Human Resources Students Win HR Case Competition


Five human resources students from the College of Business Administration put Cal Poly Pomona back in the winner’s circle of a prestigious Society for Human Resources Management case competition for the first time since 2011.

CPP’s Professionals in Human Resources Association sent Alyssa Hall, Kevin Frost, Rocio Luyo, Joanne Phung and Rudy Hinojo to Salt Lake City, Utah where the team squared off against 12 other schools in the SHRM West Region contest.

“What makes this event even sweeter is the fact we were put in the graduate division and we’re only undergrads,” Hall says. “It just speaks volumes about Cal Poly Pomona, especially the MHR department, how well they prepare their students for the business world.”

Because of a rule change, teams with any members 26 or older would automatically compete in the graduate division. That meant the students would be facing competitors working on a master’s at schools like San Diego State University and Boise State University.

Although most members were new, Frost competed last year and Hall competed the previous three. Following a pair of lackluster finishes, as captain of this year’s team, she made some changes.

“I brought a video camera to practice to record our presentations so people on the team could see their body language and how the audience perceives them,” Hall says. “One member in particular – it’s amazed me how much she’s grown. When I was watching her present in front of the judges, I couldn’t help but smile.”

Teams are provided a case study based on a fictitious company facing HR-related issues like harassment and discrimination. The “company” is reaching out to the student teams as neutral third-party consultants brought in to address the organizational issues.

During the initial presentation, teams present on what problems were identified and generate three potential solutions. The team chooses what it feels is the best of the trio and explains to the judges why.

“Because the influence of SHRM, our name will be recognized in both business and academic world,” says professor Xuguang (Steve) Guo, PIHRA’s faculty advisor. “This is truly a great honor - I am so proud of them.”

Guo would send the team a different case each Thursday and they would meet Fridays to discuss a strategy. The group would provide Guo with an executive summary and Power Point presentation, then critique both during Tuesday classes.

“Students can get four units of academic credit out of the practices, but their workload is way beyond a regular class,” Guo says. “They have to be fully committed and work hard.”

With the win, the team will receive free admission to SHRM’s four-day national conference scheduled to begin June 19 in Washington D.C. The conference also includes a ceremony where the team will be recognized in front of thousands of human resources professionals.

“The biggest thing with Cal Poly Pomona is that they always push Learn By Doing,” Hall says. “I learned so much applying what I learned in class to my internships and this competition.”