Penn State student team earns top prize in national consulting competition


By Jeff Rice

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A group of four Penn State students claimed first place in the Deloitte Undergraduate Case Competition.

Ritika Nagpal and Kristine Wang, both sophomore finance majors and Schreyer Scholars; Daniel Berlin, a sophomore majoring in actuarial sciences; and Benjamin Burlovic, a sophomore majoring in economics and mechanical engineering and a Schreyer Scholar, formed the Valley Consulting Group, which beat out 11 other student teams from Penn State in the first part of the competition, held Feb. 10-12, then emerged atop a field of 17 teams in the national portion of the competition from March 3-5.

In both competitions, teams received a case prompt and were given a day to work on it, then presented it the following morning to panels of partners and directors from Deloitte. They received guidance from designated mentors and current Deloitte employees Frank Zachar and Karim Lahlou, both Penn State alumni. After advancing to the final round along with teams from Cornell University and the University of Virginia, Valley Consulting Group became the first team from Penn State to win the competition, which is now in its 10th year.

Each student received a $1,000 prize for winning the national competition.

The case prompt focused on how COVID-19 has changed the workforce and the workplace. The group was tasked with formulating a return-to-work plan for a hypothetical software company.

“It was kind of a two-pronged case,” Wang said. “What strategy do you believe would be most beneficial to help employees come back to the workplace and what city would you pilot that in?”

The students got to know each other through their involvement in the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and were close friends, Wang said, before the competitions, but became even closer after logging roughly 60 hours of work between the Penn State and national challenges. Those relationships also paid off during the competition.

“Whenever we were brainstorming or talking about solutions, we weren’t afraid to call each other out if an idea wasn’t very good,” Nagpal said. “We felt comfortable doing that because we knew each other so well already.”

After the competition, the students were able to apply those skills to their respective roles in the Schreyer Consulting Group and Nittany Lion Consulting Group.

“We realized we’d learned so much from the experience that we were able to mentor and give advice to others,” Wang said.

The students said they plan to continue to participate in case competitions and were grateful for the chance to learn from the experience.

“All four of us got in this competition because of an interest in consulting,” Berlin said, “but we all got a great opportunity to work on a team, to work on problem-solving. The skills would help even if we don’t go into consulting in the future.”


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Megan Lakatos