Undergraduates win national innovation competition

Mary Abowd
News Officer for Arts & HumanitiesUniversity Communications

Four UChicago students were named national champions in the Accenture Innovation Challenge, a multi-round competition where students work in consulting-style teams to devise solutions to a real-world problem.

UChicago’s team, randomly assigned by Accenture, included Michal Dzitko, AB’18; Patrick Su, AB’18; Carol Lee, AB’18; and Laura Hu, AB’19. Dzitko and Su are participants in the UChicago Careers in Business program, a collaboration between the College and University of Chicago Booth School of Business that provides undergraduates a foundation in effective business leadership. Working with an Accenture mentor, the team came up with a plan to help the firm’s nonprofit partner, the World Wildlife Fund, in its mission to curb food waste.

The students beat undergraduate teams from more than 50 colleges and universities, making it through three rounds of competition to the finals in Washington, D.C., last weekend. Their winning pitch to Accenture and World Wildlife Fund leadership won out over teams from Columbia, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. The win marked the second time in the competition’s four-year history that UChicago has taken home the top honor.

“Our students took a multi-dimensional problem and devised an innovative answer and a plan to implement it,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College. “This is an example of what our undergraduates in careers programs do so exceptionally: apply their training to a real-world challenge. The College congratulates them.”

The team’s winning proposal—which Accenture will consider for implementation—involved the creation of an expanded coalition of grocery retailers and nonprofits dedicated to feeding the hungry that would distribute food to those in need. The database platform they created, dubbed “Bullseye,” demonstrated how retailers could both serve a social good and substantially cut costs.

The experience gave students a taste of what a career in strategic consulting could be like. “This was a real, live problem facing the World Wildlife Fund, not a simulated case,” said Krisinda Doherty, associate director for UChicago Careers in Business, who advised the team. “It was a chance for students to think critically and work collaboratively to develop an innovative solution for a client.”

The winners will get even more opportunity to try out their consulting skills; each was awarded a summer 2017 internship offer at Accenture. “The best part about this was seeing how we, as students working together, can make a difference,” said Dzitko, an economics and music major. “It was inspiring to see that our ideas actually matter.”