by Colton Campbell

Students from the University of West Georgia earned the bronze medal for their research and performance in an international business competition recently held in India.

L to R: Tyler Petty, Amelia Farmer, Amber Luxbacher, Madeline Bunn and Chad Stafford
L to R: Tyler Petty, Amelia Farmer, Amber Luxbacher, Madeline Bunn and Chad Stafford

Five students from UWG’s Richards College of Business traveled to Mumbai, India, in December for the 26th annual International Economic Convention, which brings together students from around the globe to compete in a presentation competition. The team’s third-place finish marks the sixth top-three finish in the past seven years for a UWG team.

The team, which was chosen in May 2018 and worked for seven months to prepare for the competition, also placed first in categories related to the presentation and question-and-answer session portions of the competition.

The team included students – some of whom also graduated in December – Madeline Bunn, Amelia Farmer, Amber Luxbacher, Tyler Petty and Chad Stafford. Bunn called her time with Team India “the experience of a lifetime.”

“The more days we spent there, the more the culture became a part of us,” said Bunn, a senior majoring in marketing and management, of the group’s 13-day trip. “Not a lot of people are about to say they were able to research and become experts on a topic for months and then present that research on a global stage in front of some truly influential economic thought leaders. I’ve grown so much from the experience, both individually and academically.”

The five students were chaperoned by faculty members, including Dr. Susana Velez-Castrillon, a management professor.

“I feel very proud of these students,” said Velez-Castrillon. “They worked very hard throughout the summer and fall semesters. They were juggling classes, jobs, internships and family obligations while working on this large project. I think they succeeded not only because of their hard work, but also because they were able to identify their individual strengths and learned to trust each other.”

That teamwork was crucial, Farmer said. A senior in accounting, she said her favorite part of the experience was spending a great deal of time with her fellow students and working toward a common goal.

“We knew the topic like the backs of our hands, but we knew each other even more,” Farmer said. “That allowed us, when we were presenting, to pick up where each other left off and recognize, when we were preparing, where our individual strengths and weaknesses were. That really expanded our horizons and brought us closer as a team.”

For the competition, students were judged on the content of their paper, their presentation, and how well they did with the question and answer section of the competition. They presented in front of three judges, other competitors, and a large audience of students and faculty. For their presentation, UWG’s team compared and contrasted the tax systems in the United States, India and France.

Petty, a senior in business management, said India takes “Southern hospitality” to a whole new level.

“The residents of India we met in Mumbai and in our travel to New Delhi were some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered,” Petty said. “Everyone was so welcoming and humble. It was a really eye-opening experience for me to meet new people who are completely different from the people I know here, and it made me realize there’s a lot more similarities in humankind than you’d initially expect.”

Luxbacher, now a UWG alumna with degrees in management and marketing, said the experience overall was humbling and taught her not to take the “little things” for granted.

“There are so many things that we take advantage of here – from high water pressure to easy access to water – that aren’t givens in other parts of the world,” Luxbacher said. “I realized that first-hand while I was in India. The experience challenged me to work harder than I ever had to work under pressure, think on my feet and get the job done.”

The students’ efforts were entirely extracurricular. They began last spring by auditioning for a role on the team. After being selected, they began their research over the summer.

“When we selected this team, we knew they had a lot of potential. I’m very proud to see that they turned potential into reality,” said Dr. John Upson, a professor of management in the Richards College of Business who oversaw the trip’s logistics. “Preparing for this competition is the most rigorous program we offer, and offering this opportunity sets us apart from other universities. We’ve had students come to UWG specifically because they wanted to be part of our Team India.”

Stafford, a management major who would have walked the stage at commencement on the same day the team presented their research, said he auditioned for the team because he knew it would challenge him academically. How much of a challenge, though, was a surprise.

“It was the most challenging, but rewarding, thing I’ve ever done,” Stafford said. “Being a part of this team and sharing this experience taught me to never hesitate when an opportunity presents itself like this. I learned that great things really do come to those who work for it, and it’s an incredible feeling knowing we put in the work and get to enjoy the successful results.”

Posted on Feb. 15, 2019