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Usher needs help. And he is getting it from four Penn undergraduates.

Wharton junior Maria Jose Corella Carranza, Engineering and Wharton sophomore Chetna Johri, Wharton sophomore George Song and Wharton junior Kimberly Yao competed as a team against 1,200 undergraduate and advanced degree students across the country to win the opportunity to intern with Accenture this summer. They will provide pro-bono consulting to singer Usher’s nonprofit organization, Usher’s New Look Foundation.

During the 2013 Accenture Management Consulting U.S. Innovation Challenge, students applied their consulting skills to improve the effectiveness of Usher’s nonprofit. For three rounds of competition, the participants worked in teams to develop innovative solutions to real-world challenges confronted by the foundation.

Each round required the teams to quickly devise cutting-edge ideas in order to move on to the subsequent round. According to the group members, the team only had about four hours to formulate a solution during the first round.

Carranza, Johri, Song and Yao had not met prior to the challenge. The team worked cohesively to achieve first-place standing in a competition dependent on collaboration. “It was fun because we didn’t know each other before, which is not normal for this type of competition,” Carranza said.

Founded in 1999, Usher’s New Look Foundation strives to empower youth with opportunities to create change in their own lives and become leaders of the future. The foundation implements mentorship and leadership programs to impact students from eighth grade through post-secondary education. According to the mission statement, the organization’s “four leadership pillars — talent, education, career, and service — [are] making a difference to solve today’s educational challenges.”

Through the competition, Accenture hoped to inspire the revitalization of nonprofit management through the incorporation of social trends and technology. While the group members were unable to give specific details about their winning solutions, they attributed the foundation’s core setbacks to its rapid growth. “We give them suggestions and ways to use IT and ways to restructure their organization and leadership to be better able to recruit, train and retain all these mentors,” Johri said.

As the challenge’s national winners, Carranza, Johri, Song and Yao already have begun to communicate with Accenture about how they plan to implement their solutions. During their summer internships, they will help solve some management inefficiencies present in Usher’s New Look Foundation.

All four members had an interest in consulting before the competition. They are excited to further explore the field by collaborating with Accenture and Usher’s New Look Foundation to expand upon their ideas for management reform.

“One of the most exciting parts was being able to help out a nonprofit in a way we haven’t before,” Yao said. “Usually when you work with nonprofits you do volunteering or something, but this is a much bigger picture with strategy. You can really see the changes you make.”

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