In a one-of-a-kind event, the BYU Marriott School of Business, in conjunction with the BYU Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership, hosted the inaugural Faith and Belief at Work case competition in February. The event hosted more than 50 students from 11 MBA programs across the country, marking the first-ever MBA case competition to deal exclusively with faith and belief in the workplace.
“This event was a transformative experience, as future business leaders united together from diverse backgrounds and belief systems with the common goal of enabling all to bring their authentic selves to the workplace,” says Brenna Porter, MBA student at BYU Marriott and coordinator for the event.
With the assistance of major sponsors American Airlines, Equinix, PayPal, and the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, Porter and MBA students Matt Young, Christina Bates, Matt Singer, and Sarah Lyman organized the event. They sought to inspire inclusion, compassion, and sharing across belief systems. While religion is often taboo in the corporate world, the case competition highlighted how acknowledging the faith and belief systems of a diverse workforce can lead to better business outcomes and a better work environment.
Marsie Sweetland, client executive at global infrastructure company Equinix and founder of the company’s faith-based employee resource group, FaithConnect, spoke during the event. “Experiences like this case competition will make workplaces of the future more welcoming and ultimately more productive environments,” Sweetland says. “When employees bring their whole selves to work, they bring a more motivated, creative, and more fulfilled version of themselves—the type of person a company would love to have on their team.”
She adds, “I think experiences like this case competition can make the workplace better because to have faith and belief at work is critical. When you feel like you can bring your whole self to work, that goes a long way in giving you the ability to express yourself.”
Competing schools included Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, and others. Following an opening social and a kickoff event, teams received the case criteria, which highlighted a problem involving faith in the workplace that’s currently challenging a major corporation. Teams had just under 24 hours to solve the problem and prepare a presentation on their solution.
In the closing ceremonies, judges announced BYU Marriott’s team as winners of the case competition. The BYU Marriott MBA team included first-year students Ben Nzojibwami from Burundi and raised in Calgary, Canada, and Maggie Jensen from Maple Valley, Washington; and second-year students Curtis Adams from Bountiful, Utah, and Eden Peterson from Lehi, Utah.
Nzojibwami, who also won the prize for the competition’s best individual question-and-answer presenter, attributes the team’s success to the school’s mission of developing leaders of faith, intellect, and character. “In those experiences, where we shared gospel truths along with business frameworks and models in class, I learned to see the impact that my faith can have on my academic learning, my spiritual growth, and my career development,” Nzojibwami says.
Nzojibwami’s teammate, Jensen, praises BYU Marriott for promoting a healthy environment of faith and professionalism. “The school has allowed me to bring my ‘whole self’ to the learning environment, faith and all,” Jensen says. “In being my whole self, I am able to be a better learner and contributor.”
Closing ceremony attendees also heard from Sumreen Ahmad, principle director of global change management at international IT company Accenture. Ahmad explained that injecting faith into the workplace can be a catalyst for more consciousness, courage, and compassion. “As people of faith, we have an obligation to elevate the dialogue of what change is possible when we live from a set of shared core faith values,” Ahmad said.
Participants left the case competition with the tools to expand the role of belief in the corporate world. Students, advisors, and speakers all agreed that they hope to see the event take place for years to come.
Written by Alec Pope