Vanderbilt MBA Team Wins Wharton PAC Case Competition

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Apr 3, 2017

A Vanderbilt Business team composed of Justin Jones (MBA ’17), Ben Hodges (MBA ’17), and Andrew Ewbank (MBA ’17) took first place at the Wharton People Analytics Conference (PAC) case competition on Thursday.

Jones, Hodges, and Ewbank beat out teams from Harvard, Texas A&M, Maryland, and UConn to earn first place and a $5,000 prize.

Jones and team were very impressed by the level of competition in the final round, which included startups in the space. “The other teams had been involved in HR Analytics for a while,” Jones said. “We were thrilled to win.”

Justin Jones, Ben Hodges, and Andrew Ewbank win first place(L to R) Andrew Ewbank, Ben Hodges, and Justin Jones pose with their award 

The 2017 competition, part of the annual Wharton PAC on the burgeoning field of people analytics, challenged participants to analyze real data from Teach for America to optimize recruitment resources and implement effective strategies to generate maximum admissions.

Wharton PAC 2017 offered presentations, case studies, and speaker sessions from experts and guest speakers, including author Malcolm Gladwell, columnist Adam Bryant, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “It was a great opportunity just getting to attend the conference,” Jones said.

After hearing about the competition from classmates, Jones, who plans to enter the field of HR Analytics after graduation, recruited Hodges, a former research analyst, and Ewbank, a Human and Organizational Performance concentrator that used to work for Teach for America, to form the team.

More than 100 teams initially submitted entries online in Late February, with only six moving to the final presentation round. Finalists presented to judges and a packed house at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia.

After winning on Thursday, the Vanderbilt team presented their findings from the competition on Friday morning. “It was pretty intimidating,” Jones said, “to be on the same stage as Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Silver.”

For Jones, the conference underscored the potential of HR Analytics and the implications it will have on workforces of the future. Moreover, the competition showcased the role that MBAs can play in the field’s development. “For MBAs,” he said, “the big opportunity is being able to understand the data side and the business side simultaneously, to get buy-in and make an impact.”

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