November 13, 2020

NYU SPS Innovative Challenge Hosted by NYU SPS Wasserman Center & Sponsored by EY (Ernst & Young) Builds Skills and Provides Students with Invaluable Connections

During SPS Spirit Week, the NYUSPS Wasserman Center for Career Development normally hosts Networking Night as its flagship professional development activity. The well-attended event typically brings together students and members of the industries that SPS serves for a single night of networking. In the wake of COVID-19, the Wasserman Center was keen to provide an alternative activity for teams of SPS students in a virtual setting—the NYUSPS Innovation Challenge.

EY (Ernst & Young) as the industry sponsor, graciously provided judges and mentors. It also devised the challenge statement that was the focus of a month-long competition in which 16 teams (77 students) from across NYU SPS disciplines participated. This truly was a schoolwide interdisciplinary collaboration, that embodied the School’s amazing spirit, while demonstrating the SPS commitment to connect students to industry even during these challenging times.

Each finalist team had direct access to EY mentors—one of whom is an SPS adjunct faculty member —Yolanda Barreros, DPB-MSPM. The winning team was awarded the opportunity to meet with Roger Park, EY Head of Americas Innovation for a virtual lunch. In addition, all finalists were invited to participate in one-on-one meetings with mentors at Lair East Labs, a startup accelerator that empowers founders to expand internationally.

The challenge statement below that was provided offered a framework for students to think strategically and innovatively in order to solve a business problem that often requires a delicate balancing act for companies and organizations on a global level.

Scaling without Compromising on Culture
As a company grows, and employee counts rise, how do you keep and nurture what made the company special and unique, specific to the attributes that allowed it to grow in the first place?

Event judges included: Michelle Wang, co-founder and partner, Lair East Labs; Jennifer Engelhardt, principal, People Advisory Services, EY; and Grace Uminga, head of Ecosystems, EY InnVenture.

The finalist teams were comprised of 23 students representing six different SPS degree programs (MS in Integrated Marketing, MS in Management and Systems, MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication, MS in Project Management, MS in Event Management, and BS in Hotel and Tourism Management). There were three undergraduate students among the 23—two of whom were Tisch Center first-year students at the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality.

The winning team was TEAM TOTUM, a group composed of students from the Division of Programs in Business MS in Integrated Marketing and MS in Management and Systems, who proposed a cloud-based platform that utilizes gamification strategies to facilitate growth and retain corporate culture by using artificial intelligence to intuitively inform and evolve the learning process. Based on mutual interests, their solution incorporates the use of rewards to drive action to maintain high levels of productivity and engagement levels.

The judges and industry guests were incredibly impressed by the caliber of thoughtful presentations and innovative proposals. Initiatives like the Innovation Challenge further the SPS mission and values of continuing to deliver an applied education within the virtual space. Now more than ever, it is crucial to maintain the pipelines connecting SPS students to the industries they will go on to serve.

Click here to view the finalists’ presentations on NYU Stream.

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