UNLV National Diversity Case Competition Team Proves Resilient and Secures First Place Win

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Andres Carraso (left), Aryah Certain (center-left), Ethan Phui (center-right), Allister Dias (right) hold “First Place - 13th Annual National Diversity Case Competition” plaque at Kelley School of Business at Indiana Unversity Bloomington, Saturday, January 13, 2024. (Photo/Janet Runge)

Traveling 1,800 miles in a winter snowstorm and working while simultaneously processing grief and trauma, the UNLV National Diversity Case Competition team could not be stopped. The team, made up of students Ethan Phui, Allister Dias, Ariyah Certain and Andres Carrasco, competed at the Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Indiana on Jan. 12 and 13. They competed against 29 other teams for $8,000 and made history as the first UNLV team to secure first-place in the competition. 

The team was tasked with presenting a case that they were given just a month in advance. This year, the case was about creating more diverse clinical trials. This team built a strong initiative and found strength in diversity amongst themselves.

Certain shares how the team approached the initial case analysis, “We took a step back, reassessed our approach and leveraged the diverse strengths within our team. My team comes from all different backgrounds, which I think was vital to our win as we were all able to bring different parts to the whole.” 

Aside from everyone’s unique perspectives, some team members had competed before and were able to lead their teammates. This was Certain’s second year competing and Carrascos’s third. 

Carrascos shared, “With my experience in this competition, I was happy to lead three exceptional individuals like Aryah, Allister and Ethan. It allowed me to respectfully delegate, motivate the team and ensure that we were as detailed as possible.” 

The team presented an initiative they called Source. Source is an app and website where people can share their experiences participating in clinical trials. Prospective participants can then utilize the testimonies to decide if they want to participate. The team’s initiative also included university participation and the utilization of social media and community outreach, specifically to minority communities to battle some of the misinformation about clinical trials.

The team presented their initiative two times: in the preliminary round and finals.

Each team member had a different role when presenting. Phui introduced the problem and explained why the Source initiative is needed. Dias presented what Source is and the sales funnel. Certain took on marketing and how Source will be advertised, while Carrasco explained the societal benefits that would come from Source. 

Aside from the three days spent in Indiana, there was constant communication about the competition since the topic was released. There were scheduled virtual and in-person practices that lasted at least an hour and a half and increased in frequency as the competition drew near.

The team, made up of hard workers, sacrificed many hours of sleep and spent hours preparing for the competition while the rest of their community spent time reflecting and healing.

 Team advisor Janet B. Runge, Ph.D. shares, “This year, Dec. 6 changed everything for everyone. I’m so proud of the team; their drive and focus, the way they worked together and supported each other, their resilience, it was inspiring.”

Similarly, Dias shares, “When we realized we won, I felt ecstatic, like all the long nights and long hours were worth it. It felt like a breath of fresh air. This is such an incredibly positive thing for the university. Over the past month, UNLV has had it pretty rough, especially with what happened on Dec. 6. After losing the bowl game, we were due for the win. I’m happy we were able to get the first win of the year. It gives hope we can rebuild from the tragedy.”

The team encourages anyone interested to join and take advantage of the experience you can gain from the competition.

Phui jokes, “Get Andres’ number or LinkedIn or email or Instagram. Contact him.” But on a more serious note says, “I hope everyone takes the opportunity to try out the opportunities presented. Even if you are scared, failure is not the end of the world so be your brave self.”

Runge encourages student involvement, saying, “Classes are great, but experiences outside the classroom are invaluable. You can grow your network with industry professionals and equally talented students from around the country. I’ve seen job offers made after presentations.”The team expressed gratitude not only for the experience but for each other and those they met through the competition. The UNLV team was able to make history with a first-place win and are hopeful that success will continue throughout the year.

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