Exchange Student at Dyson Leads Winning Team in EMI Corning Case Competition
It’s been a year of firsts for Gergely Keményfi: Last August, he landed in the United States for the first time as an exchange student at Cornell, and three months later, he and three fellow students from Hungary became the first European team to win the Cornell Emerging Markets Institute Corning Case Competition.
Keményfi arrived in Ithaca at the start of the fall semester along with 15 other exchange students in the CEMS program, a global alliance of top business schools. For one semester, CEMS graduate students from a network of 33 business schools on six continents take classes in international management at a partner institution in the program.
For Keményfi, studying at Cornell introduced him not only to new approaches to business but also to a diverse group of students from 16 countries. “The program helped me in more ways than I could imagine,” he said. “I thought I would only learn about the courses, but then I got to know these CEMS students from other cultures. It opened up the world in a way.”
Cornell’s Unique Role in CEMS
Keményfi set his sights on studying at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management because of its international reputation. The Dyson School became the only business school in the United States admitted to the CEMS program in 2018.
Each semester, a group of CEMS exchange students joins Cornell students in the program on campus to form a culturally diverse cohort. Only one university per country can participate in CEMS, which offers a Master’s in International Management.
Keményfi, who is also earning a master’s in management and leadership at Corvinus University in Budapest, took seven courses at the Dyson School last fall in everything from Corporate Finance to Power and Politics in Organizations.
What made Keményfi stand out as a CEMS student was his curiosity about his coursework and campus life at Cornell, said Gail Fink, CEMS program director for the Dyson School. “He was just really eager to immerse himself in Cornell,” she said. “He wanted to get as much out of this experience as he possibly could.”
In her Global Strategy course, Sarah Wolfolds, an assistant professor at the Dyson School, said Keményfi was one of her most engaged students and would often visit during office hours. “He would come to my office hours and ask, ‘What are the studies behind this?’” she said. “He always wanted to see the primary research, which I very rarely see in students.”
For the final project in the class—a simulation in which students run their own businesses—Wolfolds recalls the unusual strategy Keményfi’s team proposed: A merger and acquisition with another team, which was a complete surprise to the other students.
“That was a super creative idea that I thought was a lot of fun,” Wolfolds said. “They came up with a name for the merged entity, and everyone in the class enjoyed it.”
Prevailing in the EMI Case Competition
Just after the fall semester began, Keményfi received an email about the Cornell Emerging Markets Institute Corning Case Competition, which focuses on the impact of globalization on business in emerging markets. He immediately reached out to some of his fellow CEMS students at his home university, and the group decided to enter the contest.
The challenge was to develop a financial strategy for a Brazilian semiconductor company that was on the verge of collapsing and about to be sold to a Chinese investor. Another question the teams tackled was whether Brazil should incentivize the development of its own chips industry and form international alliances to make the industry viable.
In September, 127 teams of MBAs and graduate students from around the world spent seven days working on the case. Keményfi’s four-member team from Corvinus was selected as one of five finalists, and on November 3, they defeated their competitors in the final round at the 2023 Emerging Markets Institute conference on the Cornell Tech campus in New York City, winning the $6,000 first prize.
“We were excited but we kind of had a good feeling about our presentation,” Keményfi said. “We had a coherent storyline and we had a feeling that the judges got our message.”
Keményfi began the presentation by showing the judges a nanoscale-sized semiconductor he said cost “just a few dollars” but is “now part of some of the most serious political challenges in the world.” To save the Brazilian semiconductor company, his team recommended cutting unnecessary operating costs and creating a joint venture with an American-based manufacturer to gain up-to-date information and best practices about the industry.
“Gergely’s team was able to give well-researched answers to this complex challenge,” said Lourdes Casanova, Gail and Rob Cañizares Director of the Emerging Markets Institute. “He summarized and guided the audience through their deliberations in the presentation, and in a competition with almost 600 participants, the Corvinus team stood out and won.”
The Corvinus students were not only the first European team to win the competition, but also the first comprised of CEMS students. “I think it was probably the biggest achievement of my life,” Keményfi. “We were shocked in a way, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t amazing.”