Case co-authored by two College of Business Administration faculty members takes center stage at international competition.

Irma Becerra-Fernández

The 9th Annual FedEx International Graduate Logistics Case Competition in Fayetteville, Arkansas focused on a case study about the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), written by two members of the Department of Decision Sciences and Information Systems in the College of Business Administration: Irma Becerra-Fernández, associate professor, and Kuldeep Kumar, professor.

The case, “IFRC: Choreographer of Disaster Management—Preparing for Tomorrow’s Disasters,” to which two other researchers contributed, was published by INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France, which also published a companion case titled, “IFRC: Choreographer of Disaster Management: The Gujarat Earthquake,” also researched and written by Kumar and Becerra-Fernández, among others.

Both cases specify that they are to be used “as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation,” making them ideal for analytical events such as the one in Arkansas.

Kuldeep Kumar

The Supply Chain Management Research Center in the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business, in alliance with FedEx Freight and a host of other corporations, sponsored the competition, which drew top logistics students from around the world to Fayetteville, AK to compete February 23-25, 2006.

“FedEx stipulated that this year’s case should be based on supply chain management issues faced by humanitarian organizations during emergency relief operations, a topic that recently has elicited considerable attention given the many natural disasters that have taken place of late and the many questions that have arisen about the responsiveness of the agencies involved,” Becerra-Fernández said. “A search on the topic brought up our case, which is part of INSEAD’s collection of cases.”

The case zeroes in on Hurricane Mitch, a 180-mph Category 5 storm in 1998 that killed an estimated 10,000, left two million homeless, and devastated the economies of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

During the competition itself, teams acted as a “business consultant” for a global humanitarian relief organization. The MBA students were unaware of the case that would be used as the basis for the competition until they arrived in Fayetteville. They had only 24 hours to review the case and develop their recommendations, which they made to a panel of industry judges. The three finalists made a second presentation to another group of judges.

Several hours after they received the case, a panel of representatives from each of the competing teams spoke on a conference call with Becerra-Fernández. She fielded their questions by herself since the other authors were out of the country.

“It was a very complex case, setting out how the various humanitarian agencies worked together—information we had gathered during four days of interviews at the International Federation of Red Cross headquarters in Geneva,” she said. “However, the competitors were somewhat restricted in terms of what they could ask about, mainly getting clarification on the process, since their task was to develop recommendations.”

The team from Pennsylvania State University took first place, winning a $3,000 award. Michigan State University, the second place winner, won $2,000, and Germany’s Darmstadt University of Technology captured third place and $1,000. Arizona State University, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, and The Ohio State University rounded out the contestants.

This case is one of eight written by Becerra-Fernández, including three that she and Joyce J. Elam, executive dean of the college, co-wrote.

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