Winners Announced in the DEI Global Case Writing Competition

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Woman of color working on a tablet with text that says "Winners Announced! Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Global Case Writing Competition"


There’s a significant gap in business school teaching materials with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) — and recent spotlights on widespread, systemic racial inequities have only made that clearer.

WDI PublishingUniversity of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and its Sanger Leadership Center identified this glaring shortage and called on university students and educators from around the globe to address the problem. 

The groups collaborated to create the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Global Case Writing Competition — a challenge with the goal of eliciting and sharing case studies that would encourage critical thinking around effective DEI measures in business. “Students need a good understanding of why DEI is important and what challenges they might face in future positions when creating, implementing and sustaining DEI, so our goal with this competition was to create relevant and rigorous teaching materials on this topic,” explained Sandra L. Draheim, Manager of Case Publishing at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan (WDI)

The goal was met by both the submitters of compelling real-world cases, and the competition’s organizers and sponsors. David Wooten, Associate Dean of One-Year Masters Programs at the Ross School of Business and University Diversity & Social Transformation Professor at U-M, was thrilled by the global response. “We had a great deal of interest and a large number of high-quality submissions from around the world,” he said. “This is only the beginning of what I hope will be a long-running effort to address the industry-wide problem of the dearth of cases that cover issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Case Writing Competition Winners

First Place

Cyrus Mehri and the National Football League’s Rooney Rule (2021)

Second Place

Oiselle: How Does an Activist Brand Authentically Commit to Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Third Place

Does the U.S. Hospitality Market Offer Fertile Soil for Lemon Tree Hotels’ Inclusive Business Model?


The contest featured two tracks: one focused on traditional business case studies with accompanying teaching notes, and the other focused on the submission of a case designed for a real-time, role-playing event for action-based learning. The top three cases for track one have been published by WDI Publishing, while the track two winners will be used by the Sanger Leadership Center as part of its Leadership Crisis Challenge program. 

It was an extremely close competition, according to the group of academic leaders and business professionals selected as judges for their DEI and business education expertise. Judges of the track one finalists included Tamika Curry Smith, president of The TCS Group, Inc., a firm that provides human resources and DEI solutions; Scott Page, the John Seely Brown Distinguished Professor of Complexity, Social Science and Management at Michigan Ross; and Courtney McCluney, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at the ILR School at Cornell University. Track two finalists were judged by Susan Ashford, the Michael and Susan Jandernoa Professor in Management and Organization; Mike Barger, Assistant Clinical Professor of Business Administration and Executive Director of Ross Online; and Anuradha Nagarajan, faculty member in the Corporate Strategy and International Business department – all at Michigan Ross.  

After working in the DEI field for two decades, Michigan Ross graduate Curry Smith recognizes the importance of developing the new case studies that can be used by global business schools.“Competitions like these are important because they bring DEI to life, making the topic tangible and accessible for students from all backgrounds,” she said. She also knows the deep value of this content. She explained, “Highlighting a diverse set of protagonists in academic case studies and integrating DEI into business dilemmas strengthens the knowledge and skill set of today’s students and prepares them to become tomorrow’s global business leaders.”

Our hope is to develop a collection of DEI materials for students and the public.


Amid this tight competition, a timely case concerning the National Football League’s Rooney Rule, a guideline requiring a slate of diverse candidates during hiring processes, earned first place in track one. U-M professor Christopher Rider, DEI expert Eileen Lopez Rider, and research associate Shonita Black worked closely with civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri to tell the story of how Mehri and others developed the rule to advocate for football coaches of color — and business leaders of color elsewhere. Using historical data, timelines of hiring trends, and data simulations, the case asks students to consider whether the Rooney Rule is still the industry’s most effective tool and what next steps would be appropriate in growing its impact.

As a Michigan Ross professor, Rider has seen an increased appreciation for diversity and inclusion over the last few years, especially a growing value placed on equity. “A lot of our students, and a lot of business leaders, are concerned that there are disparities in our workforce, in our supply chains, and they’d like to address those disparities. To do that, they need the right analytical tools to identify if there are disparities, and, if so, why, so they can design ways to actually close those gaps,” said Rider, who is launching a business course on equity analysis and sees the tremendous value of these cases in the classroom. “This will be a cornerstone case for the course for years to come,” he added.

