University of Texas Students Take First Place in Sustainability Challenge

The AICPA announced the winners of its national case competition focused on enhancing sustainability practices of The Umstead, a luxury hotel in Cary, N.C.


A four-member team of students from the University of Texas at Dallas took first place, winning $10,000.


The members of the team are: Dariel Dato-on (captain), Jinson Jose, Diane Henry, Jennifer Rauschuber and faculty adviser John P. Barden.


The team had two primary ideas to improve environmental sustainability at The Umstead: Switch to LED lighting and install a rooftop garden. The students explained the environmental and financial benefits of each. By the team’s calculations, the LED bulbs would reduce the hotel’s carbon emissions by 2 million pounds per year, pay for themselves in two years, and save nearly $30 a year in energy costs per bulb. A rooftop garden, the students said, would cut water runoff, provide extra insulation, and produce vegetables for the hotel’s restaurant. They calculated that the garden would make the roof last twice as long, reduce energy costs by 30%, and save $5,000 in annual food costs.


The Umstead plans to incorporate the results of the competition into its capital budgeting process.


Students from the University of Tennessee took second place, with a $5,000 award, and students from Ohio Dominican University took third place, with a $2,500 award.


Sixty-four teams from around the country submitted entries, and 10 were chosen to participate. Their written and video proposals were placed on, a website for college students and CPA exam candidates to investigate accounting careers, and the public voted for the best ideas. The votes and a review by an executive judging panel narrowed the field to the three team finalists, each of which gave an eight-minute presentation to the AICPA Board of Directors in New York.


For more information about the competition, or to watch the video submissions, visit


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