At this year’s annual South by Southwest® (SXSW) Conference and Festivals held in Austin, Texas, among the scores of creative people exchanging ideas and engaging in ways to change the world, scholars representing a group of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) met to compete in the Inaugural HBCU Battle of the Brains. Sponsored by the National Black MBA Association Austin Chapter, the HBCU Battle of the Brains brought together the best and brightest undergraduate and graduate students from HBCUs around the country to showcase their talent while competing for cash awards and the title of 2017 champion.
Morgan State University was one of seven competing HBCUs that also included North Carolina A&T State University, Florida A&M University, Paul Quinn College, Philander Smith College, Prairie View A&M University and the home team, Huston-Tillotson University. Each school participating in the competition entered a team consisting of three to five students ranging from college freshmen to those pursuing graduate degrees.
The HBCU Battle of the Brains — a hybrid of a “Hackathon” and a “Case Competition” — challenged the teams of students to develop a solution to a complex issue then pitch that solution in front of judges and a live audience. The competition’s goal was to promote the talented students of color studying business and STEM while also highlighting the benefits of SXSW and the technology industries, in an engaging and dynamic way. The teams were encouraged to incorporate technology, design, business and STEM components into their business solutions and were ultimately judged on criteria that included analysis, technology, presentation and a Q&A component.
Coached by the University’s special advisor for student leadership and scholar development, Dr. OluwaTosin Adegbola, who accompanied the students to Austin, Morgan’s team consisted of freshman Dionna Burrell (computer science), sophomore Erin Carr (accounting), junior Kurt Kennedy (physics), senior Michael Shiferaw (electrical engineering) and doctoral student Zeinab Bandpey (mathematics). Weathering tough competition, Morgan’s students earned an impressive third place finish. For placing third, each member of the Morgan team received one-year memberships to the National Black MBA Association and Amazon’s premium educational services.
Congrats to Dionna Burrell, Erin Carr, Kurt Kennedy, Michael Shiferaw and Zeinab Bandpey for being great examples of the scholarship that Morgan represents and for making us all proud.