by John Michael O'Leary
Alicia Frederick ’20, finance, remembers stopping at a display case in the Romain College of Business one day during her freshman year. Something caught her eye—a group photo of students who represented USI at the national case competition of the Institute of Management Accountants.
“I remember looking at the girl in the photo,” says Frederick. “She wore a pretty, professional outfit and she was smiling. . . I wanted to be her.”
Call it a premonition. Today, Frederick is the girl in the photo, part of USI’s team that in June came within a whisker of winning the whole shebang. Ironically, her part in the accomplishment began with little hope of even making the team.
“I had been in classes with the professors who were team advisors,” says Frederick. “But even though I knew them, the interviews were intimidating. I thought, ‘there is no way I’ll make it on this awesome team.’ I didn’t expect to be asked.”
USI’s “amazing” 12th team to compete in the final four at the IMA Student Case Competition. (L to R) Jeanette Maier-Lytle, instructor in accounting, faculty sponsor; Alicia Frederick '20; Ryan Loehrlein '19 M'21; Andrew McGuire '17 M’19; Caua Ferreira ’19; and Dr. Brett Bueltel, assistant professor of accounting, faculty sponsor.
But Frederick was asked—and she accepted with enthusiasm. “I knew it was going to be a big challenge and, even though I had never competed on such a team on this scale, I was okay with it. It was exciting.”
Frederick and her teammates came together for the first time in September 2018, taking on the case of Angie’s Empanadas, a fictional start-up business, to assess how it might expand and reach goals for profitability. By October they were fully immersed in the problem. They wrapped up their work before the Christmas holiday, filmed their presentation and sent it to the IMA.
“Every week during that three-month period was intense, with research and data gathering,” says Frederick. “But the work definitely gave me a feeling of accomplishment.”
The team found out in early February 2019 that IMA adjudged their submission as one of the top eight. A few weeks later, they received another notice. Now a top four finalist, they were invited to present at the IMA National Conference & Expo in San Diego, California.
"I couldn't believe I would actually be going to San Diego for an academic conference," says Frederick. "That's when things got really crazy."
The team had become the 12th from the Romain College of Business to reach the final four of the competition. It came with the promise of a cash award ($3,200) and, even more exciting, the chance to become the sixth team in USI’s history to take championship honors. It was time to dial up the energy for preparation. They began meeting once or twice a week, “perfecting every single detail.”
The team arrived in San Diego on Friday and got to work. “We spent half of that first day and all of Saturday running through our presentation—over and over again,” says Frederick.
When they stepped onto the main stage on Sunday, June 16, the countless hours of preparation were apparent. They gave the audience a well-reasoned, articulate explanation of their take on the case—and completed their remarks with just seconds to spare in their 15-minute allotment.
The team came up shy of a championship—but they feel good about their performance. “We all have our theories about what we could have done better,” says Frederick, “but in the end we know we did our best.”
“It was neat to see our students develop over the course of the competition," says Dr. Brett Bueltel ’12, assistant professor of accounting. “I am proud of the way they represented USI and the Romain College of Business on a national stage.”
“We had an amazing team,” says Frederick. “They were so good at balancing and very inclusive. As the youngest member on the team, that means a lot to me.”
IMA sponsors the student case competition annually to promote the sound analysis of financial and accounting information and to encourage students to develop presentation skills. The Accounting and Professional Services Club at Romain College of Business is an IMA affiliate under the aegis of Evansville’s professional chapter of IMA.