History department hosts first real-life Pittsburgh policy case competition

On Friday, April 4, Carnegie Mellon students will tackle the real-life issues of Pittsburgh, in a case competition at least. The history department is hosting its first History and Policy Case Competition, in which each team proposes a policy solution to a given case, and the team with the best solution is awarded $200.

The case, which has remained a secret to everyone but the organizers, will be revealed to the student teams on Friday.

Students, who must work in teams of three to five, will work on the case for one week, finishing the competition with a presentation on April 13. The policy case study is taken from an actual issue in Pittsburgh to give the event local relevance.

The idea to hold the competition started with junior business administration and history and policy double major Alexander Dileonardo, who submitted a proposal about a year ago to Caroline Acker, a professor in the department and faculty adviser for the competition. According to Dileonardo, the idea came from business case competitions.

“As students, we study the history in the classroom and read books and write papers, but I don’t think that necessarily prepares you for a job where you work with policy issues,” said Dileonardo, explaining his idea.

“When [he] approached me with this idea, I instantly thought it was exciting and wanted to support it,” Acker stated in an e-mail.

In the competition, the case was selected by Acker, along with fellow history department faculty Jay Aronson, David Hounshell, John Soluri, and Joel Tarr.

“I think the case competition is a worthwhile idea [because] policymakers often have to make decisions or recommendations in limited time with limited information,” Acker wrote. “Having teams of students intensively study a current policy issue will prepare them for this situation.”

Acker also commented that students’ knowledge of history will help them make better decisions during the competition.

The competition will occur over nine days. On the first day, the teams receive their case. Student teams will write short proposals for the presentation, which will be judged by a panel including local government officials familiar with the given issue.

Before writing their proposals, students must conduct research and analyze the policy. Books on reserve at Hunt Library will help the teams with their research, simplifying the process by eliminating the need to find sources individually.

Despite the fact that the history department is hosting the competition, it is open to non-history majors as well; any student who has taken at least one history course besides Introduction to World History is eligible to participate.

While teams are required for competition, students may enter individually. Individual participants are placed on teams on the first day of the competition at the kickoff event, which will begin at 3 p.m. this Friday in the Adamson Wing (BH 136A). Students may also register in groups.

Presentations will take place April 13 starting at 4 p.m. in Steinberg Auditorium (BH A53). All students are welcome to attend this final round, where the winners will be announced. The winning team will be awarded $200.

The history department plans to hold one competition per semester for all upcoming semesters, each of which will be focused on a local issue.

“The proposal sent in was approved for this semester and the history department funded the whole thing,” Dileonardo said. “They said they will fund 50 percent for every semester from now on.”

The rest of the funding for future events must come from fundraising, as the department believes that after interest has been aroused this year, it will be easier to gain access to the necessary funding.

“It’ll be a great experience for all of the students [involved],” Dileonardo said.

Any student wishing to participate in this semester’s competition must register by Thursday, April 3, by e-mailing Alexander Dileonardo at