Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Interdisciplinary pair creates collaborative success


Bringing together interdisciplinary minds to solve real-world issues is one of the focuses of the College of Business as it prepares students to be business-ready upon graduation.

A perfect example of that collaboration was on display last month in Florida when Sydney Puffer, a marketing and accounting major, and Sal Tinnerello, a finance major, teamed up to finish third in a 21-team field that participated in the Templeton Business Ethics Case Competition.

Clemson students and advisor at business ethics competition.
Sal Tinnerello, Robin Radtke, faculty advisor; and Sydney Puffer at the Templeton Business Ethics Competition.

The annual case-study event, hosted by Stetson University, challenges students to solve everyday issues faced by businesses and other organizations. The exercise sharpens students’ analytical and critical thinking as well as their presentation skills. They are required to create an executive summary and PowerPoint based on the case presented to them, which is then judged by a panel of experts.

“Students had two weeks to research and prepare their analysis of the case,” said Robin Radtke, faculty advisor and an associate professor in the School of Accountancy. “Sydney and Sal practiced their presentation before faculty and fellow students. Their hard worked paid off when they nailed their presentation at the event. Their work together is a great example of utilizing interdisciplinary collaboration to solve issues that have ethical, legal and financial implications.”

Sydney and Sal, both seniors, were challenged to advise the governor of Pennsylvania on a proposed law that mandates a quota of females on public companies’ boards of directors. The Clemson University pair was hypothetically brought in as consultants to recommend a position the governor should take on the legislation.

“Sydney and Sal advised the governor to reject legislation that penalized companies for not reaching a quota and focus on an incentive-based approach that might reward publicly-traded companies for embracing the idea,” said Radtke, who teaches accountancy ethics. “They researched the ethical, legal and financial implications to reach their conclusions. They questioned the constitutionality of a mandated quota and found no significant evidence that increasing females on a board improved financials. From an ethical standpoint, they believed there were potential reverse discrimination implications.”

A Louisville, Ky., native, this was Sydney’s second year competing in the event. She said the experiences have taught her the best answers to a problem are the ones you can back up with solid evidence.

“From thinking on your feet while presenting in front of a distinguished panel of judges, to learning how to examine an issue in a holistic, well-rounded way, this was a great exercise in preparing me for the business world,” Sydney said. “The research and work we did to address an issue where there may not be a right or wrong answer, is exactly what will be expected of us as professionals.”

The judges, comprised of CEOs and academics from North Florida, awarded Sydney and Sal first place in their bracket, which included teams from the University of Florida, Georgetown University, Jacksonville University and Belmont University.

After advancing into the competition’s finals, Sydney and Sal placed third overall and were awarded $500 each for their efforts.

Sal of Old Lyme, Conn., said one of his most significant takeaways from the competition was how important good preparation, research and practice were to the outcome.

“The competition taught me to use innovative analysis and come up with forward-thinking conclusions and ideas. Those skills will translate well into any profession,” he said. “When I am asked to solve a problem in a new and better way, I’ll know the caliber of solution expected and the work that goes into it.”

Dean Wendy York said this collaboration in an experiential learning setting aligns with the College of Business’ goal of providing students a holistic understanding of how business functions.

“Bringing together interdisciplinary minds is crucial to addressing tomorrow’s business challenges. As we identify opportunities for our graduates to be business ready, we will look for more ways to simulate the scenarios they will encounter in real-world problem solving.”

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