2020 First Year Innovation Challenge

Ernst & Young Sponsors the 2020 First Year Innovation Challenge

Our First Year Innovation Experience, an intensive cornerstone course offered each Fall, prepares first year students for success by introducing entrepreneurial thinking and other transformative skills. A signature part of the course is its "Innovation challenge," a semester-long competition presented by an external client. Delivered in a HyFlex format due to COVID-19, this Fall's challenge was presented by our new client organization, Ernst & Young (EY). This global firm offers assurance, tax, strategy and transaction services and consulting services to customers worldwide.

EY challenged our first-year students to create innovative strategies and tactics that will help ensure the firm's continued success in recruiting and retaining Generation Z employees. Each student developed ideas, joined an innovation team, and proposed strategic recruiting improvements to EY. At the end of the semester, the six finalist teams presented their plans via Zoom to a panel of EY judges. At stake was the chance to have an impact, interact with EY leaders, compete for approximately $15,000 in scholarship money and earn a terrific resume line.

Our faculty and staff team includes course coordinator Leslie Mansfield (an Executive-in-Residence with decades of experience in project management and leadership at Bombardier and Westinghouse), Christine Hughes (Program Manager for Career Advancement and Experiential Learning), plus Drs. Ryan Luchs and Peter Gianiodis (who are in the classroom on a rotating basis).

Congratulations to the 1st PLACE TEAM: Branding and Marketing - Why EY Swipe?

Recommendation: Create a Tinder-like app where potential employees are able to "match" with EY for qualified positions. This would be based upon the information uploaded to their profile (resume, skills, etc.)
Students: Raed Alzahrani, Ethan Brown, Abigail Layden, Zixin Lin, Maxwell McCaig, Brendan McManus, Sofia Torres
Mentor: Charles Dominick
Why did EY Select the #1 Team?:  EY was impressed with the team's strong research as well as its ability to incorporate Gen Z preferences into an idea that may help create further brand differentiation for the firm.
  • Each member of the 6 teams that entered into the final judging received $200
  • Each member of the 1st place team received an additional $1,000
2nd PLACE TEAM: Benefits (less salary)
Recommendation: Develop a cafeteria-style benefit program that allows employees to select among various nontaxable benefits. This will address the diversity of Generation Z employees, providing choices that best meet their individual needs.
Students: Aeden Skirtich, Luke Smith, Sydney Stone, Claire Stoner, Michael Whirlow, Peyton Zielinski
Mentor: Meghan Butler
3rd PLACE TEAM: Flexibility and Mobility
Recommendation: Design an app that allows each employee to create an account, earn points, compete with one another and receive compensation for good performance. Information from this initiative will allow EY to better understand employees' needs and preferences with respect to flexibility and mobility.
Students: Connor Daniels, Isabella Debole, Caitlin DeStefano, Macy Krah, Hayley O'Malle, Taylor Smith
Mentor: Daniel Brackle
4th PLACE TEAM: Diversity/Inclusion
Recommendation: Create an internal organization to educate and build awareness regarding different cultures and traditions found within the workplace.
Students: Katie Dublin, Matt Dudley, Sarah Eccher, Taylor Emiliani, Michael Fallah
Mentor: Giselle Belkin
5th PLACE TEAM: Career Development
Recommendation: Create a one-year training development program that includes mentoring, building on the existing EY badge program.
Students: David Patterson, Emma Pfeifer, Jack Scribner, Ellen Shanahan, Claudio Simione, Ibrahaim Waheed, Eliana Weaver
Mentor: Alexandra Kramer
6th PLACE TEAM: Corporate culture (Social Media)
Recommendation: Reorganize EY app so there is only one merged, overarching app platform to eliminate confusion among separate existing apps. This integrated app would have menu access to social media platforms including TikToc, which EY currently does not use and which is very popular with Gen Z.
Students: Grace Muth, Cooper Nice, Shane Paisley, Salini Patel, Luke Popelk, Jamal Okoebor
Mentor: Jill Hampton
Thank you to EY!

Thank you to Ernst & Young (EY) for serving as the organizational client and sponsor for the 2020 first year Innovation Challenge. We are deeply grateful for the generous support of EY. In particular, we express our appreciation to alumni and friends for their time and financial support, including:

  • EY Pittsburgh Office Managing Partner, Leon Hoffman
  • EY Partners Jeff Cartisser, Michael Haver, and Tony McGrath
  • EY Retired Partner, David Ricchuito