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Three University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Shidler College of Business graduate students from the Master of Accounting program took home the top prize in a competition sponsored by the National Association of Government Accountants. Chloe Honbo, Denis Mannschatz and Kristine Santaniello, under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Accounting Jenny Teruya, won the 2020 Government Finance Case Challenge. Each team member received a $1,000 scholarship award.

The competition challenged teams to develop a citizen-centric report for the target location of Urbandale, Iowa—a small city of about 40,000 people. Teams analyzed data to create the report, which included a brief description of Urbandale, its accomplishments, financial status and future goals.

Honbo said the team aimed to create a concise, well-formatted report about Urbandale that highlighted the city, while also taking inspiration from past winners. Submissions were judged by a panel of government finance experts.

“The initial reaction I think we all had was disbelief, which was immediately followed by excitement and joy,” Honbo said. “It felt surreal that we had won a national competition and created a winning report about a city that we had never heard about before. We all worked extremely hard, sometimes in periods of four to five hours on Saturdays and Sundays, so winning the competition was relieving and, to some extent, vindicating.”

View the UH Mānoa team’s report (PDF) and video presentation.

“I know the group put in a lot of time on the project and they are some of our top [master’s of accounting] students. So I was not totally surprised, especially once they got into the semifinals,” Teruya said. “I was really happy and excited when I got the email announcing they had won. They are so deserving of the recognition and the $1,000 scholarship.”

Competition amid COVID-19

Santaniello said the competition was impacted by COVID-19 from their final presentation to the scenario presented about Urbandale.

“Two of the main parts of the challenge impacted were: 1) we had to submit a video as (if we were) the city council,” Santaniello said. “Normally, the setting would be a town hall setting. We performed our video through Zoom, just as most events have become online events, and had to behave as if we were taking questions from the towns’ citizens through the online conference. 2) We discussed any future challenges for the town due to COVID-19 restrictions, etc.”

This effort is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

headshots of Chloe Honbo, Denis Mannschatz, Kristine Santaniello

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