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The Case for Racial Justice

USC Marshall School of Business MBA team takes Grand Prize in John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition.

January 25, 2021

John R Lewis Case Grand Prize TeamMBA students from the USC Marshall School of Business won the Grand Prize in the first John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition. The hosting university, Emory’s Goizueta Business School, took second place, and Harvard Business School won the Audience prize.

USC Marshall’s winning team was made up of second-year full-time MBA students Aria Aaron, Elizabeth Blasser, Michelle Matsuba, and Isabella Palacios.

 The case competition is a virtual, student-led event that drew 105 applications from leading MBA and undergraduate business programs across the country. A second Marshall team, comprised of Marshall MBA students Alganesh Tamyalew, Darartu Mohamed, Cara Dorsey, and Joseph Costa, was also among the 24 teams to advance to the semi-finals in December.   

Marshall’s winning team made its final presentation on Jan. 21, along with six other finalists. Winners were announced later that same evening by Jerrick Lewis, nephew of Representative John R. Lewis.

Inspired by the late Georgia statesman and civil rights leader John. R. Lewis, the case competition was launched to focus on the intersection of business and racial inequality. The goal of the case competition is to connect interested business students with corporations to identify not only short-term solutions to the problem of racial injustice in American corporations, but to establish innovative and actionable racial justice initiatives for these companies.

USC Marshall teams worked with Johnson & Johnson to answer the prompt: “How can this corporation best use its various resources to inspire 1 million Black girls in STEM2D?” (STEM2D is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, manufacturing, and design education.) 

“Our presentation took John R. Lewis’ work and vision as inspiration for continued progress. Our goal was to showcase a solution that brought positive impact and empowerment to Black girls around the nation, no matter where they come from.”—Elizabeth Blasser MBA '21

“Our presentation took John R. Lewis’ work and vision as inspiration for continued progress. Our goal was to showcase a solution that brought positive impact and empowerment to Black girls around the nation, no matter where they come from,” said Elizabeth Blasser, MBA ’21, on behalf of the grand prize-winning team. Blasser cited Marshall consulting projects and coursework, including Operations Consulting and Marketing Strategy, as helping drive the team’s detailed financial and implementation plan.

“We are incredibly proud of all of our MBA students for standing out in an extremely competitive case competition and finding solutions that resonated with Johnson & Johnson,” said USC Marshall Vice Dean for Graduate Programs Suh-Pyng Ku. “We could not be more honored to participate in the inaugural year of the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition.”

Marshall’s first place team was awarded $20,000 in prize money and is donating half to Step Up and Black Girls Code, two organizations that support Black and Brown girls in STEM education.

Read more about Marshall and the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition in Poets & Quants.