AFRE Graduate Students Win on International Stages

Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics graduate students have won two major conference competitions, receiving first place at the IFAMA and AAEA student case competitions.

October 30, 2017

AFRE students Ryan Vroegindewey, Samantha Padilla, and Stephen Morgan after winning the AAEA student case competition

Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics graduate students have won two major conference competitions, receiving first place at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) Student Case Study Competition, and first place at the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Student Case Competition. Though teams from MSU have won the IFAMA competition before, this is the first year ever that students from MSU won both.

Stephen Morgan, fourth year Ph.D. candidate in AFRE, was an integral player on both winning teams, but stressed the importance of teamwork between him, his fellow graduate students, and their faculty advisors Brent Ross and Roy Black.

“We all definitely benefited from our faculty advisors, who devoted a lot of time to us,” says Morgan. “Both in the classroom and in the lead up to the competitions.”

International Food and Agribusiness Management Association Conference

At the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association conference at Miami in June, graduate students Carolina Vargas, Brian Bartle, Samantha Padilla, and Morgan were required to work through a case study on the Bayer Crop Science Food Chain Partnership Program in four hours, to, develop a creative, practical solution, and build a presentation that communicates their perspective, analyses and recommendations to a panel of judges. The AFRE team had the opportunity to move forward in the competition and present on a second case, focused on making a specific strategic investment recommendation to Bayer for a successful Food Chain Partnership idea.

The team’s diverse backgrounds and prior real-world experience is what elevated them above their global competition.

'MSU students after winning first place at the IFAMA Student Case Study Competition'“All of the team members focus broadly on development economics, so I like to think that we approach problems a little differently than our colleagues in agribusiness or marketing,” says Morgan. “And for me, my prior research experiences were crucial for thinking through the implementation challenges of any new venture in a developing country.”

The team won first place in the Intermediate Graduate division of the competition and were recognized at the conference in front of a global audience. The students also received an international internship offer from Olam International, and say they can’t wait to represent AFRE next summer, this time in Buenos Aires.

Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Conference

The AAEA competition provided AFRE students a unique set of challenges on a brand new case about analyzing transaction costs and governance structures between the Great Lakes Cooperative and Green Plains Renewable Energy. The team included Morgan, Samantha Padilla, and Ryan Vroegindewey, who worked on the case for two weeks before heading to Chicago in late July to present their solutions.

A key part of the team’s success was the experience they got from AFRE 932: Information Economics with Brent Ross and Roy Black. They built their presentation around core concepts and discussions had during the class, and said the availability of Dr. Black was so important, as he was always there to bounce ideas around and even attended the final presentation.

“The very self-directed team was exciting to watch and to interact with,” says AFRE professor Roy Black. ‘How did they draw on coursework? How did they resolve meaningful conflicts on framing? What were the gains from their diverse experience set and personality types? How did they select roles for presentation? And, what was their team strategy for responding to  questions during their presentation? They were a case themselves.”

The AFRE team won first place at the Student Case Competition—becoming the first team from Michigan State University to ever place at the event.

“It was exciting to win and represent MSU at AAEA. We were recognized in front of our entire profession,” says Morgan. “It was a big night for us and for MSU.”

Learn more about the student case competitions and our graduate programs.

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