Also in track one, 2021 Michigan Ross MBA graduates Marisa Weidner and Jane Xie, took second place with a case that focuses on a women-owned athletic apparel company, Oiselle, that supports various socio-political causes. In their case study, students are asked to explore the fundamental question of the role of business in advancing DEI initiatives and different approaches to promoting these values. Third place went to Professor David A. Wernick and doctoral student Siddharth K. Upadhyay from Florida International University. This team’s case is about Lemon Tree Hotels, a leading Indian hotel company that employs people with disabilities and other socially marginalized groups, placing them in front-line positions. Students are challenged to consider the strategic, operational, and financial challenges of the hotel’s plans for U.S. expansion while maintaining its inclusion program.

The track two winning cases will be used to support the Sanger Leadership Center’s Crisis Challenge simulations, 24-hour challenges that push students to apply the case theories to real-life situations. 

Leadership Crisis Challenge Winners

First Place

(fictional SaaS company)
  • Stephanie Simpson, MBA/MSI 2021, Michigan Ross & UM School of Information
  • Scott Schenkelberg, MBA 2022, Michigan Ross
  • Chris Schweiger, MBA 2022, Michigan Ross
  • Brian Lui, MBA 2022, Michigan Ross

Second Place

(fictional fashion apparel company based in India)
  • Gyanesh Mishra, MBA 2021, Michigan Ross

Third Place

Putting Lipstick on a Cosmetics Company: Saving Inner Beauty
  • Devika Agarwal, MBA/MS 2022, Michigan Ross
  • Douglas Ely, MBA/MS 2022, Michigan Ross
  • Nadia Ogene, MBA 2021, Michigan Ross

“The winning cases were able to get students to think critically about how their actions contribute to building more just, tolerant, and diverse organizations,” said Lindy Greer, faculty director of the Sanger Leadership Center and associate professor of management at Michigan Ross. “The authors created exciting and relevant learning experiences during our Crisis Challenge that will engage participants for years to come.”


Upcoming business students and leaders see the need for robust DEI preparation — and the educational materials that train our future business leaders must match that need. “Younger generations are relatively more attuned to these issues,” said Rider. “There’s a sense that our work should not just be profitable, but also meaningful. We want to not just have a job, not just have a career, but also do work we feel is important for an organization that aligns with our values.” Having the right academic teaching tools, like these DEI case studies, can provide the space and skill for students to thoughtfully determine that path.

And WDI Publishing is focused on providing these types of teaching tools. “Our hope is to develop a collection of DEI materials for students and the public,” said Draheim. A crucial part of this effort is making this case competition an annual event and welcoming submissions by even more dedicated, DEI-minded students and professors for the next contest.


The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is a vibrant and distinctive learning community grounded in the principle that business can be an extraordinary vehicle for positive change in today’s dynamic global economy. The Ross School of Business mission is to build a better world through business. Through thought and action, members of the Ross community drive change and innovation that improves business and society.

Ross is consistently ranked among the world’s leading business schools. Academic degree programs include the BBA, MBA, Part-Time MBA (Evening, Online, and Weekend formats), Executive MBA, Global MBA, Master of Accounting, Master of Supply Chain Management, Master of Management, and PhD. In addition, the school delivers open-enrollment and custom executive education programs targeting general management, leadership development, and strategic human resource management.


At the Sanger Leadership Center, we believe that leadership is a skill that everyone can learn. We seek to democratize the leadership development process by providing students, alumni, and external affiliates with the bold ideas, transformative experiences, and inclusive communities needed to self-guide and accelerate leadership development. Empowering students across diverse backgrounds to develop the character and skills needed to become principled, inclusive leaders is now more important than ever in today’s unpredictable world.


Established at the University of Michigan in 1992, the William Davidson Institute is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization. Serving both profit-seeking and non-profit firms, WDI is guided by our founding principle that thriving businesses drive economic development and improve social welfare in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). With a unique blend of field-based experience and academic rigor, WDI works to build stronger economies and healthier societies.

Established in 2007, WDI Publishing is part of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. We work with faculty to professionally edit, distribute, and market high quality, cutting edge, business case studies for adoption into courses at top-ranked universities globally. Through our e-commerce site,, we offer a large, searchable catalog of over 600 cases within core business disciplines, as well as international business and social impact topic areas. WDI Publishing cases have been adopted by over 700 universities worldwide.

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