University of Washington Undergrads Inspire High School Students to think Global


“I wish I knew about case competitions in high school” said Michael G. Foster School of Business sophomore Chris Cave when asked what motivated him to wake up before sunrise to volunteer at the Ballard High School Academy of Finance (AOF) class. This same sentiment was echoed by the other Foster School volunteers who had the opportunity to work on a new case competition project offered by the Academy of Finance program at Ballard.

The Academy of Finance, a program run by the National Academy Foundation, is a small learning community that offers high school students an opportunity to study accounting, international trade, leadership, and the use of technology in preparing for college and the financial services industry. Since 2007, the Foster School of Business has partnered with the Seattle Public high schools that run Academy of Finance programs – these include Ballard, Chief Sealth, and Franklin High Schools.

In January, Ballard teacher Carol Faust had the idea of incorporating a case study into her Academy of Finance course after having witnessed the Foster School’s distinguished international event, the Global Business Case Competition. Carol approached Foster’s Global Business Center, a federally designated CIBER, to engage Foster School students in running an AOF version of a case competition with the high school juniors enrolled in her class.

Case competitions are a staple classroom and extracurricular activity at the Foster School of Business – allowing students the unique opportunity to think critically about a real world business problem and develop a solution in a short window of time. Many students who have competed in case competitions remark that the experience has been their favorite and most beneficial aspect of their college career. When offered the opportunity to introduce high school students to the wild world of global case competitions, several Foster School students were thrilled by the idea of sharing their positive experiences while giving back.

UW Foster’s Global Business Center provided guidance on how to adapt the AOF lesson plan about international expansion of an avocado company into a case style challenge, and recruited business student volunteers. The first cohort of student volunteers assisted in a mentoring capacity; in this role Foster students helped guide AOF students in developing their strategy and solution. A week later a second cohort of Foster students volunteered as coaches; in this role Foster students provided feedback and suggestions for improvement to the AOF students. Finally, Foster students volunteered to judge the final presentations of the AOF teams.

In each role, the Foster School students were able to grow personally and professionally by interacting with the high school students in a capacity where they were the subject matter expert. They used their personal global case competition experience to help the high school students think strategically about international business in relation to the case. The high school students were introduced to global business issues, and they gained valuable insight about what their future may hold if they choose to purse a business school degree.