Updated by Curt Smith PhD, Bentley, University, 10/11/18 11:00am EST

Purpose of the Competition

This competition provides students a meaningful use of applied and clinical skills to solve a real problem faced by an agency or organization. In addition to building problem solving skills, this exercise provides students with experience in teamwork and time management, and serves as a valuable networking opportunity for the next generation of practicing sociologists.


Team Composition

Teams consist of 2 to 6 students and a faculty sponsor. More than one team can be entered into the competition from any given school. A faculty sponsor may sponsor more than one team.


Submission for Participation

The faculty sponsor should complete the online CPC submission form “CPC 2018” available on the AACS website at: http://www.aacsnet.net/client-problem-solving-competition/.


Competition Process

The coordinator will provide faculty sponsors with the statement of the problem and the name of the participating agency or organization the first night of the conference: Thursday, October 11. After receiving this information, the students may research the organization online but should not communicate with the organization at this time. Please send questions to the coordinator.


A representative of the participating agency or organization will present the problem to the student teams at the conference on Thursday, October 11 during an afternoon session of the conference. All students should attend this session and stay for the entire session.


The organization representative will introduce students to the organization, describing the organization’s history, goals, leadership, and needs. Sometimes this may include a site visit. The rubric used will be provided to teams for guidance at the beginning of the conference. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers at this session.


On the last day of the conference (Saturday, October 13), the teams will reconvene to present their solutions (check program for specific times). Each team will have at least 12 minutes for the presentation (depending on how many teams sign up), and should allow about 5 minutes for questions.


All teams should turn in their power point/video presentation, one-page executive summary and handouts (if included) to the coordinator before the presentation session. This can be done via email or in person up to 10 minutes before the actual session begins. After these are turned in, the presentation cannot be changed. All team members should remain in the meeting room during the presentations and should not leave together as a team until all presentations are finished.


The Client will decide on a winner for the best application of novel research and academic rigor that they think can solve their problem. The coordinator will solicit and document the client’s feedback for each team. Faculty sponsors are meant to take an active role in communicating feedback to their students.


A plaque naming the winning teams will be sent to the faculty coordinator of the team winning the CPC 2018. All team members participating in the CPC will receive a certificate of participation signed by the 2018 AACS President.


***Starting last year, students in the winning teams will receive FREE AACS membership for four years or until they graduate, whichever comes first.


Solving the Problem                                     

Students are encouraged to use all resources available to them for solving the problem including attending relevant conference sessions, seeking out conference attendees with expertise in the area of the problem, and, of course, the Internet. The Friday and Saturday sit-down lunches provide excellent opportunities for conversations with experts who may provide insight into possible solutions.


Students may arrange a visit to the community agency or organization but this is not a requirement. Please remember that the organization representatives are often busy and overworked so they may not even comply. Sometimes a site-visit might interrupt a busy schedule, so students are advised to be considerate. They are also strongly encouraged to be creative in both their approach to the problem and in their solution.


The solution they present to the Client during the presentation on Saturday should be framed as a professional (oral) report to the client agency enhanced with a power point or video presentation and a printed one-page executive summary (single spaced, 12-point font size, one-inch margins). The team may include paper handouts but should not incur any additional expenses for materials. For example, fancy bound manuals or promotional materials are not permitted. Although we understand that these might be valuable in a real-world situation, we do not want students to take on an additional financial burden for the competition.

Role of Faculty Sponsor

Faculty sponsors are responsible for reading emails from the CPC Coordinator and informing their participating students of communication from the Coordinator regarding the CPC.


Additionally, Faculty Sponsors are guides but not active members of the problem solving team. They may review the AACS program with their team, discuss the relevance of specific sessions or papers, and provide suggestions as to which conference attendees may prove helpful to their team. They may answer questions and help the students organize their teams (e.g., who will play what role) but they are not to direct the team’s research or solution. Lastly, they may act as a presentation editor but the students must be able to clearly articulate their solution on their own. Faculty sponsors should not talk or advise their team during the presentation session. We ask that all faculty mentors adhere to this rule so that the competition can be as fair as possible. Students are competing and not faculty mentors. Faculty should refer students to talk with other attendees.


Roles of the Coordinator and Organization Representative

The coordinator recruits the teams, identifies the participating organization, and organizes the sessions. The coordinator will moderate all sessions to be sure that there is time for questions and answers in the first session and that all teams have equal time in the solution sessions. The coordinator will be available via email, text or phone for any communication needs between students and the agency representative. However, it is important that the Faculty Sponsors take an active role to communicate with their students.


After the presentation of the problem in the Thursday session, the client’s representative will answer questions from the teams in person. This is the best chance for teams to ask the client any questions they have regarding the problem, and thus have a greater chance of winning the competition. It is important for Faculty Sponsors to have their teams in attendance for this. The questions should be specific to the nonprofit and should be about information that cannot be found online. This is also not a way to “beta test” your solution. The coordinator might let students know that instead of requiring a response from the representative, the team can research their question online.