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Eighteenth annual Race and Case competition features pandemic pricing case, virtual escape room race

Pandemic Pricing

What is the role of governments in preventing price gouging of essential goods during crises, and were vegetable costs inflated in offline retail markets throughout India during the March through May 2020 COVID-19 shutdown?

These were the $3,000 questions 24 graduate students across Daniels’ Denver MBA, Professional MBA, Master of Accountancy, and Master of Science in Real Estate and the Built Environment programs were motivated to answer. They presented their analyses to alumni judges from the business community via Zoom Wednesday, Jan. 27 through Friday, Jan. 29.

The six four-person teams had two weeks to prepare their solutions to the case.

Since 2004, teams have presented their ethical business case solutions to judges and peers in person. The online venue of the competition—due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—added a new dynamic, with team members presenting, and navigating technical issues, from four different remote locations.

“The environment we’re in adds a different component, but brings out a different set of skills, as well, and you all showed that,” said judge Tim Hartwig (MBA 2001), Daniels’ Alumni Advisory Board vice chair and vice president at Treeline Multifamily Partners. 

Judges scored each team based on their knowledge of the facts of the case, prioritization of issues, consideration of alternative courses of action, decision-making rationale, commitment to ethics, presentation effectiveness and more. The presentations were worth 90% of the teams’ scores.

Escape Room

From 1:30–3 p.m. on Jan. 29, teams entered the second part of the challenge, where they worked together to solve puzzles and crack codes in an interactive online escape room race through Roobicks.

It’s the first year in the event’s 18-year history that participants have not ventured into the nearby Rocky Mountains for a downhill ski race to round out the event.

Results from the escape room comprised 10% of teams’ scores—the same portion the alpine ski race accounted for in previous years. The winning team and two runners up—all comprised of Denver MBA students—were announced at the online awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 29.


First place and $1,500 went to Team B: Darby Steinberger, Davis Kali, Jacob Kranitz and Patrick Gillespie.

Team B researched and compared pricing data from 2019 to the provided 2020 data, which judges said set their presentation apart. The team determined there was no evidence of price gouging during the pandemic, but rather normal supply and demand fluctuations consistent with weather-driven environmental factors that also disrupted supply chains.

They made three recommendations to ethically stabilize food pricing to increase food security for middle- and lower-class populations in India. The team’s recommendations included policy change to support farmers, modernizing the supply chain through public-private partnerships and preparing for future crises through government regulation.

Second place and $1,000 went to Team E: Samantha Laird, Alexa Tucker, Aaron Mallory and Sarah Wallace.

Team A—Michael Garrison, Chloe Laws, Keirsten Turner and Nick Papanastassiou—took third place and $500.

“What an honor it was to be a part of this,” said judge Colleen Carney Courtney (MBA 2004), who helped start Race and Case as a Daniels graduate student and is president of Carney Family Office. “You all have definitely raised the level from what we were doing 18 years ago. Kudos! You brought a lot of creativity and thoughtfulness into the case.”

International Competition

Team B will represent the University of Denver at the 18th annual Race and Case international competition, hosted by the Daniels College of Business Feb. 24–26.

They will be joined by four-person teams from 10 business schools: Auburn University, University of Florida, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Simon Fraser University, University of South Carolina, University of Alabama and University of South Florida.

That event will follow a similar format as the internal competition, with a business ethics case competition and a virtual race component to test teams’ ability to adapt to the online world, given the ongoing pandemic.

Thank you to Newmont 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.

The international competition’s business case will be revealed to teams the week of Feb. 8. For more information, visit the Race and Case website.