Rollins MBA students are finding solutions to making coffee farming a sustainable economic activity—and winning major international competitions.
A team of students from the Crummer Graduate School of Business won the highly competitive annual Nespresso MBA Challenge, which took place this summer in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Thirty-two teams from academic institutions in 20 countries participated in the competition. Each submitted a proposal in response to the challenge: “How can Nespresso ensure that coffee farming is a sustainable economic activity for small-holder farmers in Colombia for the next 25 years?”
Before reaching Switzerland, the Rollins team’s proposal made it through two rounds of a professional jury comprised of external agricultural and sustainability experts, business strategists, academics, and Nespresso senior staff members.
Judging was based on a demonstrated understanding of the situation presented, creativity, feasibility of implementation, and logical qualitative and quantitative analyses.
The Rollins team was led by its advisor, Associate Professor Keith Whittingham, who teaches elective courses on and leads consulting projects in the areas of global sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Team members included Lamar Chesney ’11 ’13MBA, Taylor Dalton ’13MBA, Morgan Filteau ’13MBA, and Scott Gould ’13MBA.
“The team worked really hard, leveraging the skills learned in the MBA program and our growing expertise in the areas of social entrepreneurship and sustainability,” Whittingham says.
In the final round of the competition, Rollins competed against MBA students from two schools: Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and the University of Victoria, Gustavson School of Business, Victoria, Canada; both finishing as runners-up. The Rollins team convinced the jury with their “Grow Forward” framework, a multitiered strategy to attract and retain the next generation of Colombians as coffee farmers by ensuring that coffee farming is a profitable and sustainable economic activity today and in the future.
“It has been such an enriching experience,” Chesney says. “We learned that it is never impossible to find solutions for big economic issues. By identifying the root causes and addressing them effectively, small solutions will solve big issues.”