facilitate this virtual event specifically for CLAS students. During the competition, teams were tasked with assuming the roles of buyers and planners for TJX looking to drive sales related to “Back to College” merchandise. Teams were asked to evaluate products offered by TJX and their competitors and provide recommendations about new business opportunities to drive sales to various different customers.
The Spring 2020 winning team was comprised of Alexis Angelini ’20 (CLAS), an English and Communications double major, and Jennie Fetzer ’21 (CLAS), a Communications and Journalism double major. I interviewed both team members to find out more about their experience and takeaways from the competition.
Kristen Soprano: How did you hear about the CLAS Case Competition and how did you form your team?
Jennie Fetzer: My partner Alexis sent me the case competition posting she received via her UConn email. The two of us are always looking for new experiences around campus to help grow our resumes, so we were used to being a part of a team together!
Alexis Angelini: I was lucky enough to receive an email from my advisor, Inda Watrous from the English department. Immediately I thought of asking Jennie to join my team after working with her on past projects and programs.
KS: Had you ever competed in a case competition before this? If so, how did you use that experience to inform your strategy for this one? If not, what was it that sparked your interest to participate and how did you develop your strategy?
JF: I personally have never taken part in a case competition before, but I was excited that this year was centered around the fashion and merchandising industry. This is a field both Alexis and I are interested in working in, and it was so exciting to do it with such a renowned company like TJX!
AA: I was a finalist in last year’s OPIM Innovate AOD Wellness Case Competition Finalist so I have had Case Competition experience. Although, the AOD Wellness Case Competition had a much different format and could be considered as “laid back.” I’m an avid TJX shopper, and TJX is a company I would love to one day work for so I was ecstatic when I saw this opportunity. We developed our strategy by thinking about the key elements of our presentation such as research and establishing the attitudes of our demographic, Gen Z, providing product recommendations backed up by trend reports, and marketing ideas on how to implement.
KS: What was your first impression when you received the case?
JF: I was really excited that the prompt left room for our own personal creativity. Alexis and I centered our submission around both merchandising and marketing tactics that we thought would drive sales for the company. This idea wasn’t directly written in the case we received, so it was a fun strategy to come up with on our own.
AA: Excited but nervous to start working on the case. Jennie and I initially thought the case was a bit vague so we started to brainstorm to get a clear idea of the breakdown of our presentation.
KS: As a CLAS student, were you able to apply your existing skillsets and knowledge to address this case?
JF: Absolutely! I was able to implement experiences from my digital production class to craft the presentation, as well as knowledge from other media and marketing classes to shape our ideas and concepts. UConn’s CLAS department does a really great job of creating well-rounded students in their curriculum, and I think that was evident in the work that we produced for this competition.
AA: We definitely used experience from our classes. Jennie and I are both Communications majors (I’m a double major with English and Communications) and used elements of these courses to complete our presentation. As previously mentioned, Jennie and I have both been a part of the Rent the Runway ambassador program at UConn and also used that experience to our advantage.
KS: What were the biggest takeaways you learned about yourself and your skills as a CLAS student after competing in the CLAS Case Competition?
JF: That what I am learning in the classroom has the potential to be used in my future job! As a rising senior, I am consistently speaking to employers and recruiters about my education, and this case is an excellent example of how I can put my skills to test in real-life scenarios.
KS: The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to conduct the CLAS Case Competition virtually this semester. How do you think this experience shaped your overall confidence in your ability to achieve your future goals?
JF: The pandemic is impacting our world in so many ways right now, and the economy is especially included. This is a really hard time to be an upperclassman searching for industry experience. So we’re so fortunate that the CLAS department decided to continue on with this competition virtually. Our success with this case is proof that any obstacle in our future careers can be overcome with enough strategic thinking and determination.
AA: Jennie and I have had a lot of experience, both individually and together, in the social media and digital marketing space but not as much experience in the buying space. Winning a competition that was based more on being a buyer and doing trend research gave me confidence that I am more versatile than I may have thought. It also has given me more confidence on my public speaking skills and video editing skills.
KS: After competing in the CLAS Case Competition, would you compete in other case competitions again in the future? What are some benefits of participating in events like this that you’d like to share with other CLAS students?
JF: I would love to compete in competitions in the future! Participating in these events is not only an excellent way to grow your resume, but also a great way to network with potential employers, and utilize the resources that UConn offers for career development!
AA: While I am graduating this semester, I would love to compete in future case competitions. I would highly encourage CLAS students to participate in opportunities like this. There are many benefits such as gaining experience, adding to your resume, and just having fun!