An international beverage company is accused of contributing to water contamination in a North Dakota town, sparking public outcry.
Top brass must respond – to the board of directors, media and local residents.
This was the scenario given to 80 seniors at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics’ first Leadership Crisis Challenge. The 24-hour simulation was part of the students’ capstone project. The challenge created a real-world situation the seniors might face in a corporate leadership role so as they enter the working world they’re prepared to turn such a crisis into an opportunity.
“You are C-suite people,” challenge organizer and Argyros associate director of operations Aulton Kohn told the students before they broke into assigned teams to work on response presentations.
“Like in the real business world you may not know who the person is beside you, but you need to work together to figure out this situation,” he said.
The top three teams won prize money. The winning team was Nikki Gelb, Jordan Lebowitz, Siddharth Lodhia, Kate Stavisky, Peter Timberlake and Kyra Turner, all in the Class of 2023.
Student teams put together a presentation and were quizzed by local business leaders acting as the fictional company’s board of directors. They were coached in effective communication and were questioned by journalists during a press conference.
“It really brings all of the learnings from the professors, the staff, and the folks around you to culminate in an event like this,” Assistant Professor Mario Leone told participants. “So truly enjoy it.”
After they were given the “crisis,” the teams had to contend with a fake protest staged by student volunteers.
Timberlake said the challenge was a “great way to learn what being part of management at a company is like, especially one that is in a crisis.”
Lebowitz said group members supported each other during the stress, and “held our weight in the process of finding a solution to this crisis.”
“My team worked together very cohesively and we all respected each other’s ideas,” Lebowitz said.
Gelb said she attributes the team’s success to their varied talents and skills.
“We all worked critically, honestly and diligently,” she said.
Thirty business leaders and journalists volunteered at the challenge. Stavisky said they were all “extremely knowledgeable.”
“The feedback they gave us will stay with me for a long time,” she said.
The students said the challenge grew their confidence and skills as they move from Chapman into the workforce.
“We were able to apply what we have learned in our last four years of business school into a real-life situation,” Timberlake said.
“This was the perfect way to end my career as a Chapman business student, and I proved to myself that I have what it takes to problem-solve during difficult situations,” Lebowitz said.