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Hill JDC West team prepares for first-ever virtual JDC West competition

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: January 14, 2021 3:00 p.m.

The Hill JDC West team will compete in the first-ever virtual JDC West competition, happening from January 15-17.
The Hill JDC West team will compete in the first-ever virtual JDC West competition, happening from January 15-17. Photo: Hill JDC West

During the COVID-19 pandemic, university courses, work meetings, and many other activities have all adapted to a virtual setting. Members of the Hill JDC West team have also had to adapt their preparation for JDC West – Western Canada’s largest undergraduate business competition – to be done entirely virtually.

In late May, the decision was made to not cancel the 2021 JDC West competition, but rather switch to an all-online environment instead. The decision not only meant that every aspect of the 500+ student, academically rigorous , high-energy, and social competition would need to change, but the way members of the Hill JDC West team prepared for the competition had to change too.

Hill JDC West co-captain Emma Ulmer, a fourth-year marketing student in the Paul J. Hill School of Business, has competed in the past three JDC West competitions. She knows firsthand how different the preparation has been for this year’s first-ever virtual competition, and has been inspired by how the team has responded to the many differences in this year’s competition format.

Hill JDC West co-captain Emma Ulmer.
Photo: Hill JDC West

“We have been blown away by the positivity and resilience of the students on this team to stay positive and make the best of the situation,” says Ulmer.

Preparation for the competition begins shortly after the previous competition ends, with the new Hill JDC West team being selected in early March, and training for the rest of the year to compete in January. The highly-competitive and academically complex nature of the competition requires extensive preparation.

Academic teams attend a weekly virtual class taught by the team’s faculty advisor, Randy Linton, and receive coaching and mentorship from local business leaders and other faculty members from the Hill and Levene Schools of Business. This coaching provides insight, industry expertise, and real-world experience for students – an integral part of the Hill School’s programming that prepare students to graduate career-ready.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the preparation for the 2021 edition of the competition has had to take place from a distance.

“Normally, the academic teams would attend a class each Friday morning, followed by a practice business case deconstruction, and a presentation to industry judges later in the afternoon,” says Ulmer. “All of these activities now take place via Zoom, with the teams never meeting in the same room.”

In spite of the changes, students have made the best of the situation and are still able to appreciate the relationships, mentorship, and learning that come with being on the team. Camyrn Beaumont, a third-year Hill student and second-year member of the Hill JDC West team, believes that being part of the team, virtually, still provides valuable real-world business experience and helps her to grow as a student and person.

“JDC West has given me the opportunity to fall back in love with school,” says Beaumont. “My favourite part of the week is when I get to spend every Friday on Zoom with my team who challenges me, pushes me to be the best I can be, and are my biggest cheerleaders.”

JDC West, Western Canada’s most prestigious business competition, now in its 16th year, takes place each January and brings together teams of the best undergraduate business students from 12 top western Canadian business schools to compete for the School of the Year title in 10 different academic disciplines, parliamentary style debate, and social and sport competitions. The competition’s spirit differentiates it from others, with enthusiasm, cheering, sportsmanship, and volunteer hours and charity dollars fundraised impacting how a team places.

The Hill team took home School of the Year honours at the 2020 JDC West competition, hosted at the University of Regina. Photo: UAC

In 2020, JDC West was hosted at the University of Regina, and saw more than 1,300 competitors, volunteers, and sponsors congregate on campus to witness the Paul J. Hill School of Business’ Hill JDC West team win School of the Year. The competition that took place only a year ago may have looked very different than the virtual format, but the spirit of competitors has remained the same. 

“This year presented a unique challenge to everyone involved, but the process has been incredibly valuable and so rewarding” says Ulmer. “Delegates will be able to take new skills and relationships with them long after the competition is done.”

Ulmer also praised the work of industry judges and community partners to take the time to mentor and support the team throughout the year.

“Pretty much everything about the preparation for the competition was the same – but it was done online,” says Ulmer. “Our partners really stepped up, and our team really appreciates it!”

The JDC West organizing committee put in tremendous amounts of effort to replicate the experience of attending the competition in person. Many of the competition’s additional events including swag swap, skit night, and hospitality suites have been replaced with online alternatives, and the wrap-up, evening awards gala will still take place, with teams being able to interact and celebrate together.

“Our whole team will be in a Zoom room, together, watching the award presentations,” says Ulmer. “When any of our teams get called, the feed will cut to our room and we will get to feel like we are celebrating together.”

The 2021 virtual JDC West competition will take place from January 15-17. If you would like to follow the Hill JDC West team throughout the weekend, follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

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