MSVU graduate PR students, and participants in the Dark Side Case-Writing Competition, clockwise from top left: Valerie Vaz, Michelle Farr, Sarah Fullerton, Quinn Densmore
MSVU graduate PR students, clockwise from top left: Valerie Vaz, Michelle Farr, Sarah Fullerton, Quinn Densmore

Four MSVU graduate students have won third place in the highly prestigious Academy of Management Dark Side Case-Writing Competition.

Four Masters of Public Relations students – Quinn Densmore, Sarah Fullerton, Michelle Farr, and Valerie Vaz – competed in the Dark Side Case Competition in June. Their case submission, titled “Pure evil: Protecting the powerful at USA gymnastics” focused on the United States of America Gymnastics (USAG) and long-term sexual abuse of its athletes by Dr. Larry Nassar.

Along with the four graduate students, the case study was co-authored by Dr. Nicholous Deal, of the Department of Business and Tourism, and Dr. Ellen Shaffner, of the Department of Communication Studies. Dr. Shaffner also presented the case on behalf of the team at the Academy of Management conference in Seattle this past August.

Dr. Ellen Shaffner, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, at the 2022 Academy of Management conference
Dr. Ellen Shaffner, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, at the 2022 Academy of Management conference

“Representing our team at the Academy of Management conference was a great experience. I knew that we had a strong case and it was very well-received by the audience in Seattle,” stated Dr. Shaffner. “I was so pleased that the judges recognized the efforts of our students and rewarded their hard work with the third-place finish. The fact that the case focused on such an important and timely topic meant that this achievement felt especially meaningful.”

The Dark Side Case Competition, now in its twentieth year, is a highly competitive annual event “designed to encourage and acknowledge the development of cases that provoke reflection and debate on the ‘dark side’ of contemporary organizations and their management in times of uncertainty,” its website says. The competition takes place as part of the Academy of Management conference, an event which draws over 10,000 people every year and represents the largest body of organizational and management scholars in the world. Each year, only a select number of cases are chosen as finalists, and just one winner is awarded.

“The Dark Side Case competition at the annual Academy of Management conference is a very prestigious event,” stated Dr. Amy Thurlow, of the Department of Communication Studies. “This is a big deal because the Dark Side Case category is highly competitive. We are so proud of our students!”

After being selected as a finalist, the team was elated to find out they had finished third in the competition. Student team member Quinn Densmore said working on the case and placing third was an extremely fulfilling experience both personally and academically. “When writing the Dark Side Case for Dr. Deal, my group never anticipated being accepted to an International Case Competition, let alone placing third,” said Densmore. Representing MSVU as the first to place as finalists in this competition was a celebratory achievement for all of us.”

Nicholous Deal
Dr. Nicholous Deal, Assistant Professor, Business and Tourism

The graduate students originally wrote the case in a Graduate Public Relations (GPRL 6302) course with Dr. Deal. After being identified as one of the top cases in the class, Dr. Deal asked the team if they would be interested in submitting the case for the Dark Side Case competition. The students then worked with Dr. Shaffner to revise and rewrite the case to develop it as a strong contender before officially submitting it.

Student team member Sarah Fullerton said the group became emotional when researching and writing the case. “We were shocked and horrified by what happened. We wanted to do the case justice, and we were happy to have Dr. Deal and Dr. Shaffner on board with our vision.”

Fullerton added, “writing this case study has been a pivotal experience for me and having our work showcased at such a prestigious event makes it all the more special.”

Congratulations to the entire team on this amazing accomplishment, and thank you for representing MSVU so well at this highly esteemed event!