College of Business > News & Events > Driehaus Students Win Runner-Up in National Diversity Case Competition

Driehaus Students Win Runner-Up in National Diversity Case Competition

​​​A group of students and a professor pose with a plaque

From left to right: Vahap Uysal, Kiran Bharaj, Samantha Carbajal and Osman Sav. Not pictured: Alan Rodriguez.
At 8 a.m. on Saturday, January 13, four Driehaus students logged on to Zoom. They summarized a months’ worth of in-depth research into the underrepresentation of racial minorities in clinical trials. They pitched their multifaceted strategy for increasing representation: first in their test community of Aurora, Illinois and then, gradually, in communities across the country. They answered questions from a panel of industry professionals. 

Then they logged off – and waited.  

The results: The team from Driehaus won runner-up in the National Diversity Case Competition.  

Held annually at Indiana University, the competition brings teams together from across the country to pitch solutions to a real problem being faced by one of the competition’s corporate sponsors (in this case, Abbvie). Over the course of two days, students typically network with each other and with employers. Faculty network too.  

“We get to exchange ideas – to share best practices and challenges,” said Professor of Finance Vahap Uysal, who connected Driehaus with the competition and is now in his second year of coaching Driehaus teams. “It’s enriched my understanding of diversity. People might understand diversity at an intellectual level. But something like this – it makes it more personal.”  

For this year’s group of Driehaus students, the experience was not a typical one. Due to an ill-timed snowstorm, they missed out on the in-person competition. They pivoted to Zoom at the last minute.  

Looking back weeks later, though, every single member emphasized the upsides: The amount they’d learned. The way they’d come together to create a cohesive, compelling solution.  

The biggest point of pride for all students? The close-knit team they created.  

Click through for reflections on the competition in the students’ own words.  

Introducing the team

Kiran Bharaj ’25 

Major: Finance 

Minors: Accounting and Data Science  

Samantha Carbajal ’24 

Major: Finance 

Minors: Accounting and Economics 

Alan Fabian Rodriguez ’24 

Major: Finance 

Minor: Accounting 

Osman Sav ’24

Major: Finance

​The team reflects...

“I’ve done four case competitions at DePaul. This was the most challenging case competition I’d participated in, just because of how in-depth the question was. So having to shift my approach to a medical context was a large learning curve.” -- Samantha Carbajal 

“I’d tell other students: Go into it with an open mind. Professor Uysal shared a little bit about it. I looked up last year’s case; I talked to the team from last year. And I still didn’t really know what to expect. This is the perfect opportunity to get outside your bubble, to get outside your comfort zone.” -- Alan Fabian Rodriguez

“This was actually my second time doing this competition. I was even more excited the second time around. The first time, we had a good solution – we just didn’t do exactly what they were looking for. I learned that they’re not actually looking for complicated answers. They’re looking for a manageable solution. They want you to help them see what they’re missing.” -- Osman Sav 

“As we were brainstorming, we’d talk for so long. And it wouldn’t feel like we were getting anywhere. Our experiences were all so different. [Until] we met in person. We sat down with a big whiteboard, and we realized our experiences were rooted in the same themes: diversity and tradition. Our parents all had their own traditions – but that was a through-line.” -- Kiran Bharaj

“Coming together as a group was the most challenging and rewarding part of this experience. We all come from different backgrounds; we all come from different stories. Both my parents are immigrants. I’m a first-generation college student. My parents have a certain view on the medical system; they have a view on their personal information going out to medical health providers.” -- Alan Fabian Rodriguez 

“In class, we’re always given what website to use, what excel formula to apply. In this situation, we had no idea where to start. We did lots of Googling, lots of research. It paid off.” -- Kiran Bharaj

“From my first time competing, I knew that there were three steps we’d have to do: We have to create a solution. We have to show it in a specific neighborhood. And we have to present it in a way that sticks in people’s heads.” -- Osman Sav 

“I talked to my parents. I talked to their friends – who are almost all Mexican or Peruvian immigrants. I asked them about how they felt about clinical trials, about sharing their information with their doctor. If they didn’t trust the system, why didn’t they trust it? And what were the positives? What was important to that specific community?” -- Alan Fabian Rodriguez 

“A lot of our judges were people from marginalized backgrounds or were in DEI groups in their companies. Because of that, they already had a great understanding of the need to diversify these clinical trials. We got to relate to them more than if we had to present to someone who had never heard of this before. We got to jump right into our solution.” -- Kiran Bharaj 

“A lot of these judges were consultants, so they asked more marketing-based questions. Most of us had finance or technical backgrounds, so we really had to dive into the marketing. I think moving forward, I’m more aware of how marketing plays such a huge role in how a company succeeds.” -- Samantha Carbajal  

“It’s a group project – but it’s more than a group project. It generates lifelong friendships; it generates good leadership opportunities. I really enjoy coaching this group of distinguished students. And they did a fantastic job.” -- Vahap Uysal 

“I’d never worked in a group setting that random. It was really cool to see how connected we were without even knowing it. The only other group projects I’ve done have been through a class; you don’t typically stay in touch. These are relationships I’ve made and want to cultivate over the years. This was such a great experience.” -- Kiran Bharaj 

“I’ll be joining Google this summer as a financial analyst. It’s definitely a dream job.” -- Samantha Carbajal  

“This summer, I’ll be interning for Protiviti. Longterm, I want to start my own business. I want to establish my own thing. For me, my family and friends are the most important part of my life. I feel like everything I do and have done is because of them. So if I was able to pay it forward? If I was able to leave a business behind or help them financially? That would be the best for everyone.” -- Alan Fabian Rodriguez 

“My dad’s in the restaurant industry. He’s owned several restaurants. He’ll find one, fix it up, then sell it. I want to do the same thing but on a larger scale. I have all of the advantages he didn’t have. I have more safety nets. And on tap of that, I have him: someone who’s been through all of it.” -- Osman Sav 

“I really like doing case competitions. I learned so much – from my group members, from Prof. Uysal, from the coaches who gave us feedback. I’ve definitely grown professionally.” -- Samantha Carbajal  

“I’ve always liked leading people. You’re trying to sway everyone in a positive way. It’s about motivating people – about managing them to operate efficiently and be happy at the same time. It’s about working through others.” -- Osman Sav 

“It was a great competition, a great experience – and great people. I think my favorite part about the whole thing was that I didn’t know anyone in my group that well. And now, if I see them – on the street, in class, at a networking event – I can immediately run over and give them a hug.” -- Kiran Bharaj