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Annual case competition tackles communications strategies, ethics, virtual escape room

Ethical Communications Strategies

How does a global mining company balance questions about sustainability and the local communities it works with, while extending a highly profitable operation in a remote corner of the planet? And how can it effectively communicate its plans so that its wide array of stakeholders all get on board?

Graduate business students from across the U.S. and Canada tackled those issues at the Daniels College of Business’s 18th annual international Race and Case competition. For the first time ever, Race and Case was held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams presented their findings and recommendations to a panel of judges via Zoom Feb. 24–26.

This year’s international participants included four-person teams from Auburn University, University of Florida, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, Simon Fraser University, University of South Carolina, University of Alabama and University of South Florida. They were joined by the winning team from Daniels’ internal Race and Case competition last month.This year’s case centered around presenting sponsor Newmont’s Yanacocha mine, located in Cajamarca, Peru. Teams were asked to develop a communications strategy that effectively shared the pros of a potential extension of Yanacocha’s operations—such as the benefits of mining gold and copper and the economic effects on the local community—and how they may outweigh the environmental impact an extension could create.

Judges included Daniels alumni, representatives from Newmont and local business leaders from TIAA, Lumen, Boa Technology, Slalom Consulting, PNC Bank, Project C.U.R.E and Vector Medical Group LLC. Presentations accounted for 90% of each team’s score.

Escape Room

Though the traditional skiing component could not happen due to COVID-19, it wouldn’t be Race and Case without an exciting challenge that puts teamwork to the test. On Feb. 26, teams participated in an interactive virtual escape room created by Roobicks. The experience required each team to work together to solve puzzles and riddles in order to obtain a code that would free them from a spooky basement.

Teams were timed as they made their way through the escape room, and their performance in the challenge accounted for 10% of their total score—the same percentage that the ski race has made up in years past.

Results

Winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 26.

The winning team from the Daniels College of Business.

First place—and a cash prize of $6,000—went to the home team from Daniels. Denver MBA students Darby Steinberger, Davis Kali, Jacob Kranitz and Patrick Gillespie put together a multimedia strategy built around Newmont’s core values: safety, integrity, sustainability, inclusion and responsibility. Their plan aimed to significantly increase investments in the Cajamarca community “through revenues earned directly from the mine” and green bonds.

The judges praised the team’s creative problem-solving, well-organized content and proposals to integrate Newmont into the local community. “You did a really strong job of focusing on the benefits and linking those to your strategies, and then focusing on the community, as well as the interests of all the stakeholders, and tying those together,” said judge Brett Vladika, director of performance fit lab and market research at Boa Technology.

The University of Florida came in second place, winning $4,000, with the University of Alabama landing in third and receiving $2,000.

Overall, the judges commended all teams’ professionalism, research and responses to feedback.

“Your findings were truly remarkable and eye-opening for us,” said judge Matt Kelsall, senior manager of corporate development at Newmont. “This case is based on real life. We do have a project that is expanding. Hearing from you and understanding from your perspective was extremely valuable for me and I know it will be for my colleagues, as well.”

Thank you to Newmont for your sustained partnership and for sponsoring the 2021 Race and Case internal and international competitions. Newmont is the world’s leading gold company and a producer of copper, silver, zinc and lead. It is the only gold producer listed in the S&P 500 Index and is widely recognized for its principled environmental, social and governance practices.

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