A few weeks ago, marketing junior Sara Colunga-Santoyo had never heard of Steven Biko.
Wednesday, her newfound knowledge of the South African activist won her and two others a total of $1,500.
Colunga-Santoyo participated in the ninth annual Black History Month Multicultural Heroes Hall of Fame Case Competition on Wednesday, culminating more than a month of research on how Biko’s work in South Africa compared with the work of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
“Honestly, I didn’t know about him before I began this project,” she said. “I learned the impact he had on South Africa and then how he related to Martin Luther King Jr.”
The idea of the competition began nine years ago, when Anne Crain, a specialist in the Eli Broad College of Business, was approached by colleagues about doing a competition to celebrate King.
“They wanted to start a program to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his life and his legacy,” Crain said. “But they wanted an event that would bring people together of all different backgrounds and that would celebrate how Dr. King’s life and ideas have influenced people of different cultures and of different generations.”
The idea was to create a case competition to assign students a hero whom they must compare to the work of King.
MSU Multicultural Business Students helped coordinate and facilitate the event.
“Case competitions are common in business education,” she said. “They took the case competition format and applied it to multicultural heroes and to Dr. King by giving students a list of heroes they could select from and then give a case as to why their hero should be inducted into the Multicultural Heroes Hall of Fame.”
The Hall of Fame isn’t an actual place, but more of an idea, Crain said. Previous inductees include Mother Teresa and Susan B. Anthony.
This year’s competition began on Jan. 20 when 10 teams applied. Each team was assigned a hero by the competition’s officials. Due to the amount of teams, three were eliminated in early February based on dress rehearsals.
The final culmination of their work was on display in the Eppley Center on Wednesday night. Teams tried different presentation formats to win over the four business college judges. From acting to singing to PowerPoint presentations, each team desperately wanted to educate the audience of several hundred about their assigned hero while taking home the top prize.
But it was Colunga-Santoyo’s group, History in the Present, who combined effective visuals with a rap from teammate and accounting freshman Kashif Bhatti, which won over the judges with their presentation of Steven Biko, the South African activist who fought apartheid.
Colunga-Santoyo expressed the importance of recognizing how many important people shaped civil rights along with King.
“You learn so much from this event,” she said. “We know about Dr. King, we know about Rosa Parks, and yet there’s so many people out there who did things for other people. They did things that contributed for their own civil rights movements and their particular countries and they need to be recognized.”
Colunga-Santoyo’s group took home the $1,500 grand prize while the second place team won $600 and third place won $300.
Overwhelmed following the award, Colunga-Santoyo wasn’t quite sure what she’s do with the money.
“I’m either going to pay off my computer, use it for spring break, or buy gifts for my family,” she said with a laugh. “I have three options and I haven’t decided which one yet.”
Interactive map: Learn about the histories of the 2010 Hall of Fame nominees
Jim Seguin, Lane Blackmer, Jayna Salk and Chris Vannini