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2022 John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition winners announced
John R. Lewis speaks at an Emory Commencement

The John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition is named for the late civil rights leader and U.S. Congress member, who had a close relationship with Emory, including giving the Emory University Commencement keynote address in 2014. The competition pairs teams of university students with corporations to drive racial justice and equity within the organizations.

— Emory Photo/Video

Students from the Yale University School of Management took top honors at the 2022 John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition, hosted by Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. The culminating event for the competition was held Jan. 21. The University of Southern California team took second place, and the Georgetown University team took home the Audience Award.

The event is named for civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who passed away in 2020. Lewis had a close relationship with Emory, including giving the Emory University Commencement keynote address in 2014, where he received an honorary degree.

Launched in 2021, the first-of-its-kind case competition was spearheaded by Goizueta MBA alumnus Willie Sullivan to examine how companies can address racial injustice within their organizations. 

“At Goizueta, we work to reimagine and redefine a different, better way of doing business to solve the world’s greatest challenges with ingenuity, integrity and grit,” says Goizueta interim John H. Harland Dean Karen Sedatole. “In all of my years of academia, this competition represents one of the most poignant examples of the power of student voice and the unbreakable intersection between business and society.” 

“The whole point of the competition is for student teams to propose bold initiatives,” says Lynne Segall, associate dean for management practice initiatives and the competition’s faculty advisor. “Once again, I am so impressed with the creativity of the recommendations and their grounding in evidence-based research. These student leaders have given our sponsors a lot to think about and act on.”

Competing to support racial justice

In December, the 76 applicant teams from more than 40 universities were narrowed to 20 teams of students from leading universities across the country. For this year’s competition, entrants were invited to complete industry-specific applications for the categories of consulting and professional services; food and beverage; health care; technology; and transportation and logistics.

Competition winners will divide their monetary winnings between the team and the racial justice/inequality organization of their choice. Members Lewis’s family were in attendance, with John Lewis’ nephew, Jerrick Lewis, presenting the awards. 

  • First place ($20,000): Team JAVELN of Yale University worked with IBM/Call for Code. Half of the winnings will be donated to Black Women Tech Talk. 
  • Second place ($10,000): Team Bridging the Business Gap of University of Southern California worked with Taco Bell. Half of the winnings will be donated to ONETEN. 
  • Audience award ($10,000): Racial Justice League of Georgetown University worked with UPS. Half of the winnings will be donated to Dreaming Out Loud Inc. 

The five finalist teams and their targeted industries were:

  • Emory University: Team Disruption, consulting and professional services
  • University of Southern California: Bridging the Business Gap, food and beverage
  • University of Florida: Team I.D.E.A., health care
  • Yale University: JAVELN, technology
  • Georgetown University: Racial Justice League, transportation and logistics

Business sponsors for the second-annual competition were Accenture, IBM / Call for Code, Moderna, Taco Bell, UPS, Momentive and Yahoo! Finance.

Goizueta was joined by university partners Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; Howard University School of Business; Rice Jones Graduate School of Business; and Yale School of Management. University partners hosted preliminary and semi-final events and recruited top students, sponsors and judges to participate nationwide.

‘Education and action’

Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, civil rights leader and confidante to Martin Luther King Jr., delivered the keynote address at the culminating event as Goizueta’s Robson Distinguished Lecturer. Young served as the 55th mayor of Atlanta and served as a U.S. Congress member from Georgia. He was a key strategist and negotiator during civil rights campaigns that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Business has taken the lead,” Young shared, reflecting on how times have changed. He went on to say, “Business is far more powerful than dealing with social change in government.”

His two words to guide students in their question for racial justice? “Vision and courage.” On becoming leaders, he encouraged a balanced life for college students, reassuring them that “You will know when your time comes.”

Other ceremony participants included Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves; Goizueta MBA students Kegan Baird, managing director for the competition, and Jasmine Burton, co-managing director; and John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition founder Willie Sullivan. 

“This competition is all about education and action,” Baird said. “It gives students like me really powerful, hands-on experience and organizations access to some of the brightest emerging leaders in business. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”

The John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition is part of The Roberto C. Goizueta Business & Society institute. The Institute represents an elevated commitment by Goizueta Business School to address complex challenges confronting people, the planet and the business community.

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