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At Presidio, we aim to prepare students for a professional life that lives at the intersection of their knowledge and passions. Whether you’re embarking on a new chapter in your career journey or restyling an existing career, our Office of Career Services looks forward to helping you identify and pursue opportunities that are both fulfilling and aligned with your personal values.

Today, we’re shedding light on case competitions, an incredibly valuable resource that provides students with an opportunity to apply what they have learned in their coursework, learn from peers across the world, and receive feedback from top business leaders.

Presidio Graduate School is committed to providing students with access to resources and experiences that put them at the forefront of addressing real-world environmental and social justice problems in and outside the classroom. To that end, and as a valuable career-building activity, Presidio’s Career Services team supports students in selecting and participating in case competitions.

Case competitions bring together graduate students, executives, and business leaders who share a deep commitment and passion for developing solutions and business practices that produce positive and sustainable environmental, social, and financial results. Through working with a team to create written and oral presentations of an original solution to a pressing issue, students build problem-solving, leadership, consensus-building, and presentation skills key to successful careers. Some competitions also provide students with networking opportunities, access to industry events, and mentors that offer subject matter expertise.

Participants are encouraged to build on their coursework through research and interviews, stretch their critical thinking, and test bold ideas. Students participating in case competitions experience a rich opportunity to exercise and display their problem-solving capabilities to sponsoring sustainability-focused companies and leaders.

Even while juggling classwork, jobs, and personal lives, Presidio students bring their can-do ethos to case competitions. In recent years, three Presidio teams have made it to the final round of case competitions, a testament to their passion and proficiency as budding sustainability experts.

Consider the inspiring Presidio IEN Siilk team, runners up in the 2022 IEN case competition. Carissa Tasto, Bryce Rasmussen, Reed Lewallen, Tomas Jimenez, and Amy Jiang responded to the case competition’s prompt to produce an investment recommendation in a publicly traded company. They were also asked to include a shareholder engagement strategy for improving the company’s business performance and impact on society. We recently caught up with Amy Jiang, MBA in Sustainable Solutions candidate, who shared her thoughts on her team’s approach to the case competition.

“Our team spent most of our time looking into sectors and companies that not only provide financial returns but could potentially change the environmental and social landscape if IEN were to invest. Realizing that the clean energy transition is more complex and nuanced and should consider social justice, we decided to pitch Piedmont Lithium. The judges appreciated our systems thinking lens and addressed executive/board diversity to uplift the voices of underrepresented communities most impacted by mining productions.”

Presidio administration, faculty, students, and alums virtually cheered on this inspiring team of Presidio students during their presentation in the finals via a Zoom viewing party!

Over the summer, a team of Presidio students advanced to Net Impact’s 2022 Wildfire Resilience Case Competition finals. Shay Howell, Bin Li, and Cecilia Comparini formed their case competition team at the beginning of their summer break. Despite the challenges of juggling different job schedules, summer plans, and only a two-week timeline to prepare their competition pitch, they were selected as case competition finalists after presenting their Land Back initiative that proposed putting wildfire stewardship back in the hands of Indigenous communities.

Shay Howell, a Dual MBA/MPA Degree candidate, describes the experience of collaborating with her team and their process of preparing for the Net Impact Wildfire Resilience case competition finals below.

“In one of our first meetings, I was up in the high sierras of northern Nevada with my laptop on a folding chair, trying to pick up a Wi-Fi signal outside the tribal library where my service group was working. Somehow, our team stayed connected, sometimes meeting twice daily (or more) since we only had two weeks to get our initial pitch together.

We certainly felt a collective sense of relief when we submitted our final proposal for a multiyear Land Back initiative that would put the case competition’s hypothetical 200 million dollar grant towards inviting tribal communities back onto the burnt lands into what remains of old growth forests. This is where their ancestors lived and stewarded the woods before being forcibly removed in Teddy Roosevelt’s era of land conservation, which is what led to the build-up of flammable biomass and subsequent fiery disasters.

One of our teammates, Cecilia Comparini, led our team’s pitch in the finals, describing her family’s harrowing experience with a wildfire that threatened their home on three sides, burning holes in the shingles and almost costing them their lives in 2021. This was an emotional undertaking.”

The experience of preparing for and participating in this case competition was quick, asynchronous, flexible, and intensive. We learned a lot about wildfires, but I think we learned even more about each other.

“It was an honor to represent Presidio at the finals.”

If you are interested in participating in a case competition, many options can be found online, particularly on business schools’ websites. Presidio students can find a curated list of sustainability-focused competitions in the Career Services Center on Canvas. Students have self-organized or can indicate interest in joining a team through a link to a form in the Career Services Center.


*This article was co-authored by Kate Deyoe, Shay Howell, and Anna Larson.

About the Author / Anna Larson

As Presidio’s Communications Manager, I aim to create and deliver compelling stories that help recognize and amplify the vital and unique work and people within Presidio's growing community of students, alums, faculty, staff, and partners. My mission is to use storytelling to support mission-driven people and organizations working at the forefront of social justice and environmental movements. 

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