Trulaske team rises to the occasion at Purdue HR case competition

A panel of students from the Trulaske College of Businesses facilitated the discussion about leadership with Novak.

The Trulaske team, which included, from left, Heaven Butler, Jenna Stalter, Braden Boulay, Rowan O’Connell and Jacqueline Kuntz, began preparing for the competition a month ahead of the event. The experience was an opportunity for the students to "learn by doing" and apply the lessons they've learned at Trulaske into solving a a problem at a real company. 

Heaven Butler has always considered herself to be a hard-working student. After all, the Kansas City, Missouri, native holds down three part-time jobs while studying fulltime as a junior majoring in management at the Trulaske College of Business. 

But Butler recently learned she can work even harder with the support of a team and mentors like Associate Teaching Professor Daryl Smith and Assistant Teaching Professor Christie McCullough in the Management Department. Butler was among a team of five Trulaske undergraduates who competed Nov. 2-3 in the HR Case Competition & Conference at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. 

While the Trulaske team didn’t place, Butler and her teammates learned that they have the skills to be competitive among their peers from across the country – and so much more.

“This experience gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, work hard and come together as team with other students,” Butler said. “I was able to build my listening skills, presentation skills, analytical skills and problem-solving skills – and I would do it all again.”

This is the first time Trulaske has sent a team to compete in Purdue’s HR case competition, which was held in the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business and included live cases from real companies. Each team had 20 minutes to make their presentation and 10 minutes to answer questions from a panel of judges, including a key executive from the London Stock Exchange. First- and second-place winners took home cash prizes that totaled $2,000 and $1,000 for undergraduates and $2,500 and $1,500 for graduate students. There were eight teams in each division, including one team of international students. 

Smith was impressed with the Trulaske team’s performance but not surprised by the members’ ability to rise to the occasion. Most of the students are members of the Mizzou Chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM). 

“Their performance reinforced what I already know,” he said. “That we have a great college and great students who can compete with the best from around the world. Our students were able to showcase what they have learned at Trulaske during this event.”

The Trulaske team, which included Butler, Rowan O’Connell, Braden Boulay, Jacqueline Kuntz and Jenna Stalter, began preparing for the competition a month ahead of the event. Team members received daily email assignments from Smith and McCullough and met for at least two hours twice a week to discuss the assignments and other human resources-related topics. 

It wasn’t until a week before the event that the Trulaske team received its case for the competition: dormakaba USA Inc., a global security group, had made several recent acquisitions and changed its organizational structure. Equipped with a plethora of data from the company, Trulaske students went to work identifying the core problem and offering a solution, which included a plan, budget, and timetable for implementation. They also offered a list of measurable results that dormakaba could anticipate if it adopted the Trulaske team’s solution. 

“It was a huge time commitment, but worth every minute,” said Butler, whose long-term goal is to open a community center in her hometown. “I learned I’m not only a hard worker, but when I have the support of a team, I will work even harder.”

McCullough said it was thrilling to see the students commit to something difficult and then challenge themselves throughout the process. 

“The students persevered through stressful situations, tight time constraints and limited information to produce a final presentation they were proud to present,” she said. “It required the students to stretch themselves, to take risks and put themselves out there.”

Before traveling to Purdue, the students presented their case to a group of faculty and peers and then asked for feedback. 

“In so doing, they experienced the value of receiving feedback and used that to improve their final product,” McCullough said. “That takes courage.”

Smith said although many of the students have classes together, they had to learn to work as a team for the event. 

“Ultimately, they peaked and performed at the right time,” he said. “This event offered our students an opportunity to further develop their consulting, analytical and communication skills – all skills that we teach here at Trulaske, but they were able to put them to use and to develop them even further through this competition.”