A team from the University of Arizona and its Eller College of Management took home first place in the 2018 National Audit Innovation Campus Challenge, held by Deloitte and the Deloitte Foundation at the Big Four firm's Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas, April 6-7,

The winning submission centered on a "recommendation to enter the market of auditing corporate sustainability reports in anticipation of potential regulatory guidance" in the near future.

The annual challenge invites students and faculty members from across the country to test their skills in real-world scenarios, asking them to apply their analytics skills to complex problems. This year, students were asked to present innovative ways of bringing audit and assurance services to the marketplace via technology.

"The nature of many professions is rapidly shifting," stated Erin Shannon, managing director of change management at Deloitte. "Technology, innovation and process improvement continues to disrupt and redefine the way an audit is conducted at an unprecedented rate. ... It is critically important that the next-generation of talent possess proficiency with emerging technologies and data analytics, as well as help bring new innovative solutions to stakeholders. This competition provides opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and creativity to real challenges facing today's auditors and this year's winners showed innovative thinking."

Fifty-two college and university teams ultimately participated in the event, with 12 teams competing in the final round. Other finalists included teams from Baruch College, Brigham Young University, Clemson University, the University of Illinois, the University of Kansas, Louisiana State University, Michigan State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Rutgers University, the University of South Carolina and Trinity University.

The University of Arizona team was comprised of Nicole Naslund, Jessica Stelmach, Hang Khuu, Ben McDowell, Hannah Miller and Jacob Uthe. The team's winning submission also included the creation of an artificial intelligence tool, dubbed "Deloitte Danni," that could aid auditors in measuring certain metrics and comparing them to sustainability guidance.

"I am extremely proud of our team this year and especially grateful to the Deloitte Foundation for hosting this unique program which brings students together to help further evolve the skills likely necessary for the auditor of the future," said University of Arizona faculty advisor Rob Stussie in a statement. "Deloitte has introduced some of the audit and assurance profession's leading technology applications, and these students will walk away with a greater knowledge of how they can play a role in this technology-driven future."

The University of Arizona's winning team at Deloitte University earlier this month.
The University of Arizona's winning team at Deloitte University earlier this month. University of Arizona/Twitter

For more on this year's National Audit Innovation Campus Challenge, head to Deloitte's site here.