Two points stood between four Nebraska students and a trip to Hong Kong to compete in the world finals of the CoreNet Global Academic Challenge. Faced with more than 40 teams from 36 countries around the globe, these Nebraska students took advantage of their interdisciplinary team to earn a fourth place finish.
The worldwide competition charged students to devise creative solutions to real-world problems facing real estate companies. Nebraska students Izzy Brehm, junior interior design major from Lincoln, Nebraska; Jackson Grasz, senior management major from Elkhorn, Nebraska; Anna Gutmann, junior interior design major from Lincoln; and Jordan Newsom, senior management major from Omaha, Nebraska, worked on the Blue Banc Group, a fictitious financial bank. They addressed how the bank could face technological disruptors in the industry.
Nebraska’s first team ever to enter the competition, they started with high expectations. The four students soon found they faced a myriad of obstacles: no experience dealing with corporate real estate, limited information on the Blue Banc Group and learning how to work cohesively as a team comprised of students from two different colleges.
“Because of our respective specialties, Jackson and I, sometimes wouldn’t consider what the others needed. We would be thinking solely on business strategies and forget about the design aspects of the project, so the challenge we came across was trying to find that blended mindset,” explained Newsom.
It was not until after coming together as a team and working through their strategy, the four realized the composition of their team proved to be their greatest strength and differentiation over the competition.
“Michael Merritt, our global mentor for the competition, shared his experience about the challenge and how a lot of teams compromised of solely business students compete. What contributed to our success was having that interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Newsom. “Interior design and business are very different, so we had to make sure we were collaborating while at the same time making use of our specialties.”
Using architecture design software, Brehm and Gutmann created a model of a satellite banking pod, one of the recommendations the Nebraska team proposed. The four looked at the experience and skills they each brought to the table. Coming from the College of Architecture, Brehm and Gutmann appropriated their creative talents to the design, logo and layout of the project while Grasz and Newsom utilized their business acumen and oversaw the bank’s business strategy.
“It was nice to experience a collaboration between different colleges because that doesn’t happen a lot. And that is a really great tool that strengthened the outcome of our project,” said Gutmann.
Intertwining their skills, the students composed a series of recommendations for the Blue Banc Group, some of which included rebranding the company to Blue, satellite banking pods in lieu of standard branches, and using artificial intelligence throughout various systems in their business. Their ability to envision and bring to life what the future of banking and corporate real estate might look like made their proposal stand out.
While the four narrowly missed placing top three in the challenge to go to Hong Kong to compete in the finals, not all was lost, as they each gained valuable insight in cross-collaboration between the colleges.
“In the College of Business, just about everything is focused on collaboration. However, this project was different from anything Jordan and I have done, as it forced us out of our comfort zone. Seeing how students from another college work and the skills they showcase was different from what I am used to seeing in business,” said Grasz. “It was really beneficial when you consider what we strive for, which I think are those real-world experiences, and this was a lot closer to that than when you just work within your own college.”